“I think the metal scene is immeasurably lacking in bands that offer emotional and atmospheric material,” says Fallujah vocalist Alex Hofmann. “Metal can’t remain as single serving as it is and hope to keep relevance. Bands need to bring a knockout live show and make the audience actually feel something other than mere impulse. It is for this reason that I think the world (or the metal world for that matter) has already been waiting for a band like Fallujah.”
Hofmann is onto something, actually. From Fallujah’s formation in 2007, the San Franciscans have melded brutality and brains into a sonic force with an unquestionable presence. Debut album, The Harvest Wombs, set the tech death world afire, with its smart brawn and well-placed jazz-rock interludes. The group’s follow-up album, The Flesh Prevails, further contrasted intensity with atmosphere. Tracks like ‘Carved from Stone’, ‘The Night Reveals’, and ‘Sapphire’ floored fans with their dexterity, ingenuity, and ferocity. Fallujah, however, aren’t content to be pigeonholed as tech death (or deathcore).
“That term was what we were lumped into for a long time,” the frontman admits. “In my opinion, the term has stuck way past its relevancy with our music. When you put on a lot of tech death bands I have a hard time understanding why we are considered amongst their ranks. The Leper Colony and The Harvest Wombs-era makes perfect sense, but now? I think we offer so much more to the musical pallet, so when that term comes up the first thought that comes up is ‘irrelevancy’.”
Eager to not repeat The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah set out to write a paradigm shift in new album, Dreamless. Written largely by guitarist Scott Carstairs at his home—the rest of Fallujah would join in to help the six-stringer smith songs— Dreamless represents a band at the peak of their songwriting ability. According to Hoffman, songs like ‘The Void Alone’, ‘Face Of Death’, and ‘Lacuna’ feature less musical arithmetic and more groove, a trait that’s underscored throughout Dreamless. Instead of the rapidity and claustrophobic atmosphere of The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah’s new music is clearer, stronger, yet still rife with emotion and ambiance.
“Simply calling it death metal would be inaccurate,” states Hofmann of Dreamless. “This album is a major step forward with the goal in mind of transcending the limitations of not only the death metal sound but the scene at large. Anyone who is a Fallujah fan will put the record on and immediately know who it is they are listening to, but there’s a diverse palette represented here that our previous albums lacked. The aim of the album seemed a lot more focused this time with what we wanted to achieve. With each album we write it becomes apparent that we get better at actual songwriting.”
Lyrically, Dreamless is Fallujah in a different light. Whereas The Flesh Prevails centered on Hofmann’s personal experiences, Dreamless views things from the perspectives of others. There’s also a filmic tie-in as well. In short, Dreamless features Hofmann’s most revealing lyrics to date.
“The main theme revolves around various films and the emotions they evoke from my own past,” Hofmann says. “Each song manifests not only the themes within dialogue, but the colors and cinematography as well. I found it refreshing not to have to dig deep back into my own head and try to force a sense of artistic flare on ideas or experiences that in many ways are not grimly poetic. Telling a story about the struggles of characters in an environment that is real and down to earth was so interesting because there is no sense of insincerity. You are in many ways retelling a story from your own perspective, one that is driven by empathy and common experience. The real treat will be seeing if the fan base can decipher the themes of the lyrics and figure out what films correlate with which songs.”
Dreamless was produced at Sharkbite Studios (Exodus, High On Fire) with Zack Ohren again at the helm. Having produced both The Harvest Wombs and The Flesh Prevails, Ohren made it easy for Fallujah to return. The relationship between Fallujah and Ohren is closer to brotherhood than hired studio gun. He knows how Fallujah work as a team, and how to get the best out of individual performances. He’s both taskmaster and cherished mentor. Plus, Ohren’s a true gearhead, something Hofmann cherished while cutting tracks for Dreamless.
“Zack has been pivotal in making our albums shine,” the singer grins. “His knowledge of technology and attention to detail have made him essential to the whole process. We never for a moment felt like we were just another band in the meat grinder with him, as he took a personal interest in making this album the best it could be. Having him tag team this record with Mark Lewis has produced crushing results.”
Fans and journalists have a close relationship with Fallujah—Hoffman and team spent a lot of time meeting kids online while recording Dreamless, actually—but the bond is destined to be stronger after they hear Dreamless. It’s at once a personal and rewarding experience. While Fallujah describes their music as “aggressive and emotional”, Dreamless will take Fallujah to new levels of renown. To wit, the Fog City residents are prepared to jettison the constraints of death metal while not forgetting the genre’s tenets.
“I want the kids to be able to put the record on and actually feel something real,” admits Hoffman. “I think if I had to direct their emotions it would be those of nostalgia, memories and someone of blissful ignorance. I want a fan to put on a song from a new record that he’s never heard before and have it take him back to a time or place that the song has no attachment to. The melodies and atmospheres on this record are powerful in that way for all of us so we hope it has the same effect on other.”
Explanation of the Name: Fallujah is a city in the Al Anbar province of Iraq that at the time of the bands formation sustained the highest concentration of destruction and casualties on both sides of the fighting. The members of Fallujah have lived the majority of their lives in the post 9/11 world growing up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as observing the tension between East and West and religious turmoil. The city of Fallujah represents the pinnacle of tensions, hostility and destruction that has come to define the world we live in. To claim that the band has no knowledge of what went on there or is disrespectful is simply an uninformed opinion and irrelevant to the true message of the band.
The new album, »Dreamless«, is out now.