Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails (2014) – This sophomore release from Californian progressive technical death metal/deathcore outfit Fallujah has since sparked a lot of controversy and dissent in the ranks of metal. Some really seem to love the fucking thing, while others are content to give it a 28% or even an outright 0% on MA (Yeah, real mature using words like “wigger” and “emo” to describe your thoughts on a record. That’s why you’ll never do this professionally, my friend.) but regardless of this, we’ve got an apparent change in a band that was before playing blackened deathcore. To my ears, it sounds like Cynic and Animals As Leaders got into a fight with decent deathcore band A, and managed to create a good mixture of the two genres. Thing is, Alex Hoffman just sounds so one dimensional that his vocals don’t even need to be there at all. I looked up the guy on MA and it turns out that he’s only been in this band and probably was probably one of those guys who back when the deathcore thing was getting popular, thought that was really the only vocal style he needed to learn. Guy’s got some clean skills, but he needs to take a trip over here so that an experienced harsh vocalist like myself could teach the man how to do more than just one simple grunt. Just as in clean singing, there are several different vocal pitches and tones, harsh vocals are the same. At you’re lowest, you’ll get the guttural growl more suited for brutal death metal of the highest caliber, followed by a more audible growl, going into the hardcore mix of growl that constitutes the deathcore grunt. At the highest octave, we get the scream or scowl. It just depends on how much rasp you want to put into it. I joined the choir a little late in high school, but my teacher told me that I was a natural talent and should have been in the choir throughout the whole period of my education. Thing is, I don’t like my voice, regardless of whether or not others do. So I prefer to stick to the harsh vocal efforts on my albums. At any rate, Alex is only 23 so he’s got a lot of living to do and perhaps will gain some more experience as he continues down this musical path. So long as he doesn’t destroy his throat with smoking.
Putting vocals aside, what I really enjoy most in Fallujah is the guitar work of Scott Carstairs and Brian James, who really seem to light up the sky with their melodies. But to be completely honest, this entire album makes me think of it as a soundtrack to a shmup. I’ve been playing a few of them lately (Gradius, Silpheed, R-Type, exc.) and the spatial melodies that bellow forth from this thing would actually work perfectly as stage music for a video game of that sort. It’s subtle, yet still heavy – which is something you’d want to hear in a game that features really stellar backgrounds and contains a lot of shooting and defense (some of these games only gave your ship one hit point, like in the original arcades) which would warrant the fierce drumming that appears on some of these tracks. For example, “Allure 5:11” or the very end of “Chemical Cave 6:57” seem absolutely perfect for something of this nature with their spellbinding melodies that just seem to kick a little more with Andrew Baird’s drumming. It’s not the best drumming I’ve ever heard in my life by any means, but it keeps the beat well enough for the melodies to flow properly. It’s almost mechanical in nature, which gives the record that “metal object flying through space” mentality. I’m actually kind of upset that the label didn’t decide to release an instrumental version of this album, because I would buy that as soon as I got paid this week. It’s definitely something that I would put on while playing a classic shmup on the big screen and it still evokes the same feel of the game. It sort of bugged me that the band’s name was Fallujah at first, because I thought I was going to get some really boring deathcore about the war or politics or whatever, but for once I have to say that I actually don’t even care what the lyrics on this album are about. They don’t interest me any bit in the least. I just came for the atmosphere and I’m upset that there wasn’t more of it. Perhaps since this record is such a hit with people, the label will decide to re-release it with that instrumental version I’ve been coveting so much in this review. But I guess if you listen to it enough, you just kind of tune out the vocals altogether and start to really get sucked into the nebular vacuum that is The Flesh Prevails. If it was an instrumental experience, I’d have to give it a ten for sure (without question) but since Alex’s one-dimensional tone kind of mucks it up for me, I’ll have to go with a solid eight. But if you don’t mind the one-dimensional deathcore approach, you may like the record a little more. This is about as honest as I can be here, no bullshitting or name calling; just my own personal opinion. Still worth checking out, regardless.
(9 Tracks, 51:00)