Fallujah, Empyrean (Nuclear Blast 2022)

San Francisco prog metal heavyweights Fallujah are back with their fifth album, Empyrean.

Fallujah hit the ground running in 2009 by releasing a demo and their first EP, Leper Colony. There was another demo the following year and then the band’s first long-player, The Harvest Wombs, planted the flag firmly in 2011. Their early work has been regularly described as metalcore, and over the years they have moved compositionally toward progressive metal and technical death metal. The band is Scott Carstairs (guitar), Andrew Baird (drums), Kyle Schaefer (vocals), and Evan Brewer (bass).

Discussing the album, Scott Carstairs says, “Empyrean isn’t a concept album, but there are some recurring themes throughout. The first three songs (‘The Bitter Taste of Clarity,’ ‘Radiant Ascension’ and ‘Embrace Oblivion’) all deal with a process of metaphorical rebirth—overcoming personal hardships, finding the right outlook to keep moving forward, and learning to embrace change in a way that makes you stronger for it in the long run. ‘Duality of Intent’ describes the internal conflict between the two sides of your brain, simultaneously craving immediate gratification versus long-term fulfillment and the paradoxical balance that results. ‘Artifacts’ is about the universal human desire to create something that will live on beyond oneself. ‘Mindless Omnipotent Master’ takes a cynical look outward, personifying mankind’s globally-linked networks of societal and technological systems as a giant mechanical beast which has grown beyond our control and now moves of its own accord.”

Clearly, very specific ideas are at work in the writing of this album. The great thing about this kind of depth is that it’ll work for everybody because you can embrace it and attempt to inculcate it, or you can just listen to the songs and not think so much about it. It is up to you. The music is complex. It is loud and aggressive. Perhaps the best example is the opening track, “The Bitter Taste Of Clarity,” which is absolutely savage in the music and the narrative theme. There are shifts to lighter moments, but they are pretty rigorous, too. The lead guitar work is incredible. “Soulbreaker” is another track I’d like to emphasize. The music is brutal, and its execution is unswervingly precise. Languid moments in the background and along the way serve to highlight the deeper, more punishing passages.

This album is excellent from front to back – it is my new favorite from Fallujah. Recommended.

Empyrean is out on Friday, September 9th through Nuclear Blast Records. Touch the links below to check it out and pick it up.

Band photo by Stephanie Cabral.


Bandcamp, https://fallujah.bandcamp.com/album/empyrean-2

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/fallujahofficial

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/fallujah-empyrean.html

© Wayne Edwards

Fallujah, Empyrean (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Hypermass, Empyrean (2022)

Progressive death metal band Hypermass release their debut full-length album, Empyrean.

Formed ten years ago in Norway, Hypermass issued a demo in 2013 called Into Oblivion, then the EP Clouded Visions a couple years later. Since 2015 they have been rather quiet on the recording front, raising expectations for their first long-player, Empyrean. Playing progressive death metal that is loaded with grooves, hooks, and technical proficiency, they exist on their own self-constructed plane. The band is Markus Sundet (vocals), Thomas Pedersen (guitar), Sindre Dagestad (guitar), and Martin Nordvik (bass). Torgeir Aambø did the drum work on the new recording.

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with a short on ramp, “The Constant.” “Hivemind” is the first detailed glimpse into the universe of the set and it walks you around the expansive neighborhood, offering clues to the keys to the coming compositions. The hammer drops and the prog breaks out and it is more like a festival than a chemistry class. That is the hallmark of Hypermass – they confident enough in their own ideas that they do not try to fit in anyone else’s mold.

There is a plethora of looks on the album. The grisly “The Degenerate Strain” has its own approachability despite its sharp edges. Watch out for the ripping lead guitar that springs to life unexpectedly. “Null and Void” has the fully formed heaviness, too, that is somehow carried on a musical anti-gravity mechanism that allows it to move toward wherever you are at the time you hear it. It is almost mystical the way it works.

The title track comes near the end of the record and it is an achievement. Whether the sky is coming down or we are rising to meet it the journey is multifaceted and absolutely fascinating. The guitar on this song shines again, and the coarse vocals remind us that existence is multidimensional. Excellent throughout, and recommended.

Empyrean is out now. Bandcamp is a quick place to hear it – at the link below.


Bandcamp, https://hypermass.bandcamp.com/album/empyrean

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHw3woqZYJMR4AN9Yf02jRQ

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/hypermassmetal

© Wayne Edwards

Hypermass, Empyrean (2022)