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ALBUM REVIEW: Dreamless – Fallujah

Somewhere in the miasma of swirling musical creativity, there lies the monolithic peak of the feared and revered third studio album, its rocky flanks a bleak landscape of records that never quite pushed high enough. To scale such a summit, one must employ the utmost definition of style and capability, for it is often the third studio album that shall be the image, and most importantly, the sound that is stamped and branded upon an act for many years to come. And here, upon the highest crags of the climb, sits FALLUJAH, carrying their latest effort, Dreamless.

Dreamless, due to its third album status, has an objective. It has a goal to achieve. It stands, whether intentional or not, to define the band’s sound, to set an echo to the name FALLUJAH. With the vast jump in style between the band’s first studio album, The Harvest Wombs, and the second, The Flesh Prevails, the possibilities of direction with the third album were practically endless; even more so, considering FALLUJAH’s expansive and expressive musical abilities. And surely does Dreamless open in an appropriately mysterious manner, before abruptly and fittingly bathing the listener in thunderous lead-driven grooves.

Indeed, FALLUJAH has adopted a far more groove driven sound, much to their benefit. The music has taken on a far darker tone, channelling an energy akin to that of The Harvest Wombs, transforming it into densely layered riffing, both ponderously grove-based, while maintaining a delightfully technical flare. This new style of guitarwork creates a profound contrast with the far more augmented technicality of the album’s faster sections.

The album is a thing of enormity. It luxuriates in its vastness, it depth, its density. Dreamless is a construct of layers, a web, a wall of intertwined beauties and horrors. It succeeds in its ability to surround the listener, to encompass the entirety of the sonic space, be it in peaceful ambience or in the churning maelstrom of blast beats and impressive harmonics that dominate the verse sections. Unfortunately, this illusion of immersion is sometimes shattered by what might indeed be rushed production choices during some of the ambient sections, of an occasionally questionable bass tone. The latter is unfortunately, because on the whole, Dreamless boasts a very impressive bass tone.

Death metal is changing. Death metal has perhaps even entered its adolescence. In an overwhelming list of cases, death metal has begun to present itself in a far more mature manner. Themes of graphic violence dropped for the questions probing the vastness of space, or the vastness of the human mind. FALLUJAH is a prime example of this movement. If anything can be said about Dreamless, it’s that it has purpose. It feels like it knows what it is and what it represents, and it places FALLUJAH on a road to the event horizon of a more mature form of death metal, where the rules and laws blur and bend to the current of artistic vision.

Dreamless is vast statement. It sets a very high bar for progressive death metal. It is an enthralling journey through the intricate and melodically brilliant writing of guitarist Scott Carstairs, solidifying FALLUJAH’s brand of vicious augmented riffs and wildly vibrant harmonies.  Dreamless exercises the very best of the band’s atmosphere and abilities. A particular highlight is Amber Gaze, which may indeed be the best FALLUJAH song ever, summoning a wall of sound reminiscent of The Harvest Wombs, revelling in its intricacy and huge melodies.

This is perhaps the band’s best work. Surely surpassing its predecessor, The Flesh Prevails, this offering from the Californian five-piece makes a profound statement. It is the culmination of FALLUJAH’s well-honed style of violent contrasts and fast-paced technicality. Dreamless is an important album, and is in itself an immensely enjoyable effort, a worthy album boasting great deal of brilliance. Judging by its expert execution, one can only hope that Dreamless will push death metal as a whole onto a far more progressive route. Dreamless is standing there, proud and tall, at the top of that mythical peak of the third studio album, and will, for a long time to come, be the bar set for progressive death metal.

Rating: 9/10

Fallujah Dreamless

Dreamless is set for release on April 29th via Nuclear Blast Records. 

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