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Are Fallujah about to release the most adventurous metal album of 2019?

The lead single has been met with polarising critique as punters adapt to the absence of former vocalist Alex Hoffman.

San Francisco’s Fallujah formed around simple deathcore roots in 2007, but began to showcase something truly arresting and new for extreme metal with their 2013 and 2014 releases Nomadic and The Flesh Prevails. Shortly after, the band was signed to Nuclear Blast for 2016’s Dreamless and became one of the most hard working and talked about bands in death metal. Possessing an ethereal and psychedelic quality, the stunning instrumentation and deep atmosphere of the band pulled listeners through metaphorical wormholes as it challenged the future of what metal could be. However founding member and vocalist Alex Hoffman quit the band in early 2017, abruptly pulling the rug from under their creative journey. After performing a string of shows in 2017 with fill-in vocalist Monte Barnard (Alterbeast, The Kennedy Veil, and short-lived Thy Art Is Murder fill in), Fallujah went dark, and remained almost entirely silent on social media and completely absent from the stage for the entirety of 2018. 

Finally Fallujah has released a piece of the art they had been slaving away on during this period of invisible activity – new single ‘Ultraviolet’, taken from their upcoming record, Undying Light. The new track has been met with a huge and passionate collection of feelings, a mix between both incredibly positive and downright unimpressed. New vocalist Antonio Palermo (formerly of Underling) sounds nothing like his predecessors, instead fielding a more emotionally tortured, mid-high range scream, one that harnesses more audible annunciation and simply doesn’t seem to at all touch upon the monochromatic low death growls that defined the band’s prior catalogue. It’s both refreshing and challenging, and alongside the fact that Hoffman’s contributions in the form of synths and electronics are also no longer part of the Fallujah sound, presents something that is hugely different for a band that in many ways was just hitting their stride with their unique sound. 

Instrumentally however, Fallujah is still Fallujah, and yet on ‘Ultraviolet’ the band feels more focused and purposefully restrained. The structure of the song has clear purpose, and to get to its peak and back down again, the journey of the composition is clearly planned yet allowed to flow just enough to keep the band’s lust for sonic adventure intact. Personally, I love it, and am incredibly excited to sink my teeth into the rest of the record. Once again the band is challenging the death metal status quo, but this time they’re doing it while also challenging their own. The cold futurism of records past has evolved into more earthy tones that feel more man than machine. Despite those that may be crying foul on the internet, I still can’t think of any other band that sounds like this. 

Undying Light is out Friday March 15 through Nuclear Blast Records.