Tech Death Thursday: Fallujah – Undying Light
Less space, more ace. Fallujah is back.
- If big, nasty, chaotic riffs are your thing, then check out Vitriol performing “The Parting of a Neck” from 2017’s Pain Will Define Their Death. These guys need to give us some new music ASAP.
- Allegaeon’s new jam is reminding me why I fell in love with this band in the first place. “Extremophiles” rules, and I’m super ready for this album to hit.
Fallujah’s 2014 album, The Flesh Prevails, was a game-changer for tech death. Their secret sauce, that blend of crushing deathcore-tinged riffing and soaring ethereal leads, was largely unexplored in the genre, and it brought about a wave of atmospheric tech death albums. New bands like Virvum popped up and explored the sound further, and even established acts like Inanimate Existence and Kardashev retooled their sound to incorporate those spacey feels. It was a departure from the band’s older, much more grounded sound, and Undying Light represents another big shift for the band. Is Fallujah going to change the game once again?
No. No they’re not.
However, don’t think that means you should count this album out. I’ve quite enjoyed my time with Undying Light, possibly more so than TFP or Dreamless, though time will tell whether that’s because this is just the shiny new thing to get excited about. And there’s a lot to get excited about; this album brings a major shift in tone for the band and sees them reexamine how they use the atmospheric side of their sound. The result is something darker and more grounded that simultaneously toys with more overt post-metal ideas.
The biggest change comes in the form of a role-reversal of the leads and the riffs; the past two albums (particularly on TFP) were focused squarely on the lead guitar work, supported by big chords and pummeling rhythms. This time around, the riffs are more upfront and intricate, offering a mixture of proggy grooves and complex melodies. Generally speaking, the leads play the supporting atmospheric role here; outside the occasional solo, they’re mostly here to evoke emotion rather than to carry the song forward.
On top that, the mood that permeates Undying Light is, ironically, much darker than its adventurous and exultant predecessors. It’s slower and starkly melancholy in comparison, and those hallmark big chords have taken on a more introspective feel. A couple songs on the latter half of the album feel like callbacks to the last couple albums (particularly “Hollow,” “Eyes Like the Sun,” and “Departure”), but even those are more wistful in nature than the last few. It’s a new feel for the band, one that fans might take some time getting used to, but I found it to be an interesting take on their sound; more traditionally “metal” than the last couple albums, but not really what they were doing early in their career, either.
In terms of production and sonic texture, everything is much more natural-sounding than their previous efforts. The tone of the instruments is much warmer and less sterile, and the mix, while still a little bit on the loud side, gives each musician more room to breath (you can hear the bass!). On top of that, the new vocalist is a perfect fit for the direction the band went here. He favors a high scream with a bit of a hardcore tinge to it, but he’s much more versatile than their previous vocalist. I don’t think the vocals ever really got in the way of the music before, but they actually support it now. The greater range of textures does a lot for the music, making it much more listenable in spite of the blasted-out mix.
So no, Fallujah is not reinventing the wheel yet again here, but I think that’s more a sign of the healthy state of the genre than lack of creativity or vision on the band’s part. The Flesh Prevails helped set a standard for the scene, made us come to expect experimentation from the bands we listen to. Undying Light doesn’t shake the genre’s foundation; rather, it feels like a fitting addition to the landscape they helped mold.
Undying Light comes out tomorrow, March 14th, via Nuclear Blast. Be sure to give Fallujah some love on Facebook as well.
Is your band tech as heck? Got a juicy piece of news or an upcoming release to watch? Send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check it out. I might even talk about it.