Fallujah – “Undying Light” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
With the departure of co founding vocalist Alex Hofmann in 2017, many wondered where progressive death metal band Fallujah would go to next. Well, in short, they’ve continued to progress! Wasting no time to recruit longtime friend Anthony Palermo, the changes are immediately noticeable from Hofmann’s growl, with Palermo instead preferring screaming to the sound sandpaper on his larynx!! Equally, gone is rhythm guitarist Brian James although co founder lead guitarist Scott Carstairs remains. So what’s the end result? Well, for a start the rhythm section of bassist Rob Morey and Andrew Baird on drums have really stepped up – literally – to become more prominent in the mix while Carstairs continues to resonate his fluid technicality, albeit in a more balanced form resulting in a very tight performance as a band, across the 10 remarkable tracks here. I say ‘remarkable’ because the real essence of “Undying Light” is it’s bountiful and certainly beautiful atmosphere throughout. Ok, we’re not talking Opeth levels of escapist soundscapes (yet), but Fallujah have taken it well beyond the realms of technical death, and I really feel proud of what they’ve achieved through the talent of their musicianship here. From the rolling toms and heavy twanging bass on ‘Ultraviolet’, the dark atmosphere immediately enshrouds you through Carstairs combination of aggressive almost shoegaze riffing laced with progressive melodies while Palermo screams like a banshee in the wind – the perfect storm – before closing off suavely into an ambient passage of rhythmic drumming and bass runs. Speeding up on ‘Sanctuary’ with double bass drumming and Morey’s bass matching the guitar work of Carstairs, whose lead just takes it to the next level through subtle heart grabbing breaks, the rhythms once again of the band as a whole just captivate with adrenaline fuelled energy as Palermo breaks from his screaming to sing ‘…Lazarus…Lazarus…’ movingly before the track closes with an ambient passage thus allowing the prior intensity to sink deep into your soul – wow. Grimly heading into slow doom death on the aptly titled ‘Distant And Cold’ with its slow wailing guitar, dull thudding drums and Palermo screaming hauntingly, it’s moreover the distant melodies and in-the-wind harmonies that really make the melancholic, almost gothic atmosphere here as it fades literally like a life ebbing away. Strong stuff indeed but not without its transitional challenges for die hard fans, “Undying Light” one way or the other is sure to continue the heavenly rise of this remarkable band.