Fallujah - Undying Light review




Bandcamp music player
Reviewer:
5.8

66 users:
6.71
Band: Fallujah
Album: Undying Light
Release date: March 2019


01. Glass House
02. Last Light
03. Ultraviolet
04. Dopamine
05. The Ocean Above
06. Hollow
07. Sanctuary
08. Eyes Like The Sun
09. Distant And Cold
10. Departure


There's something really satisfying about discovering a promising band early on in their career, and then seeing them develop and mature into something special. The flip side to that is the disappointment that comes when said band ruins all that hard work and releases a complete let-down, which is sadly the case here.

The release of The Flesh Prevails and subsequently Dreamless saw the promising progressive-leaning, tech-death sound of Fallujah's debut album evolve into an utterly unique combination of intense tech-death with prominent ambient-inspired melodic soundscapes, uplifting lead guitars and progressive songwriting. Across each album you went from stretches of relentless technical riffing and blasting drums accompanied with ripping growls, shimmering ambience, and pyrotechnic and/or dainty leads, to stretches of shimmering ambience and dainty/pyrotechnic leads accompanied by energetic drumming, sometimes semi-jazzy bass playing and occasional but effective use of clean vocals (male and female).

Since the release of those two records, however, one guitarist has left and the growling lead vocalist Alex Hofmann has been replaced by Anthony Palermo, whose more metalcore screaming style is a striking change in approach. What also becomes apparent within the first couple of songs is how much of the rest of their sound has changed, particularly the fact that almost everything I listed in the last paragraph to describe their previous albums has either been heavily reduced in prominence or just removed completely. What has it been replaced with? Monotony.

What really stood out to me when I gave it a closely attentive listen was how many of these songs involved prolonged mid-to-fast tempo riffing on one or two chords, over and over. In contrast to the technical, exhilarating and often groovy riffing frequently happening on past efforts, many of these songs, particularly in the first half, are so sonically invariant at times, it is honestly shocking that losing a vocalist could alter the instrumental side of an extreme metal band so much. The worst offender for this is "Dopamine", an incredibly monotonous song that barely develops over its 5-minute runtime; comparing this song to the similarly lengthy "Sapphire" from The Flesh Prevails really demonstrates the change in approach across the board.

But it's not just the riffs that have changed; the drums are so muted here energy-wise, compared to the constant double-bass frenzies and assaults that permeated their past records, that the whole sound feels flatter this time round. However, really the most perplexing change this time around is the drastic reduction in the ambient side of the band and the prominence of the lead guitar work. On the likes of The Flesh Prevails, even during the most intense moments, there was this uplifting ambient sheen that really made their sound unique. On here, that sheen very rarely appears, particularly in the first half of the album, and even when songs enter softer phases, the unique atmospheres from the previous albums don't really emerge in the same way. Additionally, those lead guitars, that either livened up the atmosphere with effective melodies or delivered technical flamboyance to proceedings, are also absent or subdued for large stretches. The only songs which really feel like Fallujah tracks from previous albums are "Sanctuary" and "Eyes Like The Sun", but even they feel like Fallujah-by-numbers. Comparing "Last Light" to previous early album cuts like "Starlit Path" and "Adrenaline", it's scarcely recognizable as the same band; it's more of a metalcore song than an ambient/progressive death metal song, and not a particularly interesting one, which could also be said for a few other tracks here.

One last criticism, to avoid this running on too much longer; there is a surprising lack of diversity here. The variety in approaches in the old band's sound meant that an album like Dreamless could flip from 'typical' ambient tech-death romps like "Scar Queen", to the proggy melodicism of "The Void Alone", or even the electronic-driven "Les Silences" without losing any of their appeal. In contrast, the songs across the first half of this album end up feeling quite repetitive. Furthermore, the one major sonic deviation on the album, the penultimate track, "Distant And Cold", completely fails to live up to the quality of previous non-metal(-dominated) songs like "Alone With You" and "Dreamless", instead being a repetitive trudge driven throughout by an unmemorable riff and only occasionally lightened up with some semi-interesting shimmering lead guitars, in some way acting as something of a microcosm of the album as a whole.

