I’ve been waiting for this one. Both 2014’s The Flesh Prevails and 2016’s Dreamless were superb albums, so the bar is set high for Undying Light. A change in singer and loss of a guitarist can potentially be a challenge for a band, but when I saw them live recently it sounded as if Fallujah’s new vocalist had easily made his mark. So now we have the new album in full, how does it all manifest?
Well, Undying Light finds Fallujah sounding recognisably as the same band, but changed and different nonetheless. This is not the same band that delivered The Flesh Prevails and Dreamless, this is a new Fallujah arisen from the old in fires of rebirth.
But is it any good? It is, but not in the same way as the old Fallujah. In some ways Undying Light sounds more like a band taking close influence from Fallujah, rather than it actually being Fallujah.
In many ways Fallujah have been defined by their use of atmospheric and ambient elements, creating rich, luxurious music that provided the listener with alien worldscapes alongside deathly brutality. Although this is still the case on occasion, it’s much less overt than previously, and in many places absent totally. Instead, the band focus on the core of their music. Even this is altered, however, as there’s more emphasis on savage emotion conveyed through the band’s extreme metal, with less reliance on the atmospheric, ambient, and melodic enhancements.
Fallujah have always been a death metal band that have handled emotion well, and these new songs continue to do so, but via different mechanisms than previously. A lot of passion has clearly been poured into the music, but a large part of it is also channelled through the band’s new singer. Live he came across as intensity incarnate, and on album he isn’t too far removed from this, either. This is probably the most noticeable change on this album too. The band’s previous singer was a classic growler, but on Undying Light we have more dynamic and varied vocals based around serrated screams.
The new singer, coupled with the changes to the music itself, (which includes more mid-paced sections and melody that’s more restrained and understated), lends the album more of both a metalcore and a blackgaze vibe. This sounds somewhat paradoxical when written like that, but it’s an indicator that Fallujah may sound different in 2019, but they still sound like few other bands.
Undying Light will doubtless unnerve and disappoint many, as it’s resolutely the sound of a band developing and progressing their style and not rehashing old glories. The problem comes, however, due to the fact that Fallujah had such a distinctive and defining sound already. This is always the conundrum of change, of course; if you’re a band in this situation, what do you do? Well, you stay true to yourself and do what you want to, which is commendably what Fallujah have done here.
Undying Light is a interesting direction for the band to take, and a very strong album in its own right and judged on its own terms. People looking for Dreamless 2.0 will be disappointed, as instead they have been given Fallujah 2.0.