With the release of their latest album, “Dreamless”, atmospheric death metal pioneers, Fallujah, showcase their most recent material in their impressive discography. Following the successful release of “The Flesh Prevails”, the expectations and anticipation for “Dreamless” were very high. In fact, “Dreamless” was the album I was most anticipating this year, especially since Fallujah’s material has only gotten better over the years. Despite this tremendous widespread pressure, Fallujah was able to deliver a stellar new album that serves as a continuation of their original style, while simultaneously experimenting with ways to develop it. Personally I view Fallujah as one of the greatest modern metal acts and was curious to see what direction they would take next. I absolutely loved “Nomadic” and “The Flesh Prevails” (TFP) and was looking forward to hear the latest installment. While there are countless, positive aspects that are seen in this recent growth, there were some downsides as well that proved that even though Fallujah have already established themselves as groundbreaking songwriters, there is still room for improvement and potential to truly master this unique subgenre that they’ve created.
When you first listen to “Dreamless” you can hear slight but very noticeable changes from their previous albums. As stated before, when listening to a release, I will play a record at least 10 times through and will break down numerous tracks and sections as well. For “Dreamless” I also listened to “Nomadic” and “TFP” back to back to better understand the group’s growth in the last few years. Before hearing “Dreamless” these two releases were my absolute favorites by the band and became the standard for any future Fallujah albums. When you first listen to “Dreamless” its apparent that the production quality for this release surpasses any previous Fallujah album. Not to take away from the quality of “Nomadic” or “TFP”, but when listening to “Dreamless” it is apparent that the process that went into tracking each individual instrument and effect was far greater than any previous release. From the minute “Face of Death” begins to the end of the album, things like drum panning, atmospheric ambient fills, builds, and sections, and even mixing and effects added to vocal tracks are crisp, clear and in return give the album itself a more full, complete sound. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important improvements for Fallujah. For bands that heavily rely on ambient effects and metal riffs coexisting on a single release, you must have remarkable production quality or else you risk the chance of losing the much-needed emphasis that encompasses what this specific sound and genre represents. I was truly impressed when I heard that IDM sections and complete songs also featured this heightened and improved production. This use of IDM sounds and composition was one of the main characteristics of Fallujah that initially got me hooked on their releases. Hearing this unique songwriting through a better recording only amplified this euphoric experience. Even the small additions, like improving the mixing and adding effects to both harsh vocals and featured singing vocals help create an atmosphere for the lyrical aspect of the album. By adding these effects and increasing production quality, the echoing, full sounding harsh vocals now sound extremely ominous and the angelic, clean vocals now sound divine and mesmerizing. To say the least, Fallujah made some great strides at pushing the limits and experimenting with their created sound by enhancing production quality and the process that goes into recording the album all together.
Fallujah exemplified improvement in numerous aspects of “Dreamless” besides mixing and production quality. Improvements to the quality of artwork were also seen in this new release and surpassed the expectations set from “The Flesh Prevails”. The artwork for “Dreamless”, which was done by Peter Mohrbacher (the link to his gallery, which shows the original design for “Dreamless” called “Yesod”, is attached below), creates a perfect visualization for the album as a whole. For a band that relies as heavily on stunning artwork as they do for sound quality, it was essential that they capture the theme and vision for the album in one image. They were able to achieve this with “Dreamless”, continuing the trend of gorgeous artwork and in return turning their discography into a gallery of Fallujah inspired art in itself.