I don't want the takeaway message of this review to be "bands should never change their sound", because if Fallujah had never done that before, they wouldn't have developed the sound that I'm so disappointed to see them abandon here. Having said that, if you're going to completely revamp what has been a unique and successful approach, at least make sure the new sound is interesting on its own terms, which I really don't believe is the case here. It's not a bad album, it's just entirely unremarkable, which is a crying shame for a band that managed to really distinguish themselves in what can be quite a repetitive sub-genre.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 5
Production: 5


 



Written on 18.03.2019 by I'm just a guy with an opinion.


Comments

Comments: 14   Visited by: 174 users
18.03.2019 - 23:19
nikarg
Old Nick
Grab a beer from the fridge and switch off your phones people. This is going to take some time to read

As for the review: it's obvious that you are definitely more of a Fallujah expert than I am but I must admit that, given my general distaste for metalcore, I did not find this appalling (which is surprising).
----
Instagram
Loading...
18.03.2019 - 23:39
Starvynth
i c deaf people
Hand over a pen to a fanboy and he will whitewash even the worst pile of crap with praise. But give this pen to a fan (mind the difference!) and he will write a fair and profound review, providing more first-hand knowledge a random person ever possibly could deliver...

I've never been into this band, but this review convinced me to check out their previous albums.

Thanks!
----
signatures = SPAM
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 00:06
musclassia
Written by nikarg on 18.03.2019 at 23:19

Grab a beer from the fridge and switch off your phones people. This is going to take some time to read

As for the review: it's obvious that you are definitely more of a Fallujah expert than I am but I must admit that, given my general distaste for metalcore, I did not find this appalling (which is surprising).


The one worry I have is that people will say I'm down on it just because it's metalcore-leaning; I like metalcore a fair amount, including mainstream melodic stuff like Killswitch Engage and recently Polaris. In fact, metalcore is my main workout music and I have a limited selection that scratches that particular itch, so I'm always on the hunt for some more that's up my street. I just didn't think this was particularly good for either prog/tech-death or metalcore. I did find it better on first listens whilst I was at work - I initially thought I'd be giving it a high 6/low 7. It was when I actually sat down and gave it some focused listens after doing the same for the previous albums that the divergence in sound, and the negative aspects of that shift, really became apparent, and it turned from okay and passingly likeable background music to a genuinely uninspiring listen when actively paying attention to it.

Having said that, I know that there will definitely be people who enjoy this a lot more than I did, and I imagine quite a few of them will be people not that familiar with the group. I did a quick scan of the first reviews that came up on release day when I searched google, and the more positive reviews generally seemed to come from people that had only recently discovered the band, so a lot of it could just be due to expectations. Having said that, I just don't think this is something I would've paid enough attention to feel much for either way if it didn't come attached with a name I was fond of, it would've probably been forgotten in an instant.
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 00:09
musclassia
Written by Starvynth on 18.03.2019 at 23:39

Hand over a pen to a fanboy and he will whitewash even the worst pile of crap with praise. But give this pen to a fan (mind the difference!) and he will write a fair and profound review, providing more first-hand knowledge a random person ever possibly could deliver...

I've never been into this band, but this review convinced me to check out their previous albums.

Thanks!


Thanks man! I did worry I spent too much time in the beginning rambling on about 'the good old days', but preparing for this review by giving the past few albums some solid revisits really reminded me how distinctive those last 2 albums were, and how great they were at what they did. At the same time, I know it's not for everyone - particularly if you like death metal with a rough old-school edge, they have a very clean modern sound that puts quite a few people off. Conversely, that modern sound is one of the things that draws me to those albums; it's hard to make clean death metal sound right, but I feel like they nailed it. If you want song recs, the first song (Starlit Path) and last 2 (Sapphire and Chemical Cave) from The Flesh Prevails would probably be my pick, as my favourites from Dreamless (The Void Alone and the title track) are on the softer side.
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 06:03
DonMoenning
Fair and accurate review. I love Fallujah and consider The Flesh Prevails a modern-day classic of sorts. While this album has its moments, particularly towards the end, it pales in comparison to the last two releases. "Different" doesn't always mean "worse," but in this case, it kind of does. Puzzling choice of new vocalist and downplaying the elements that made their sound special. It's not a disaster, but it's also not a crime to be disappointed.
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 07:58
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
So you're saying that bands should never change their sound??
----
Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 11:02
Starvynth
i c deaf people
Written by musclassia on 19.03.2019 at 00:09

If you want song recs, the first song (Starlit Path) and last 2 (Sapphire and Chemical Cave) from The Flesh Prevails would probably be my pick, as my favourites from Dreamless (The Void Alone and the title track) are on the softer side.

