With The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah are primed to become kings of their genre; though that might be by default because there might not be another band doing what they do. Or at least as good as they do it. Mixing the vocals of brutal death metal with the musicianship of elite level prog players, Fallujah have crafted a masterpiece of an album.
Guitarists Scott Carstairs and Brian James play as if they really wanted to find out what it would sound like if Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci made a death metal record. But to pigeonhole Fallujah as death metal feels wrong. They combine the best of multiple genres. From synth-laden atmospheres to choppy machine gun riffs to beautiful neoclassical guitar lines, Fallujah doesn’t struggle with such a juggling act. They’re a band with a very clear idea of who they are and what they want to do. The Flesh Prevails was written with purpose, each song gives way to the one following it but also builds off the one before. If you have the time, this album is meant to be listened to from start to finish.
The opening track “Starlit Path” gives you just a taste of what’s to come; this is a record of textures. Each player getting their time to shine which leads to comparisons of Rush. And it’s strange how the biggest comparison I can make is to prog bands because Fallujah sounds nothing like them. But the craftsmanship that goes into that kind of music is apparent throughout the record. They have taken a template and made it their own. On paper, it sounds like a convoluted mess, but it works. The band seamlessly shifts from genre to genre but never loses repeating themes that tie everything together. The instrumental track “Allure” brings forth the absolutely amazing dedication these guys must have to their instruments.
But it’s the song “Alone With You” that lets you know who this band is. It’s a full-blown synth-heavy atmospheric track that is completely different from everything else on the album and feels like it would find a better home on an electronica mix. No gutteral vocals, no blast beats, no twisting guitar solos. Sparse beautiful female vocals line the song which makes this a track that challenges metal fans, usually and unfortunately a close minded bunch. This track should feel out-of-place on this record yet it doesn’t. And that’s why this album works. “Alone With You” may end up being the overlooked track on the record but it is the most important one. It shows risk and bravery and those things are too far and few in the world of heavy music.
There’s a word I keep coming back to with this album, beautiful. From the cover art to the way they blend soft vocals in at key moments, to the crystal clear guitar tone, this album is refined and sophisticated. But it’s not a hard listen. Sometimes bands seem like they want to be technical just for the sake of showing off their chops. Fallujah are not that band. They play this way because that’s the way they play. It’s not forced, it’s not faked, it’s an evolutionary step in technical death metal. Hopefully some bands with a stale sound will take notice because The Flesh Prevails has every right to be labeled influential to the genre.
At the end of 2014 it’s hard to tell where The Flesh Prevails will stand with the best of the year. There is tough competition for sure with Behemoth unleashing the monster that is The Satanist and Carnifex’s stellar Die Without Hope, but it’s safe to say Fallujah have made a defining record not only for this year, not only for them as a band, but for death metal as a genre.
Key Tracks: Starlit Path, Levitation, Alone With You