REVIEW: FALLUJAH – “Dreamless”
American atmospheric death metallers Fallujah are back with a crushing yet intricately melodious new album ‘Dreamless’ –the follow up to 2014’s ‘The Flesh Prevails’. The new record, representing a band arguably in their creative prime, is well-woven and interesting from start to finish. It also features the well-known Fallujah sound of blending harmonious synths with death metal, with the elements not sounding dissonant at all.
Tracks like “The Void Alone” and “Scar Queen”, released online, embody what the new album is all about. Guitarists Scot Carstairs and Brian James make elaborate use of death metal riffs with a technical touch, and the leads often mimic the role of the synth to generate a multi-pronged attack that works in the band’s favour. “The Void Alone” for example, features Tori Letzler, whose clean vocals further contrast Fallujah’s soaring melodies with low guitars. At the same time, these guitars are backed up by an additional lead present in several parts of the songs, giving that track its vibe.
‘Dreamless’ is 55 minutes long and has 12 songs in it, and does contain filler. However, this filler isn’t merely something to be skipped, because these tracks are worth listening to. “Fidelio” and “Les Silences” in the latter half of the album use several interesting ambient, programmed elements and sounds. Some of the melodic progressions found in “Les Silences” are especially breathtaking. However, the sheer contrast mentioned before, which makes Fallujah what they are, is obviously absent from such ambient pieces.
The instrumental title track “Dreamless” showcases the band’s ability to build up a lot of tension in the song and then break out in full sway, like they do in several songs on the album; a lot of the credit for this goes to drummer Andrew Baird. Lightning-quick double bass runs fit in with the fast riffs, where necessary yet leisurely grooves trot along to the almost interlude-like clean sections. Rob Morey’s bass-playing, sometimes disappearing behind the loud guitars and synth, also adds to Fallujah’s sound, filling the gap between the distinctly higher and lower elements.
Alex Hoffman’s growled vocals complete the brutal, technical metal sound the band has going on, but the way his vocals fit in without overpowering the lead and synth sections is perhaps most noticeable. This is reminiscent of Spawn of Possession’s masterpiece “Apparition”, where the vocals allow the guitars to weave around other prominent melodies without challenging them.
Overall, ‘Dreamless’ is a stunning attempt at blending atmospheric sounds with death metal, whose technical approach towards instrumentation allows the contrast to sink in further. The filler material is interesting to listen to as well, and incidentally, this makes the whole album cohesive and certainly one of the top releases of 2016.