Thanks for the recs, I just gave these five older songs and 'Ultraviolet' + 'Last Light' a listen.
Even for me, it's now as plain as a pikestaff what you meant with 'it is honestly shocking that losing a vocalist could alter the instrumental side of an extreme metal band so much'.
A fan who's been following the band for quite a while might still find a lot of similarities, but what I am hearing are two different bands with different approaches. They may still have the same origin but they are heading dfferent directions.
All I can say is that I did like the older songs, whereas the newer songs didn't really appeal to me.
----
signatures = SPAM
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 19:04
Tuonelan
Much as everyone is mentioning the vocal difference, the thing I notice is how much the loss of a second guitarist and the keys reduced the overall sense of space and development. It took a lot of air and space out of the compositions.
----
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 22:08
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 19.03.2019 at 07:58

So you're saying that bands should never change their sound??


Absolutely
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 22:09
musclassia
Written by Tuonelan on 19.03.2019 at 19:04

Much as everyone is mentioning the vocal difference, the thing I notice is how much the loss of a second guitarist and the keys reduced the overall sense of space and development. It took a lot of air and space out of the compositions.


Yeah I don't know anything much about the compositional side of the band to know how big an influence that guitarist had; I saw everyone mention the vocalist shift, but that guy arrived in the same year TFP came out and left after Dreamless, I can imagine he must've had some influence on the sound if the year after he leaves the sound changes this much
Loading...
19.03.2019 - 22:10
musclassia
Written by Starvynth on 19.03.2019 at 11:02

Written by musclassia on 19.03.2019 at 00:09

If you want song recs, the first song (Starlit Path) and last 2 (Sapphire and Chemical Cave) from The Flesh Prevails would probably be my pick, as my favourites from Dreamless (The Void Alone and the title track) are on the softer side.

Thanks for the recs, I just gave these five older songs and 'Ultraviolet' + 'Last Light' a listen.
Even for me, it's now as plain as a pikestaff what you meant with 'it is honestly shocking that losing a vocalist could alter the instrumental side of an extreme metal band so much'.
A fan who's been following the band for quite a while might still find a lot of similarities, but what I am hearing are two different bands with different approaches. They may still have the same origin but they are heading dfferent directions.
All I can say is that I did like the older songs, whereas the newer songs didn't really appeal to me.


Glad you didn't mind the old songs, yeah the difference really became apparent when I was focusing on them; I made a checklist of everything I dug about the previous 2 albums and found myself struggling to check off any of those elements for most of the songs on this one. It really is a completely overhaul of their style
Loading...
20.03.2019 - 02:44
Tuonelan
Written by musclassia on 19.03.2019 at 22:09

Yeah I don't know anything much about the compositional side of the band to know how big an influence that guitarist had; I saw everyone mention the vocalist shift, but that guy arrived in the same year TFP came out and left after Dreamless, I can imagine he must've had some influence on the sound if the year after he leaves the sound changes this much


I don't know either if it is the influence of the other guitarist or if it is just having to simplify arrangements to cover everything live without having to record tracks and either trigger or play along to them.
----
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
Loading...
24.03.2019 - 22:02
MetalManic
This will win a 2019 MS Award in the least desired category
----
MetalManic
www.MetalManic.com
Loading...
29.03.2019 - 01:48
Danroush
I concur heartily with this review.

I am also happy that this review removes any need or desire from me to attempt a guest review on this album, and in doing so removes the need for me to listen to it again, as my only point of separation from the review is that I particularly dislike metalcore in the first place (as expressed in my comment on the main page for this album), which makes the change from Dreamless/The Flesh Prevails to this even more disappointing for me personally.
Loading...

Hits total: 2543 | This month: 103