Fallstar recently joined up with some of the top acts in the Christian metal scene by leaving their former indie home in Come&Live! and signing to Facedown Records. The band released an EP and their debut full-length album, Reconciler. Refiner. Igniter. with their former label and graciously gave their music away for free. With Facedown, the music won't be free, but it is indeed better. The group's second album, Backdraft, drops the classic hardcore sound (a bit unfortunate) found in the debut and goes for a more new school hardcore/metalcore approach with a noticeable death metal and rock influences at times. The music is heavier and the vocals are tighter all around.
Backdraft opens with the short intro track "Malbec Blood" which has a slower, driving rock vibe, but quickly gives way to the faster battle of guttural growls, high-pitched screams, and superb clean vocals in "Shallow Believer." The song features Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire and asks the profound question, "Can a man ever truly understand God's grace?" "El Rey" is a bit chunkier and follows a stricter metalcore formula, especially when the clean vocals kick in. "Drags, Drugs, and Bones" is up next and kicks the speed up again. The verses are structured with a lot of screaming, with guttural growls accenting, but then the chorus opens things up musically and vocally with cleanly sung lyrics. "Millionaires" is the first track to show some diversity; other than the bridge, the song lacks any real metal aspects. The verses and chorus are sung completely clean and the guitars feature a basic palm-muted drive in the verse with a fairly open rock chorus. It's not very metal, but it's a definite standout. From there, the album jumps to the more standard metalcore "The Valley" -- perhaps the weakest of the bunch.
"Alexandria 363," my personal favorite, is up next. The song is the closest thing to classic hardcore on the album, but is done with a newer sounding hardcore twist. The vocals are pretty crazy throughout, but the song takes an even bigger turn at the 1:11 mark as Living Witness steps in for a 12-second rap. