Fallujah – Undying Light (Nuclear Blast)
One of the most exciting acts to emerge from the tech death scene, Fallujah really showed their mettle on 2016’s Dreamless: an album bristling with ideas and underscored by Scott Carstairs’ seven-string virtuosity, it pushed the Californians up several notches.
Yet that record’s significance almost pales into insignificance compared to Undying Light. Whereas Dreamless (and its predecessors) revelled in experimentation, the band’s fourth full-length combines sparkling musicianship with sharper, more refined songcraft. It offers songs with greater emotional intensity and it’s the most cohesive album in Fallujah’s canon by a long stretch.
To label Undying Light as ‘stripped back’ , though, would be misleading – dazzling opener Glass House isn’t exactly lo-fi necro punk – but Fallujah’s new ‘less is more’ approach sees them truly play from the heart. Hollow, for instance, isn’t just one of the finest songs the band have ever put their name to, it’s an astonishing piece of progressive metal that the likes of Periphery or Gojira would be proud to call their own, and where Fallujah display total mastery of sonic dynamics. In terms of album highlights, it’s closely followed by Last Light, a collision of deep grooves and cinematic atmospherics.
Yes, there are still bursts of pure DM ferocity – Departure for instance – but the talents of new vocalist Antonia Palermo have certainly opened up new possibilities for this act, helping them to widen the scope of their sound and explore more terrain: Distant and Cold’s icy post rock is a case in point.
Undying Light is the sound of a band maturing. Four albums in you wouldn’t necessarily be expecting more of the same, but to hear what Fallujah have become, in just over a decade, is heart warming.
If Undying Light doesn’t make them a household name, nothing will.