First let me say at the outset that I consider all five of the guys in Fallujah personal friends. My name is in the liner notes for this record as an alleged "notable individual." That's just full disclosure so you know I can't be completely unbiased when I say "The Harvest Wombs", now out on Unique Leader records, deserves five out of five stars, gets The Shields Seal of Approval, and earns my spot as the Death Metal Album of the Year.
One of the things most impressive about "The Harvest Wombs" is that it's hard to categorize it in just one of metal's tidy little sub-genres. Is it tech death? Yes certainly, but there are also atmospheric elements and black metal influences and much more.
The Harvest Wombs opens with some of those atmospheric feelings with "Alpha Incipient" but it doesn't end there. In fact, the opening track contains almost all of the elements that make the Harvest Wombs so compelling. There's Andrew Baird's very precise fills leading to Alex Hofmann's aggressive yet controlled vocals and a short Scott Carstairs solo that provides a hint as to why this young man has a big future ahead of himself as a metal guitar shredder god. Still none of it is over the top, instead it's very much in control as if these musicians know exactly where they want to lead us and how we're all going to make that journey.
This segues into the second track, Ritual of Godflesh, a short focused and intense piece introducing us to the concept of where the ancients spawned. Again a very controlled solo leads us to a cold ending.
As we "Become One," that demon is now awake, alive, and thriving behind Andrew Baird's insistent beats but then Fallujah surprises us again with a change of pace for Scott's soulful solo, a short bridge and then a return to a musical exploration that is both technical and artistic. All through it we imagine and wish we could hear better Rob Morey's precise bass tapping. Still, this is great stuff.
"Cerebral Hybridization", one of the signature tunes in Fallujah's set, again surprises us at the outset with some straight up power metal, a story of the fusing of human and alien species, and then another guitar solo that will set you into ecstasy whether you're a musician or just someone who loves to go on extended musical journeys.
Next comes my longtime favorite Fallujah song, "Prison of the Mind." This is a song that offers amazing tech death with guitar solos that never give up an inch of speed and wizardry while still managing to even be beautiful.
We take a break from Alex Hofmann's intensity for an instrumental that may go down as the very best song on this album. "The Flame Surreal" is an exploration of Scott Carstairs' and Rob Maramonte's collective brilliance. It's very fast, very technical, and yet it's the sort of thing you could imagine playing for a non-headbanger friend to prove that very fast very technical music can also be very artistic and intellectually compelling.
Alex meets us back with full throated brilliance at the start of "Enslaved Eternal Phenomenon", a tune about rebirth and reinvention that will make you sit up and take notice. Again, wait for the guitar solos and you will feel reborn yourself.
"Hallucination" will make you see visions as well, you will think you see demons dancing stirred up by more of Andrew's unmerciful blasts and bassist Rob's tapping.
We start to see the finish line but that too may be just hallucination in the penultimate song on "The Harvest Wombs", the title track. This is an all-instrumental exploration of musical ecstasy which again allows Fallujah to show off the atmospheric and black metal sides of their artistry while not disappointing the cravers of the brutal.
Another monster track, "Assemblage of Wolves" wraps up the "The Harvest Wombs" in a song that brings all of these themes together and wraps them up with shiny bow of pure metal.
On any band's first album, you look for the flaws and while "The Harvest Wombs" is by no means a perfect record, it far exceeds expectations for musicians who are so young. Best of all, there's room to grow for Fallujah, a band I predict has the potential to be as big as any band out there in the tech death space, certainly as big as a band like The Faceless. I can't wait to go along for the ride.
"The Harvest Wombs" by Fallujah gets a solid five out of five stars for me. Go buy it if you love extremely intricate, highly evolved, and overwhelmingly brilliant music.