As stated before, Fallujah is pioneering a new sound in extreme music. Creating the subgenre of atmospheric death metal, I was extremely curious to see how they would grow and experiment with this truly original sound. What continues to impress me is the atmospheric aspect heard in Fallujah’s sound. As you may know, death metal can be extremely brutal often and rarely features anything close to being melodic. Not only is Fallujah’s “Dreamless” refreshing with its death metal infused with melodic riffs and sections, but it helps to redefine the genre by connecting the gap between iconic death metal and harmonious and melodious songwriting. This stunning composition somehow presents extremely heavy and complex songwriting with beautiful and transfixing melodies. The most memorable occurrences of this are during atmospheric instrumental sections on “Dreamless”. These parts have been heard before on earlier Fallujah records, but each release features slightly different approaches and sounds in these atmospheric sections that allow the listener to truly hear how it fits into the record itself. A perfect example of this is the intro to “The Void Alone”. The song starts off with an atmospheric intro that builds up to a powerful riff where the entire instrumental section of the band begins to play at once, creating one of the most memorable parts of the album. This, along with the complete atmospheric IDM instrumental tracks, are one of the most prominent, if not the absolute most prominent reason why I enjoy listening to Fallujah so much. My only complaint is Fallujah does not use this skill enough in their releases. While I understand their main emphasis is death metal, this atmospheric characteristic is part of the sound they have created and truly separates them from any modern death metal band out there today. I personally wish there were more atmospheric instrumental tracks on “Dreamless” like the album titled song “Dreamless”. Even if there were just a few more short IDM build sections on the record, I believe that the album as a whole would thrive off this. For example, if there was a brief IDM track before “TVA” that helped build up to the catchy intro in “TVA”, this would further improve the record and take this uncanny songwriting to even greater heights.
To continue on the theme of songwriting, there were many pros and cons heard on “Dreamless” as far as songwriting goes. To start with the positive, “Dreamless” is a great example of taking “TFP” to the next level. It takes the successful sound and songwriting of “TFP” and adds the aggressiveness of “Nomadic”, while also being inspired by “Nomadic’s” prominent use of IDM, and shapeshifts these sounds to create the final result that is “Dreamless”. The lyricism is once again phenomenal and only adds to the long list of impressive features heard on this record. However, there are a few things heard on the latest album from the Bay Area based metal band that definitely show the group’s need and room for improvement. Surprisingly, length of composition is one of these problems. Usually I love longer releases and appreciate albums that extend close to or even surpass 1 hour in length. “Dreamless” comes in at a few seconds short of 56 minutes and this actually hurts the record as a whole in my opinion. The reason for this is that the length of the release actually results in having numerous parts where the songwriting can seem redundant or even slightly boring. However, compared to other modern death metal releases, these boring sections become electric when looked on in comparison. However, the high standard that all Fallujah material is set to results in “Dreamless” having less exhilarating moments that could easily be fixed by shortening the composition in some parts. Despite the fact that the mixing and production sound remarkable, there are some times where certain instruments are mixed in a way that can sound slightly off-putting. For example, “Wind For Wings” has numerous parts where the bass is mixed a little too loud and can become extremely distracting from the rest of the song. However, if one of these bass lines were very similar to the lead bass riff heard on “TFP’s”, “Sapphire”, then this would become yet another significant moment in the album, but these bass lines are very different than those heard on “Sapphire” and the prominent mixing actually hurts the overall sound of the track. There are also other moments throughout “Dreamless” where lead parts, whether they are guitar parts of electronically recorded parts, are not mixed loud enough. These leads are crafted so masterfully that it can become a little frustrating to not be able to hear them clearly. Although, these problems addressed only slightly take away from the album and are truly just small aspects that show room for improvement for Fallujah, rather than hurt the album as a whole.
In conclusion, “Dreamless” is yet another masterpiece from Fallujah and is probably my favorite release from them to this date. Despite having a slightly longer length, this new record sounds like a complete project where Fallujah is starting to truly embrace their pioneered sound. Making multiple references to past releases while capitalizing on resources to improve this style results in the creation of a monumental modern metal album that is absolutely one of the greatest records to be released in all of 2016, and is also one of the greatest modern metal albums period. I give “Dreamless” a 9.6/10 and for those who haven’t listened to Fallujah before, I highly recommend that you start here. If you enjoy this record or are a fan of this band please BUY “Dreamless” or any of the previous releases and financially support atmospheric death metal legends Fallujah!