This is my first encounter with Fallujah, so I attempted a fair amount of research going in. Unfortunately not much of it was helpful. The online critics seem to be split right down the middle. People either worship the ground this quintet shreds on, or despise them with a passion reserved for rapists, thieves, and Bryce Harper. All I really knew for sure was that these young San Franciscans are named after a city in Iraq and signed to Unique Leader (which these days usually means super-tech/ultra-brutal Death Metal with sweep harmonics that sound like Mario and Luigi getting big on mushrooms). Low expectations abound, I dove right in, and roughly a dozen spins later, I’m pleased to report The Flesh Prevails is nowhere near as horrible (or as otherworldly amazing) as the semi-retarded internet minions proclaim. Fallujah essentially sound like The Contortionist playing Progressive Death Metal. They bludgeon with the ferocity of Behemoth one minute, and float on cosmic waves of mellow introspection and synthesized ambiance the next. Luckily nothing is over-the-top. The brutality and navelgazing space travel never overpower each other, while the guitarists and bassist manage to noodle without forcing the listener to tune out. The songs are given room to breathe —at times perhaps a bit too much— and the clever use of synths, along with the occasional inclusion of clean male/female vocals, serve to keep both heavy and calm arrangements emotionally weighty. If there’s one major drawback, it’s a low memorability factor. With the talent level through the roof, plus a commendable attention to detail in songwriting, this really ought to stick with you more than it does. Other than the dizzying Emperor-gone-Tech-Death heights of “Sapphire,” it’s difficult to pinpoint many true highlights. That said, The Flesh Prevails is a record capable of being appreciated for its vibe alone. It’s beyond well-played, easy to get lost in, and hits multiple pleasure centers in the brain simultaneously.
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