Review Summary: Although they still have their sound, they don't go very far with it.
Fallujah's one of those bands that have managed to push the boundaries of a genre that a lot of people would consider stale and lost in unnecessary elongated guitar noodling. Albums like The Flesh Prevails were a breath of fresh air from the overabundance of similar sounding technical death metal releases at the time, and managed to captivate with its bright atmospheric environment and technical prowess. Even though the production may have been very compressed, it doesn't mean that they failed to make a great record; in fact, it's fantastic. The real heart of their music comes in on their EP called Nomadic which displayed their niche for very intricate songwriting and put them on the radar of many music publications waiting to see what they had in store next. Despite starting out as a typical alien themed technical death metal/deathcore group, they changed into this staple of the new age progressive metal sound. With a record label like Nuclear Blast to get them on their feet, one might think that signing to a major metal label would enable them to reach new creative heights, but in actuality it falters to a rushed and mostly unengaging endeavour.
Here's my hypothesis for what happened: Ecstatic over the acclaim of The Flesh Prevails and Nomadic, they let it go to their heads and thought now that they're in a major label that they were creating a commodity rather than a piece of art, which, most often than not, always backfires. Thinking that more atmosphere was better, they created a product that has all of those elements on the surface level but has little substance to back up the real meat of the songs.
Abandon and Scar Queen are virtually the same song played in succession, with Scar Queen constantly shifting back and forth on similar melodies and rhythms that would make anyone think they were listening to an extension of Abandon. The two tracks play in a B minor key and have very similar start and stop structures to their drumming, and for the most part they weren't very engaging tracks. The progressive and technical elements are definitely present but as previously stated it's mostly on the surface level and they never dig too deep outside of a common key, mostly B minor.
This is what the album is like all the way through; they have a lot of new and interesting ideas for the record, but they stagnate and never seem to hit a very high mark or moments that make me want to listen again to catch something I may have missed. Amber Gaze, for example, starts out very promising but then descends to the old habits of uninteresting passages, there's a part that just chugs on a few chords while Alex Hofmann whails on the vocals. The attempt to revive the brutality of the previous records isn't very prominent here because they don't match the atmospheric nature of the record and feel forced. An album like The Flesh Prevails managed to capture the brutality with atmospheric and technical abilities because it was a great balance. On Dreamless everything is a repeat of old and familiar ideas and nothing really feels fresh or new. Listening to this and waiting for a moment where the guitar isn't 'soaring' or Alex's vocals don't sound like a dying bear is very rare.
And then the ambient tracks... it's one thing in a metal band to have an ambient track that builds up to another main track like they did on Nomadic with Silent or The Flesh Prevails' Alone With You, but here they're stand alone tracks. Fidelio and Les Silences seem to be complete filler tracks that were made to add to the already overly abundant ambient nature of the album. Dreamless is the odd one out and it's reminiscent of other progressive metal bands like Disperse or Cynic in their instrumentality. The female vocals feel weird and too calm for the surrounding sound of the band, much like the rest of the tracks that feature guest female vocalists.
There are some high points on this album such as the first three tracks and the closer to the album Lacuna. Face of Death, Adrenaline and The Void Alone are really creative and inventive tracks that mirror a lot of other projects and releases before this. The sound of the track Adrenaline is exactly what you'd expect, very adrenaline heavy and technical, with an almost thrashy drum track. But these three tracks are probably the peak of songwriting displayed on this album. The Void Alone is very techincal and has many changes and emotions that spread throughout. The female vocals are perfectly attuned on this track compared to some of the others and have an uplifting and euphoric sensibility to them. Lacuna is a fantastic closer on the album and one that most metal fans will probably remember most. It's the most technically proficient of all, as it breaks away from the mostly same-style structure of tracks preceeding it, and features many influences from other prominent progressive metal groups.
To call this record 'average' means a lot of things, is the song quality just okay" The lyrics were bad but the music was good" For me, an average rating for a band that generally makes exceptional material means it is considered only as 'disappointing'. This album is certainly unique and interesting at times and will please a lot of fans, but it doesn't come close to surpassing their previous material. Although it started and ended strong, it doesn't outweight the mediocrity of the middle section and the overall atmospheric nature comes off as trying too hard.