There are times when the cover art of an album is enough to convince me that I have to buy it, and even if I don’t totally get into the music after a trial listen on YouTube, I feel that artwork must be mine and I will somehow appreciate the album’s musical content no matter. I’m pretty open-minded that way. (snicker) So when I saw this album cover here for Fallujah’s third album “Dreamless”, I felt compulsively that it had to get into my collection.
The music is both simple and difficult to describe. Basically, it is heavy modern metal with aggressive blast beats, heavy guitar played both with speed and slower ponderous chords played at non-standard intervals in a bar. “Ba-downg, downg… downg… downg, downg-ba-downg…" There are more technical parts too which does make the performance more interesting. The vocals are that bellowing/roaring/growling style more commonly known as death vocals or death growl. It often sounds to me more like Beelzebub is trying to talk through a hurricane. There is, however, another factor to the music and this is what sealed the deal for me, so to speak. There is a lead guitar that either wails hauntingly over the aggressiveness of the rest of the band or it plays lead-like melodies of great dexterity. Okay, the guitar doesn’t play it; let’s give credit to Scott Carstairs or Brian James, the band’s two guitarists, though I’m not certain who takes the lead if not both.
Describing the music further, the rhythm guitar seems to follow one of two approaches: either a thrash-like attack on a chord or variations on a finger configuration based on a chord. My friend and I used to do this on our guitars back in the nineties. We’d play a standard bar chord but remove the finger of the lowest string alternately, occasionally using that finger to bend the string, all the while never changing the position of the other fingers. It sounded really heavy and cool but in those days we didn’t think that was a real riff and nobody would ever think to create a song around that playing style anyway. Well, in actuality it might not be as simple as I’ve described it but it still sounds cool. And these days, lots of people are doing this it seems. So basically we have much of the band going for full-on aggressive metal with those roaring vocals. But this other guitar really adds a layer of beauty that is quite ear-catching. I don’t know if this is a new trend among metal bands but it’s the first I’ve heard it. There are also moments where the intensity is dropped and clean, delayed guitar notes and chords add a new dimension. There’s also a song or two that feature soaring, aethereal female vocals which really adds a wonderful contrast, and one song that actually includes a more normal-sounding male vocal contribution.
There are two things to say in critic of the album. The first is that I find the roaring vocals too prevalent. A little more of non-death vocal style would have given the beautiful and haunting lead guitar parts more purpose. The songs with the female vocals sound the best in this way because they complement the higher guitar part while the gruff death vocals go with the aggressive rhythm guitar. And hey, if you’re going to take the time to write lyrics then why not be sure that they are at least to some degree discernable. I mean, near the end of one song, all I can make out is, “STRAAWWW. QUAALM!” Actually, I think this is the song “Scar Queen”.
The other point is that all but two tracks follow a similar formula. Yes, checking out any one song or two makes this album seem like a treasure of audio delights. But as I listened to the album the other morning while out walking and my thoughts became distracted, when I returned my attention to the music after a few minutes I felt I hadn’t missed anything. But I have to consider that this is the band’s third album and in many cases, it is the third album where the band have really found out where they want to be and some of the most highly rated albums in rock history have been the third album.
Two tracks are entirely different and they are “Fidelio” which features some simple but pretty piano with supporting music and a dialogue between a woman and a man about a dream she had (the album is entitled “Dreamless” remember?) and how now that she is awake she is back in reality. The other track is “Les Silences” which is more of an atmospheric electronic piece with drum programming and a man’s voice speaking in French. It is a rather intriguing track because it works very well and it delivers a distraction from the formula that comprises the 10 other tracks.
For a listen, you can find some songs on YouTube, and I think I would recommend “The Void Alone” because it includes the lyrics and the female vocals. I think it’s a pretty good album for adding some variety to my collection and largely for the combination of that ultra-aggressive style and that sometimes soaring, sometimes technical lead guitar. But in some ways I also find myself thinking that I still love the artwork more than I actually enjoy the music on the whole album. The cover just seems to promise more than what is actually present. Or perhaps just less bellow roaring would have improved my overall impression.