Recording information: Sharkbite Studios, Oakland, CA.
Dreamless is album number three for San Francisco's Fallujah. With 2014's The Flesh Prevails, the band juxtaposed and recombined brutal aggression, progressive tenets, and textured atmospherics, setting them apart as a band hungry to experiment. They garnered a new cadre of fans, to boot. With producer Zack Ohren again at the helm, the quintet offers an attack here that is more ferocious but exponentially more experimental. The musical weave includes not only the aforementioned layers, but even more strident, sharp-edged prog, glimpses of jazz-metal fusion, and even a mutant blues riff here and there. In spite -- or because -- of the ambitious exploration, Dreamless possesses more balance than its predecessor. The conflagration of musical styles and sonics arrive inseparably embedded from the outset, no matter how strident or intense the song. (On The Flesh Prevails, these were primarily pushed onto the back half of the record.) "Face of Death" opens with a swell of church organ, hammering floor toms, and silvery guitars before a throbbing, detuned bassline ushers in Alex Hofmann's signature razor-blade roar. First single, "The Flesh Prevails," offers lithe, melodic keyboards as guitars quiver during the intro. The clash of Scott Carstairs' and Brian James' angular guitars sets the singer on a tear. Syncopated bass and drums add a rough, proggy edge before guest vocalist Tori Letzler lends her elegant croon, adding ballast and dimension. "Abandon" features Katie Thompson (Chiasma) on guest vocals. Her verses are scored differently than Hofmann's, creating a polyharmonic melody. Her ethereality and his anguished wail provide excellent contrast. The jazz fusion-esque interplay between stinging guitars and keyboards is glorious. The careening, alienated rage in "The Prodigal Son" is a mini-suite; its sequences progress from crushing death metal to ambient interludes and to a mathy prog. It's followed by the churning "Amber Gaze," one of the most unhinged cuts here. "Wind for Wings" (with Letzler and Mike Semesky) unveils a pointed, sequenced introduction but unfolds in a fury. "Fidelio," with acoustic pianos, echo chambers, and near-whispered, spoken-word female vocals eventually erupts with a huge, lush, droning crescendo reminiscent of vintage 4AD, while the drum'n'bass rhythm tracks (played organically) in "Les Silences" are strikingly alien to Fallujah's sound. Closer "Lacuna" is a crushing sprint of angled, detuned bass, shard-like guitars, and grooving, blasting drums, which send it off an adrenaline spike. While the more lurid and multi-sonic approach of Dreamless may alienate some who prefer all aggression all the time, it's a fair bet that Fallujah's giant leap forward here will resonate with many more. ~ Thom Jurek