Fallujah is a progressive death metal band from San Francisco. They have been making the rounds for almost a decade now, but it was not until 2014's The Flesh Prevails that people really started taking notice on a large scale. That album was hailed by many as the best of the year, perfectly counterbalancing the band's tech death leanings with weightless, ethereal synthesizers and ambient sound. Two years later, the band is back with more material in the form of Dreamless. Everyone's question seems to be whether the band can strike lightning twice.
Well, if you came to hear more music in the vein of The Flesh Prevails, you won't be dissapointed. This new release picks up right where the previous one left off. I might argue that the flashy technical side of the instrumentation has been toned down a tad to make room for even more light in the darkness, but aside from that, these could be sister albums. After the tone is sufficiently set with the opening build of "Face of Death," the jaw-dropping, "Adrenaline," works to get its namesake pumping. This is a band that has become quite comfortable in its skin, and they have learned how to play to their strengths.
If you were not familiar with the band previously, their sound is best summarized broken into the two elements I mentioned earlier. The heavy, death metal side is preoccupied with proficient guitarwork that picks and crunches its way through a union of technical and progressive styles. Riffs and drum patterns play with time signatures and rip through some killers solos while lead vocalist, Alex Hofman, delivers some powerful deathcore growls. Things can get pretty crushing on tracks like "The Prodigal Sun."
From the other end of the spectrum, songs are consistently backed by a dense atmosphere of sound that at times is not dissimilar to the work of Dark Tranquillity's Martin Brändström, at times reaching into the even more ambient material of Neurotech, especially on instrumental tracks like "Fidelio" and "Les Silences." Sometimes these additions are purely electronic, others they are achieved through the use of piano, guitar harmonics, and copious amounts of reverb. The ultimate effect of combining these sounds is comparable on some levels to other emerging acts in the style like Warforged. The difference, however, is that while many of these other bands come out sounding dark and brooding, Fallujah always sounds bright and hopeful. There's a touch of melancholy a la Insomnium, but overall I sense a certain feeling of transcendence.
If you ask me, I think Dreamless is a solid follow-up for the band. It remains in the band's comfort zone while perhaps even perfecting the sound to a higher degree. The seamless fusion of the extreme and ethereal is quite grand, coming to a head on tracks like "Scar Queen," "Amber Gaze," and especially "The Void Alone" featuring the lovely vocal contribution of Tori Letzler. My one thought is that something is lacking at times in connection. An album like this should be experienced as if you are one with the music and responding on a physical level. Here I feel like more of an outsider; watching a beautiful scene unfold within an unbreakable snowglobe. Even so, it is a scene worth watching several times over. I encourage you to seek it out for yourself.