For most, death metal is either a thing you’re into a lot or not at all. When Fallujah broke onto the scene with ‘The Flesh Prevails’ it wasn’t like any of this was “new”. Sure, the band has released other music but the fan base was a lot smaller than it is now – and for good reason… these guys are great at what they do. As expansive as death metal has become there are still those who don’t recognize the immense talent needed to explore the brand of progressive death as Fallujah does, and while that suits the industry just fine there are times where I wish everybody would just get the fuck on board with what’s being blasted into their ear drums. Dreamless is a natural progression for a band already pushing on the limits of a genre – of themselves – and while Dreamless explores every little nuance that Fallujah have to offer, it makes you wonder just how far is this band is willing to push the envelope in order to reach their potential as song-writers and musicians. Is the goal out of reach? Or is it just around the corner for this San Fransisco based death metal band? Clearly time will tell, but if Fallujah are indeed Dreamless then where do we go from here?
The answer, simply put, is nowhere. Fallujah have crafted one of the year’s most satisfying death metal records and as listeners of modern music all you have to do is let it soak in. Forget that Fallujah are pushing on the walls of a done before sound, trying to manipulate that sound into something fresh. Be absorbed into the atmosphere, sometimes spacey, often confronting and enjoy the absolute virtuosity of ‘Dreamless’. The album opener “Face Of Death” is immense, the tone has been set. The atmospheric values of Fallujah come into play early, building percussive noise on spacey, clear tones. Dreamless maintains this ‘space’ feel as it moves from section to section, broken by the fierce roars of Alex Hofmann which punch through the atmosphere and blast beat alike. “Adrenaline”, the album’s second track, placate any idea of Fallujah’s music getting overly atmospheric. It highlights the band’s overall need for balance in their tracks and the instrumentation shines in place of the atmospherics. Dreamless keeps a melodic edge throughout the record, utilizing atmospheric qualities only when needed. Fallujah’s newest album is clearly a mixed bag of everything they believe will create ascension for the band.The inclusion of female cleans on “The Void Alone”, “Dreamless” and “Wind For Wings” (supplied by Tori Letzler) add a whole extra dimension for this often pigeon-holed brand of metal. The female leads (also supplied by Katie Thompson vocals on “Abandon”, “Dreamless”, and “Lacuna”) are refreshing, clearing the air of oppressive technical ability. It allows for emotion to creep back into Fallujah’s music.
Now if we’re going to be completely honest here, it’s easy to become lost in the music. Not knowing when tracks come and go, being overpowered by technical wank becomes a problem for me. Sure as a musician I appreciate the technical aspects coming from every layered element. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a crystal clear sounding death metal record but there becomes a point where all of this combined sucks the life from an album, turning what would have been an emotive display of skill into an overbearing and stale rendition of its true self. Thankfully, my gripes with the new album are only limited to a few instances, broken apart by a welcoming “Fidelio” which allows a building of tension, tastefully bridging the gaps between outright intensity and shifting atmospherics. Sound samples dance across my speakers, the introduction for “Les Silences” speaks measures of Fallujah’s technical awareness, bringing the intensity down and putting their ability as musicians on the back burner and even by the track’s halfway mark, we become entranced at what comes next. It’s beautiful; a track for every day.
Overall, it’s a wonder people get caught up in all the technical terms, engrossed within this genre of music. The need for people to label everything overtakes the importance of what they’re actually talking about. For Fallujah, it’s about making the music they want to, pushing on their own boundaries in order to achieve what they do. All the labeling takes away from the crushing dynamics. Leave the need for adjectives, just enjoy ‘Dreamless’ for what it is. Exceptional.