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Yet another victim of the hype machine that surrounds too many mediocre bands these days is Fallujah, an "atmospheric technical death metal" band from California. The band seemed to attract quite a lot of attention with their debut EP "Leper Colony" but that was just black metal riffs and repetitive breakdowns. Fast forward 2 years and they've released this new debut album "The Harvest Wombs". A different sound was promised and was certainly delivered but there is still something missing from this.
The band seems to be more focused on being as ridiculously fast and technical as possible with dissonant sweeping patterns and thundering triggered blast beats mixed with ambient sections that don't really do much. They completely fail in their attempts to set any atmosphere, seem forced and unnecessary, come out of nowhere with no build-up and it just seems like an unstructured mess. The few times in the album where the band do seem to be doing something interesting they just throw it all away and go back to the same "LET'S SHOW HOW TECHNICAL WE CAN BE!" formula. Special mention to the 7 minute instrumental title track that feels like a lot longer than 7 minutes.
It certainly doesn't help that the drummer never slows the fuck down, constantly blasting away on his awful clicky drumkit. He blasts during the ambience, he blasts during the slower riffs and grooves, he just blast beats the fuck out of everything and it becomes very tiresome.
The vocalist also provides a very mediocre performance. His growls are hoarse, boring and robotic and his lesser used higher scream becomes quite grating even when used as rarely as it is.
However, the band have managed to pull their finger out and actually write something great. Track 4, "Cerebral Hybridization" is a brilliant song, beginning with an awesome technical riff and containing a few solos and an atmospheric part that does actually fit into the song structure. The only thing that lets it down is a little core breakdown around the 1:45 mark (following a bellow of the song title, usually how a lot of these breakdowns start). Thankfully the breakdown doesn't last long but it didn't really need to be there at all. Despite that, the song is still a small example of what Fallujah could achieve if they really focused less on playing as fast as possible and slowing it down for ambient parts for no apparent reason and more on actually writing decent catchy riffs and solos.
Based on Cerebral Hybridization alone this album gets 20%. If Fallujah focused more on constructing songs like that one, then they would quite easily become a favourite band of mine, but until they actually realise they do know how to write a song and start actually writing songs, they're forever going to be a horribly mediocre band with a depressingly large amount of potential.
Fallujah is one of those bands that may be written off very easily. If you take a listen to their early material it just kinda seems like deathcore fused with some technical metal and black metal. This is not the case with their amazing debut album The Harvest Wombs. After listening to their demo from 2010 I had very high expectations for this album and it did not disappoint whatsoever. In fact it exceeded all my expectations.
The Harvest Wombs is an album that perfectly blends elements of technical death metal, atmospheric elements, and even the occasional jazz fusion (listen to The Flame Surreal). Every track on this album pulls you in and makes you want to listen to every intricacy there is to the music. This is one of those albums where I notice new things with every listen. In fact this is one of the only albums I can listen to straight through with out skipping a track or stopping.
The main feature on this album is the guitar work. The lead work of guitarist Scott Carstairs is completely mind blowing and the crushing rhythm work of Rob Maramonte keeps your head banging. The two guitarists blend perfectly and all the riffs seem to make sense where they are. There are no odd transitions on the album and the composition is great. Every song features some sort of amazing melodic hook that keeps you listening and the heavier parts are very well written too.
Alex Hoffman's vocals are another great thing about this album. He has awesome piercing raspy scream that comes through on various tracks and his low vocals are very well done. He also has some of the most complex vocal patterns I've heard. This makes doing vocals a job of it's own with Fallujah. It's not just some dude screaming. He uses his voice as a percussive instrument to create even more interesting rhythms in this songs. The lyrics are very interesting although I'm not sure what most of them are about. They're very science fiction-like or having something to do with metaphysical subjects, aside from the track Assemblage of Wolves which seems to be about the negative Christian influence on Nordic tradition (I could be wrong about that).
Unfortunately there is only one minor flaw in this album and that's the bass. And it's not even that the bass lines are bad. It's just that it is quite inaudible unless it's only playing by itself. But when you do hear it the bass is carrying the song along as it should and the bass player Rob Morey does have the occasional bass "solo" where he does some pretty technical bass work.
The drums are just fucking sick on this album. Andrew Baird is one of the best up and coming drummers in the metal scene today. His style is very reminiscent of that of Vitek from Decapitated. The drum production is very punchy and clear and very very precise. And when I say precise, I mean fucking on point 100% of the time. All the drum lines fit perfectly with the rest of the music and drive the song along and keep you interested.
Fallujah is a band that seems to get lumped in with the current deathcore scene for some reason (probably because of their early material). But I can confidently say that this album has no -core influence at all. This is a straight up progressive/ technical death metal album. One of the best that I've heard ever and I currently still have it on regular rotation since it's release last November. This is highly recommended to any fan of death metal or any fan of technical music.
Stand out tracks: The Flame Surreal, Cerebral Hybridization, Assemblage of Wolves
I'll save the introductory bullshit for an album that actually rubs me one way or the other, and start by saying that The Harvest Wombs wouldn't know "atmosphere" if Lykathea Aflame, Khanate and Wormphlegm all came up from behind it in the middle school bathroom during lunch break and buttfucked it into nonexistence. (The principal Demm E. Lich would assumably walk into the room afterwards and cheer on those three students for putting inferior beings in their place.) This album's main stabs at atmosphere are shredding progressive solos out the wazoo - like, at least two per song. They're not particularly fast, but they're full of that vigor which progressive deathcore bands' solos tend to have - that is to say, none at all. The melodies produced by said solos are neither harmonic nor dissonant enough to create any interesting vibes in the music, rendering them essentially worthless. The riffs in general are also technical as hell and flitter around the concept of melodies without ever driving the point home, like another well-known proggy deathcore band. Which brings me to my next point...
