Fallujah
Empyrean


3.8
excellent

Review

by Fernando Alves STAFF
September 8th, 2022 | 104 replies


Release Date: 09/09/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Reconnected

Bay Area-based tech engineers Fallujah are among the most exciting modern metal bands of the past decade, or if you prefer, among those who have managed to coin a more distinctive, contemporary sound in a genre crowded with virtuoso craftsmen. Their first three releases (which include the 2013 EP Nomadic) offered a fresh take that progressively added more atmosphere and personality to their original techy blackened deathcore(ish) formula. The band's tasty, highly distinct, reverby leads are the extra layer that gives them their own, non-transferable character, like a fingerprint, unavoidably attached to Fallujah's music. 2014's The Flesh Prevails marked the peak of this first phase, the culmination of a maturation process that solidified the band's identity, simultaneously opening the doors to new audiences and major labels (Nuclear Blast) who were not indifferent to the collective's output. This greater exposure, however, did not come without its drawbacks, as the subsequent albums somehow show some creative drift, typical of those stuck at the crossroads between the old and the new, seeking more mainstream territories without losing touch with the past. I'm probably being unfair since Dreamless and Undying Light both have their highlights, especially the former which only recently I've been getting a taste for. Still, I couldn't help feeling the band's latest ventures out of focus, roaming more scattered, inconsistent grounds. Empyrean, in many ways, moves in the opposite direction.

There is a sense of accomplishment throughout Empyrean as if the quartet has gotten back on track, or at least to more consistent and focused paths. It's a return to form without being a desperate attempt to recapture the past; in other words, a step forward. Rather than simply cloning their early work and sailing through safe waters, Scott Carstairs & the lads merged both worlds into a formula that somehow gathers all the band's DNA. Empyrean is techy, irreverent but also melodic and charming; it is furious and beautiful; it embeds all Fallujah's nuances into a single, coherent sound palette. The first three songs cluster these attributes, synthesizing Empyrean's look and feel. Overwhelming blast beats intertwine with counterpoint and tempo changes under Scott's distinctive guitar lines, showcasing a vitality the likes of which hasn't been seen in some time. Sexy hi-pitched tremolo picking and tasty leads overlap intricate, techy riffs in colorful soundscapes. The relatively wide-ranging vocals of new recruit Kyle Schaefer also provide interesting dynamics, along with female guest appearances that lend an angelic layer to the compositions. While I think that in most cases these feminine touches don't add value, being merely redundant adornments, they do sometimes generate engaging contrasts, such as the smooth middle section of 'Embrace Oblivion' (featuring Katie Thompson). The interplay between the Cattle Decapitation-ish bridge and the more mainstream chorus of 'Soulbreaker' also ranks among the album's highlights, emphasizing Empyrean's aforementioned contrasting tones. Present and past dance in unison, with Scott Carstairs bringing echoes of the preceding tech generation such as the likes of Psycroptic, Gorod, or Obscura into his distinctive sound. A fusion that aside from working aesthetically well, expresses the band's willingness to reconnect. And though I believe Fallujah's music still lacks some artistry that could catapult it to stratospheric heights, this creative renaissance is all too evident. The strong synergy between Scott and his fellow long-time drummer also deserves to be highlighted, with Andrew Baird probably delivering his best performance to date. The massive solo section of 'Radiant Ascension' stands as the pinnacle of this symbiotic bond.

Like a phoenix rising from light and fire, Empyrean is the sound of rebirth; the embodiment of a renewed, reconnected quartet that has found its way again. Not by exploring new territories or alternative roads, but by realizing that sometimes the answers to the present lie in the echoes of the past. And in doing so, they have opened the door to a promising future.




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user ratings (138)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


18074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

The lads are back on track. Great jam

Empyrean is out this Friday.

Willie
Moderator
September 8th 2022


19552 Comments


Staff on a roll these last two days. Love it. Looking forward to hearing this one in a few hours.

Pikazilla
September 8th 2022


24553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

best fallujah since nomadic tbh



good review as always, notrap



radiant ascension is great indeed

bloc
September 8th 2022


69153 Comments


Looking forward to hearing this. I thought Undying Light was underrated.

Onyx
September 8th 2022


16 Comments


a few months ago they played some new songs off this record. I was bracing myself for the worst but I was utterly blown away. WAY better than I anticipated.

Can't wait to hear it.

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


18074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

That's a fact, bloc.



Thanks, pika ;)

Yeah, it's great. The first three tracks, the instrumental and Soulbreaker are among the best things the lads have ever recorded.



The crew is on 🔥

I don't believe this is your cup of tea, Willie, but I look forward to your thoughts.



trilo
September 8th 2022


5162 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

listened to the singles again and while they're pretty solid i feel like the well has gone dry on this sound they've been on since TFP. will still check tho. great review!

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


18074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I don't feel it as a copy paste, trilo. Thanks! ;)

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


17733 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is great yeah

Pon
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


5867 Comments


I'm choosing to believe this album is all about Elden Ring lore

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2022


18074 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I assume it is a game or some obscure Hungarian literature

Fuzz4tron
September 8th 2022


4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like the approach to Dreamless with dialing back the soaring riffs TFP has, and Empyrean seems to refine that so it's damn good to me, and easily better than the last record.

Ectier
September 8th 2022


878 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh is this like dreamless?

AeniasGaming
September 9th 2022


46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Somehow haven't listened to any of the singles since Radiant Ascension. This is one of my most anticipated albums right now, so looking forward to giving it a listen.

JakeStallion
September 9th 2022


622 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

glad to hear this apparently whips. they were one of my favorite metal bands of the last decade, but the previous album was a miss for me, so i'm hoping this brings back what made me love them so much

Nomos2
September 9th 2022


1104 Comments


yeah this is a huge step up from Dreamless and Undying Light

Tundra
September 9th 2022


7475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

TFP and Dreamless still the goats

Get Low
September 9th 2022


12877 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

slaps

jemaiseyeti
September 9th 2022


227 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, will czech

FreudsPocketCanoe
September 9th 2022


104 Comments


Great review, gonna give this a listen now. I've had a similar experience to you in struggling to get into dreamless and dying light, so im optimistic about this return to form



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