Metal Review – Fallujah: The Flesh Prevails

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Metal Review – Fallujah: The Flesh Prevails
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Fallujah: The Flesh Prevails
Progressive Death Metal, Technical Death Metal
Unique Leader Records
July 22nd, 2014
Release length: 41:35
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When it comes to the Technical Death Metal genre as a whole, there are a few names that generally stick out in most conversations. As of late, one of them has been San Francisco, California’s own Fallujah. This Bay-area five-piece formed in 2007 and have gone through some major changes over the years. The entity initially played a Black Metal and Deathcore style for a while, slowly making the transition to a mixture of Progressive and Technical Death Metal style by their 2011 debut album The Harvest Wombs. The group’s Deathcore roots still hung on throughout it and into the 2013 follow-up EP -Nomadic-. With three new songs acting as “a taste of what’s to come” causing waves once more, Fallujah announced their second album, The Flesh Prevails, for a mid-2014 release. But has the band continued to expand over the years, or if this just another drop in the bucket of atmospheric Death Metal recordings?

First off, The Flesh Prevails was mixed, mastered and engineered by Zack Ohren (Animosity, Suffocation, All Shall Perish), and his presence in the studio is immediately felt. The album sounds fantastic overall, accentuating hot and hazy Progressive atmospheres with or against tight technical Death Metal. The problem with the latter is that sometimes Fallujah are clearly trying to sound more brutal than what seems to be captured most of the time, though a majority of that stems from the traces of Deathcore that the band can’t seem to shake to this day.

“Starlit Path” kicks off with a soft, soothingly rich atmosphere thanks to cleaner notes and some additional effects, slowly building to your customary lower toned introduction that creates tension in a manner suiting to the start of a band’s live performance. The simple hooks that are found early on show up randomly against the Technical Death Metal foundation that really pulls the bass guitar and deeper tuning forward. The two extremes fight for your attention, but never really clash, even when things slow down or, like at three minutes, head into a brief breakdown that bridges the gap between the two feuding styles until reaching the end. That additional genre does creep up throughout the release, but it’s “Sapphire” that dives back in head first. About two minutes in the established Progressive environments drop to the modern Brutal Death Metal meets Deathcore approach, thinning itself out in the form of a breakdown as it tries to sound more forceful and aggressive through standard, chunky riffs and major restraint in the drums. The shift between this and the atmospheric hooks before and after is done well enough that it works with the overall performance without completely feeling tacked on due to how much it simply doesn’t need to exist in the first place.

“Carved from Stone” sets some of the more enthusiastic material of the recording into motion. Here the lead hooks have a little more to them than the simple held note aproach that hits most of the time, as well as finds a much stronger backbone thanks to the bass guitar working with it when not beefing up the shorter generic burst of modern Brutal Death Metal complete with mildly engaging slam prior. “The Night Reveals” starts off with a deeper sound from the additional complexity, building to a sharper pitch by the minute-and-a-half mark that lets the twang of the bass guitar come through through loudly for a few chords, moving back to the clean Progressive leads that line the chorus and later guitar solo like clouds against an early dusk sky.

There’s one more thing that needs to be addressed, and that’s the drumming. While many have griped that founder Andrew Baird’s performances up to this point have been nothing but blast beats, The Flesh Prevails shows a little more restraint. The problem with that is it’s handled in a manner where you almost always get steady bass kicks that still come off fast even if tone down or the polar opposite of minimal to non-existant, which is pretty scarce the way it is. “The Flesh Prevails” throws some two-step into the mix, focusing on it about two-and-a-half minutes in to match the vast emptiness the rest of the band is pushing to the forefront, while “The Night Reveals” finds the drums going silent briefly towards the end to create a warm silence as everything drops to a crawl. There’s also the Ambience interlude “Alone With You.” Aside some clean female singing and altered voices for an astral effect, this is an electronic piece that keeps the digital drum beats from going off like the physical ones often do.

While this effort can’t quite shake the band’s roots and has its share of faults that aren’t always too detrimental, The Flesh Prevails shows Fallujah continuing to grow as a band. There are plenty of solid performances throughout the recording that set up various atmospheres in each and every song that keeps a general atmospheric tone while allowing most songs a voice of their own. It’s just unfortunate the drums still can clash with the rest of the music, as well as most of the atmospheric leads end up being incredibly simple to the point where some start to melt together over time. When you look at the leaders of the genre’s they dabble in, this representation of the group places them right between the music environments laid out by Between the Buried and Me and the technical brutality of Origin, stuck in the shadow of both behemoths. The Flesh Prevails is still a good album for what it is, and with the amount of growth the band had since their early demos and infamous Leper Colony EP, it’s obvious that Fallujah have what it takes to one day at least meet them at eye level.

01. Starlit Path – 5:27
02. Carved From Stone – 4:23
03. The Night Reveals – 4:17
04. The Flesh Prevails – 3:23
05. Levitation – 5:30
06. Alone With You – 3:02
07. Allure – 4:08
08. Sapphire – 6:34
09. hemical Cave – 6:57
Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10

Fallujah
Fallujah

Digital review copy of this release provided by Unique Leader Records via Earsplit PR.