FALLUJAH Burn The Rulebook On Undying Light
March 17, 2019, a month ago
California based progressive death metallers Fallujah grabbed the rulebook for their fourth studio album, proceeded to burn it, collect the ashes and cast them into the deepest, darkest, most metal pit they could find.
Simply put, this is a new and brave direction for the band that burst onto the scene with their seminal albums The Flesh Prevails in 2014 and debut with Nuclear Blast, Dreamless in 2016.
Gone is vocalist and founding member Alex Hofmann, replaced by longtime friend and new frontman Antonio Palermo, who has adopted a sound entirely his own on a boundary pushing album for a band that has teetered on the fringes of tech death, progressive metal and early flashes of deathcore for 12 years now.
Lead guitarist and co-founder Scott Carstairs has heard the comments, with the new album Undying Light, being heralded a masterpiece by some, a brazen departure and misfire by others.
“It was almost a shock to their system,” he tells BraveWords. “I think we had a pretty extreme vision with this record and we really wanted to make a statement moving forward. We wanted to make our sound more mature, more about the mix. What I think is immature is thinking about how impressive you are. We were really trying to put out something that was mature and matched our vision."
Fresh off a European trek with Obscura, Allegaeon and First Fragment, the band had a chance to test run new material, including the ball-busters “Last Light”, “Ultraviolet” and “Dopamine”.
“There was a lot of people that totally understood it, and a lot of people who didn’t. But when we played it live, from what I saw, people were loving it. Especially playing in places like Germany. I can rely on German honesty,” he laughed.
“It was reassuring that we were doing the right thing. I have no regrets with anything, and I thought about it and this is exactly what we wanted the music to sound like. I’ve never had that feeling with an album really. I write all the music and I put tons and tons of hours. By the end of it some of the decisions you made a couple of months ago are coming out in the mix and sometimes you’d like to change some things and you end up with what you got because the process is so long. At the end of some of those other albums I was like alright, I gave my all to it and it came out like that, and I wish it had came out like this. With this album, same thing, we put our total all into it but I really enjoy this album. It’s my favourite album yet – the mix, the sound, the cohesiveness, the maturity of it. I feel really confident in the music.
“The other albums had a lot of experimentation. It seems like the theme of this project is what are we going to do with the next album? Are we going to push it forward or experiment in weird ways? Those other albums we would have a girl singer on one song, some dude or a guitar player doing a guest solo. It’s cool to have this vibrant album with all of these characters and names associated with it, but we didn’t really want to do it this time. We just wanted to be the band, the band that was involved creating it. We wanted to be self-sufficient with our own voices and our own instrumentation. It feel really good to do it and be happy with the way it came out. It’s a raw version of the band."
Admitting that it would have been an easy, and perhaps natural choice to find an Alex Hofmann clone on vocals following his surprise departure in 2017, all hands opted for a shakeup, ushering in a new and daring version of a group that has never quite played by the rules.
“Our singer quits, so we have to put out a statement of who we’re going to be moving forward. Are we going to be the band that is going to figure out what their formula was or continue with that? We could have got a singer who was an Alex impersonator in a sense, or are we going to take this as an opportunity to grow into something new. Even though it was a risky move I really don’t have regrets about it, just because of how it came out.”
Hate from keyboard warriors is addressed directly on Undying Light. We live in a tech age where everyone has an opinion, and tearing down is oftentimes more popular than propping up. Fallujah tackles that grim reality head on, with no shortage of aggression.
“I really think it’s just you’re messing with people’s nostalgia a little bit,” says Carstairs. “When I read people saying ‘the last album was perfect’, and I hear that. You didn’t say that when it came out. When it came out you could tear up the vocal patterns and how they didn’t really fit into the music or how it’s monotone. Now you get these same complaints but almost a little extra. It’s like no, this sound I’ve grown up with and gotten used to, you’re throwing a wrench into it. I think it’s just a shock to their system a little bit.
“It was personal issues we all felt close to,” he says of the albums themes, offering a deep dive into some of the records more notable cuts. “Whether it was the struggle to put everything you have into this project, almost irrationally, even at the risk of failure. I believe the song ‘Hollow’ is about that. You’re giving everything that you have to this, even at the risk of drowning and you’re perfectly fine with that. It’s basically who you are. We’ve had members that quit because they didn’t want to give everything they had to this. We’re at that age, and they get tripped out. I’m 27 right, so that’s kind of young for the album we’re on, but that’s the time where you can see what the next 20 years are going to be right. Am I going to do this? Or am I going to get a job, a corporate job, a safety net. It was all kind of stuff we were battling with. That song “Dopamine” touched on that social media kind of apathy. There’s an apatheticness where people don’t really see or appreciate the passion people put into stuff. We’re overexposed.
It’s so hard to appreciate how much work goes into stuff. ‘Last Light’ is talking about when you give up, when you tell yourself this is not what you’re meant to be doing. That voice in the back of your head that nags at you that maybe this is not who you’re supposed to do and maybe this is not who you are. Kind of those anxieties put down in lyrical form. ‘Dopamine’ was about making a statement on society, how it’s degrading us and how we’re kind of falling. We sat down together and worked out what we wanted to say, and what we can all get behind. (Antonio) put his own artistic spin to everything.”
With the epic Chaos & Carnage with Whitechapel, Dying Fetus, Revocation, Spite, Uncured and Buried Above Ground kicking off on April 18th, Fallujah is hell bent on making a statement as the first quarter of 2019 comes to a close.
“It’s been over a year and now I have this slightly new lineup. After coming off of the Obscura tour, I really feel like we’ve never played better, in my opinion. We do have a new rig, everyone has this fire inside them to prove themselves. We can’t wait to get out there and tear it up. I haven’t felt like that in a while. You always go out to tour, because yeah this is the tour, but now we want to put on a show. We want to give it our all. We just have to be authentic to ourselves and let that be our religion. This is what we want to do and just have faith in that.”