Yes, this is a blatant ripoff of The Faceless and no, it does not manage to be as puppy-slaughteringly horrible as Planetary Duality. I'd put my money on the improved songwriting as the main reason for that - Fallujah are much more willing to take things at a bit of a slower pace and flesh out their (admittedly uniformly mediocre) ideas, instead of pulling one riff up, chipping off a 10-second piece and moving on. Furthermore, this doesn't feel like it's desperately grasping for ideas that'll make it UNIQUE AND SPECIAL~ - it's pretty consistent in terms of what it wants to do. I'll give the band credit for at least trying to stick to one idea and get the most out of it (instead of The Faceless, whom I imagine as a failing sculptor struggling for ideas and, finally getting so frustrated that he can't even see through his wall of angry tears, squeezes a tube of superglue all over his studio, dubbing the subsequent mess of mismatched pieces his magnum opus). This is better than The Faceless, all things considered, but I still wouldn't say this appeals to me very much at all; really, the only thing I can give mild praise on the "melodic" end of the guitars are the little reverb-soaked tremolo sections that pop up in some of the songs like "Alpha Incipient", "Cerebral Hybridization" and "Hallucination" (this undoubtedly has already resulted, and will continue to result in morons claiming the band has "black metal-influenced riffs", just watch).
The growls here further perpetuate my belief that tech-deathcore vocalists choose to lend their "talents" to such a genre because it's the only one where they can get away with having such a hackneyed method of approach. They sound almost perfectly identical to The Faceless's, who in turn sound like a big clusterfuck of every single tech-death vocalist who ever recorded anything, ever. Giving credit where it's due, however, the raspy screams are actually pretty well-done - they feel as if they almost carve into the airy, light parts of the music, and if there were a comparison to black metal to be made on The Harvest Wombs, it would be here.
There are a few groovy deathcore riffs that manage to neither be technical or "atmospheric", and I enjoy them, but they're few and far between, and even then they're dragged down by the blatantly triggered, practically plastic drumkit (the man behind which certainly doesn't help with his "BLAST BEATS GO WELL ON EVERYTHING EVER" ideology - prog-death bands slow down too, you know, it wouldn't hurt to try it sometime). All in all, The Harvest Wombs isn't offensive so much as it's just sort of boring, as most deathcore with prog-death leanings tends to be. I guess this is best described as music for tech-deathcore fans who play guitar, but I'd take Chelsea Grin and Carnifex over this any day, and I'm sure that even The Shaggs could best me in a guitar faceoff, so... my loss, I guess?
This album delivers a punishing taste of what technical death metal can be when it is done properly. Not only is this album crushing in its musical approach, but it also has a very ethereal sound to it thanks to the guitars on this album. The guitars on this album are often very similar to the soaring sounds from the technical death metal band, Decrepit Birth.
The vocals on this album are impressive considering how many technical death metal bands and vocalists sound alike. There is plenty of room to be mediocre in the technical death metal arena, but this band steers clear of that portion of the technical death metal world. Blastbeats galore and fast guitars are a good way to explain the overall sound of the album. The sheer speed and magnitude of the album might be a bit overpowering for some listeners, but there are some moments on the album where the music slows down for a slight reprieve.
The negative aspect of this album is that the songs sound similar to the point that the listener can barely tell which song he or she is listening to. Each song may have distinct soloing or drumming from time to time, but for the most part, the album is one big song. This aspect may bother some listeners, but it's not a huge drawback. Other than that, some songs might be longer than need be.
On the whole, this album provides some good technical death metal music and is a good listen if you enjoy the genre.
I first heard this band's Leper Colony album and I wasn't all that impressed. It was pretty lame run-of-the-mill (albeit tolerable) deathcore. For some reason, I continued to dig deeper into this band and was able to listen to The Harvest Wombs, and I must say that it was a vast improvement. They ditched the deathcore act altogether and went with a progressive death metal approach. I'm glad I gave them another chance, because this album is extremely good. This album has a very atmospheric and jazzy sound, that gives off a kind of sci-fi feel. I would compare the sound to Cynic, The Faceless' "Planetary Duality," or even Obscura-- but it still is drastically different. Fortunately, it's even farther away from the ear-raping techdeath bands that plague metal, like Brain Drill or Beneath the Massacre.
The album starts off with "Alpha Incipient," a song that starts off with a pseudo-black metal riff that feels like a crescendo to the following tracks. Halfway through the song, they begin transitioning between spacey, melodic passages and fast, choppy riffs.
The guitarists are very proficient with their instruments, and they demonstrate this often. There are a lot of quick, smooth solos that accompany melodic riffs throughout the album, between the brutal riffs. The drummer plays at hyperspeed alongside the guitars, and never gets stale. The bass isn't really audible, but I don't think a prominent bass is necessary for this type of music. The vocalist has some good highs and some good lows, and that's all I can say about that; he doesn't have a voice that ruins the rest of the music so that's good enough for me.
There aren't many bad things I can say about this album, but unfortunately, at very few points, the songs kind of run together. However, if you listen long enough, they begin to separate once again.
There are two instrumental songs, "The Flame Surreal" and "The Harvest Wombs." The former is beautiful, but surreal; it is a song where the lead guitar really shines. The latter is a much more epic song, which is, of course, the song after which they named the album; it was intended to define the album itself.
Because of this album, Fallujah has become an up-and-coming metal act that is taking metal in a very good direction. If only most bands that started out mediocre ended up being this extraordinary. Fully recommended.