Oh, Fallujah, how you frustrate me.
This Bay Area group is like a mix-and-match six-pack of four Head Hunters and two Bud Light Limes. Reach in and pick a beer.
Ooo! A Head Hunter! Tasty. Time for another? Pick again.
Womp womp. Bud Light Lime. Boy, I bet you’re disappointed, huh? Especially after that Head Hunter…
That’s Fallujah for me. I wish I could either love them or dislike them, but instead, they give me these conflicting emotions I just can’t quit. I know the potential for greatness is there, but I don’t consistently get it.
Their previous album, The Flesh Prevails, made me feel this way, and Dreamless revs it to another level. When Dreamless launched April 29, I tossed it in my Amazon cart, checked out, and received it on my front step two days later.
I was excited, not because of how I felt about their past work, but because I believed, based on the two songs I heard ahead of time—”Scar Queen” and “The Void Alone”—things were going to be different this time around.
“Scar Queen” and “The Void Alone” are the best two songs on the album.
The good news, though, is that if you already know you like Fallujah, you’re probably going to love Dreamless. It’s super Fallujah-ey. There’s so much Fallujah happening here.
There’s the ambiance, the atmosphere, the spaced-out, droning melodies you’ve come to love. It’s crushing at times. The guest vocals sprinkled throughout from Tori Letzler are beautiful, adding a breathtakingly melodic layer to the musical casserole.
There’s the … club music right in the middle of the album? I’m definitely simplifying and disrespecting the sound and the approach here, but seriously, what the hell is going on with tracks nine and 11, “Fidelio” and “Les Silences”? Fallujah’s vocalist, Alex Hofmann, is on the record saying that metal needs to better evoke emotion from the listener, to offer a break from the constant chugga-chugga-chugga gut-punch.
He’s not wrong. Diversity is key.
But not like this, man. These tunes fall on their face. They’re skippable. They’re not particularly well integrated into the album, standing alone as these out-of-place attempts to switch it up just for the sake of switching it up. They disrupt the flow, tainting the album as a whole.
And unfortunately, several sections throughout the album follow suit. There’s meaningful ambiance and then there’s mindless meandering, and too often Fallujah falls victim to the latter. When the music’s good, though, it’s damn-near perfect. “Scar Queen” is incredible. “Abandon” is a dreamy walk down a fog-covered path that culminates with one of the best-constructed, most horns-raising riffs I’ve heard in quite some time.
The guitar work is smooth as a mountain goat. You can practically feel the fretboards gliding beneath the hands of guitarists Scott Carstairs and Brian James. Buttery goodness. Every note is distinct and clear, highlighted by tasteful whammy bar usage and impossibly sustaining over and undertones. It’s sexy.
That’s all Dreamless is: sexy. It’s fake tits and makeup — superficial glory. That’s certainly not the worst thing ever. There’s just not a whole lot of substance to make me want to keep coming back. Half of the album could be thrown away and/or reworked, and I’d be OK with that.
What works on Dreamless is phenomenal, though, and that alone ultimately makes it worthwhile. I can tolerate the overcooked chicken wings when the sauce is this good.
I just won’t order another round.
IF YOU LIKE DREAMLESS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Rivers of Nihil, The Faceless, Beyond Creation, Between the Buried and Me, Rings of Saturn, Devin Townsend