Fallujah – Undying Light

Rating: 3.5/5
Distributor/label: Nuclear Blast Records
Released: 2019
Buy Album: https://www.nuclearblast.de/en/products/tontraeger/cd/fallujah-undying-light.html
Band Website: www.facebook.com/fallujahofficial


Antonio Palermo – Vocals
Scott Carstairs – Guitars & Vocals
Robert Morey – Bass
Andrew Baird – Drums


1. Glass House
2. Last Light
3. Ultraviolet
4. Dopamine
5. The Ocean Above
6. Hollow
7. Sanctuary
8. Eyes Like The Sun
9. Distant & Cold
10. Departure


It’s certainly been a fun-filled few years for our friends in FALLUJAH. Third album “Dreamless” was released to near-universal acclaim and ritualistic tongue bath lavishings, cementing the band’s place atop the progressive metal pile that they carved a niche into. Steeped in atmospheric and ambient interludes, the band crested a wave that had been built up for a number of years, only for the break to occur when vocalist Alex Hofmann decided he was off, man. Rhythm guitarist Brian James followed a year later, so it cannot be said that the band has been without hardship as kings of atmospheric brutality. How do they respond?

As could be argued as being typical for a band birthing their fourth baby, there’s a certain level of maturity that can be evidenced on “Undying Light”. Song lengths barely breach the five-minute-mark, with only the drug-addled “Dopamine” venturing into the great beyond, whilst the music itself comes across more focused and more “grown-up”. Everything has been refined to its absolute sharpest for maximum damage with the minimum of fuss: the drumming is as technically proficient and impressive as ever, but it always has eyes on the song at hand, whilst the ambience sits amongst the background and adds a degree of depth to proceedings. Even the riffs feel more refined – those frenetic, finger-flaying riffs are still there but, much like the drums, are kept in the locker for specific use, whilst the solos – drenched in glorious “falling-in-slow-motion-through-space” reverb – are also reigned in.

In many respects, this works in the band’s favour. The melodicism, whilst never absent from previous FALLUJAH releases, is enriched to provide every song its own flavour and degree of memorability. It’s a criticism that these excerpts of critical excellence have often made reference to, but a technical death metal record should be able to stand up on more than just sheer technicality or brutality for it to be considered a great album. Yes, you can restrict your criteria to either of those two and be content to declare it the best album evah, man, but when considering music as an art form, your critical gaze will need to be a little more broad.

Subsequently, “Undying Light” will achieve the gold star for ticking boxes on a broader scale. “Last Light” swings low with heady melodicism in its hazy refrain, whilst “The Ocean Above” cries out for some headbanging in a live setting with the stuttering riffage and expansive ambience. The droning “Distant & Cold” lives up to its name, feeling like the last moments after a space walk gone wrong, though can drag a little when stacked with techy cuts. Perhaps not one for anyone with a speed inclination. That being said, you speed demons out there will find refuge in “Sanctuary”, with it’s tricky, techy riffing that harks back to the band’s earlier days on “The Harvest Wombs”, yet it still has eyes on future FALLUJAH.

Antonio Palermo’s debut turn as the band’s new vocalist is as strong as one could hope, with a more mid-range vocal attack than his guttural predecessor, but the cleans that he incorporates are of particular note. Yes. The album features smatterings of clean vocals here and there (not an alien concept from the band by any means, but consider this a trigger warning for the elitists among you), but their use is sparing, yet tasteful. None more so than on the stellar “Dopamine” – a slower, thumping trip that sounds every bit like a fall through infinity whilst in a drug haze.

Yet there’s something about “Undying Light” that just doesn’t quite hit the mark like its more celebrated predecessors. Whether it’s the more evident advent of maturity within the band, the loss of two members since their last release or something else is a matter for debate, but it doesn’t quite hit the heights that “Dreamless” did. Mark Lewis’ production is at his usual godly best, but perhaps the increased focus on songwriting has resulted in the flame dimming a touch. We’re only talking a few candles dimmer, but there’s evidently a little less of it about.

It’s certainly not dying, but let’s presume the prevailing light has taken on a little haze for a bit. Like a sunny but misty morning, “Undying Light” is still a joy to behold and does benefit from the trimming of musical fat around the edges. FALLUJAH’s fourth album is leaner, a little meaner but by no means cleaner as it roars through track after track of what they do best. It might not live up to what has been before it, but to horrifically butcher an old quote from somewhere: “FALLUJAH is a lot like pizza… It’s good”.





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