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Fallujah – Empyrean

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 11 September 2022, 7:31 AM

 FALLUJAH is a Technical, Progressive Death Metal band, formed in the Bay Area of California, in 2007. Following the release of three albums, they went through a major line-up shift, welcoming a new vocalist and a new guitarist. The line-up has been stable now since 2017. “Empyrean” is their newest album, and contains ten tracks.

“The Bitter Taste of Clarity” is the first. It’s a heavy, choppy, and aggressive song, but also brings a good deal of the melody we have come to expect from the band. There are also some subtle background ambient moments. “Radiant Ascension” features drums rolling faster than light speed. Again, the melody comes through in the chorus, with clean vocals clashing with the harsh vocals. The music is highly technical, and meaty bass notes come through as well. “Embrace Oblivion” had a good balance between a staccato flurry of notes done with impeccable timing, and laid back, smooth melodies. The flames from the intense fire that burns in the verses are partially extinguished in the chorus.

“Into the Eventide” is slightly more mellow, still with burning intensity, but also some strong melodies. The best part of the song might be what is going on in the background…it’s subtle and sublime. “Eden’s Lament” is a short, three-minutes of choppy, staccato notes where the guitar rhythms are bested only by the angry vocals and drums flying at impossible speeds while still keeping the meter on target. “Soulbreaker” sounds like many of the other songs on the album. I think the band has to push themselves more along the melody lines, because ten tracks of bruising and punishing intensity can get old. “Duality of Intent” is another song that sound like some of the others. At this point in the album, a band should either be pushing hard to distinguish themselves or be content with the sound they present. I believe too much of the latter is happening here.

“Mindless Omnipotent Master” is the first song that really breaks free from some of the formulas on the album, embracing sweet melodies among all the chaos. A scratchy demon voice makes the first appearance. “Celestial Resonance” begins with a big dose of wondrous melodies. I just realized that it might be the vocals that are responsible for the overly heavy side of the album. I appreciate this sound as much as others do, but I generally find that a strong melody is harder to write than a brutal passage. That might be the great lie of Heavy Metal. “Artifacts” closes the album. It still features those heavy accents that pound in your skull, but some of the lead guitar work is excellent.

I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect some disappointment with the album. Many of the songs follow a similar pattern, such that the melodic moments don’t sneak up on you as much as they used to. Sure, the band’s mastery over these heavy, technical moments is noteworthy, but a band is only as good as their last album, and the mighty FALLUJAH have allowed some ground to be gained by their peers.

Songwriting: 4
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 4
Production: 9

3 Star Rating

1. The Bitter Taste of Clarity
2. Radiant Ascension
3. Embrace Oblivion
4. Into the Eventide
5. Eden's Lament
6. Soulbreaker
7. Duality of Intent
8. Mindless Omnipotent Master
9. Celestial Resonance
10. Artifacts
Andrew Baird – Drums
Scott Carstairs – Guitars
Evan Brewer – Bass
Kyle Schaefer – Vocals
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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