Second albums can be difficult beasts. This is especially true when the appetite of the waiting masses becomes sharp with expectation, turning their excitement into an ardent, baying fervour. When this happens the creative spirit can become flattened by the weight of aggregated anticipation, causing the band to fail to soar to the heights they otherwise might.
However, just like champion athletes, musicians can use this potent force as a powerful vitriol to fuel their creative faculties, enabling a level of achievement that leaves audiences dry mouthed and slack jawed in wonder. This face, of gormless incomprehension was precisely my expression as I sat listening and relistening to Fallujahs sophomore album, The Flesh Prevails..
Right from the word go it stuns and delights with its highly polished progressive intent. With simultaneous threads of erudition and brutality running through each song, Fallujah have created a masterful exemplar of how Metal can also become art.
Their playing has always been exceptional, but it is now charged with passion, grace, variety and flair; utilising their ever widening skillset to ask ever more emotive questions of the listener. It is by degrees; hypnotic and aggressive, subtle and brazen, they adeptly slide from one attitude to its opposite without ever losing focus.
This is a definite step forward from their previous E.P; the tantalising Nomadic. The Flesh Prevails resounds with moments of gorgeous repose and Jazz fusion inspired melodic interplay that weaves a web of sharpened steel over the tenacious drumming of Andrew Baird. But this is not a new direction of development. They are the same band you know and love, growing wiser and more consummate with time. This is a testament to them passing a tipping point, to their collective evolution. A paean to the process of breaking out of the stifling cocoon of youthful promise and becoming mature artists.
There are passages which will reminds you of their previous output, sections reminiscent of the best moments from both Nomadic and The Harvest Wombs, but they have made significant progress in their time away. The depth and structure of the compositions is truly beguiling, yet they are still the band that we have come to know and love. For every moment that is redolent of their previous work there are 2 which highlight their development.
Passages of mellifluous clarity, bolstered by an advanced sense of mood and atmosphere grant them access to stores of emotive energy previously untapped. The personal nature of the subject matter for the songs allowing a developed sense of engagement with the lyrics that is palpably audible in the vocals.
Alex Hofmanns full chested like roar, howls like a hurricane; sombre and powerful, through the febrile landscape created by his bandmates. Infused with a plaintive power that summons anger and melancholy, his voice while reliant on just a couple of techniques, is a precise and manipulative instrument of intent. Guiding the listener though the devilishly complex arrangements like a Sherpa climbing Everest alongside you.
Fallujah have accomplished something quite unusual with The Flesh Prevails; they have crafted a record that is both immediately impressive and yet rewards each listen with further insight.
Engaging with it has been for me an awe inspiring yet mildly unnerving experience. Its complexity has deepening with each spin. Much like Monets paintings of Rouen Cathedral rewards distance and passive eyes, The Flesh Prevails through its use of texture, syncopation and cadence guards its luminescence jealously. Revealing its astonishing brilliance one facet at a time. Riff after riff artfully constructed and wound with fecund skill, reducing ones resistance to being challenged (and this album will challenge you) down to nothing. This allows it to osmoses into your body, as you luxuriate in its depth and radiance, conjoining with your soul to form a better and cleverer you.
This is a truly special record, the like of which does not come along often; technical yet impassioned, soulful yet brutal and totally without compromise. It views any preconceived notion of what Death Metal should or shouldn’t be with appropriate and valid disdain. Tonally mysterious and produced with a clarity that deserves a technical review all of its own, The Flesh Prevails is everything you had hoped it would be; 41 minutes of savage delicacy and quiet moments of powerful meditation. With it Fallujah explore the boundaries and limitations of their chosen genre; and through their explorations, redefines it in their own image.
An album so good, it reduces the act of writing about music to the abstract nonsense it truly is.
It is often said that the second album is the one that defines the future of a groups career. If that is true then Fallujah are destined for great things. Firmly laying to rest the myth of the difficult second album.
– John Whitmore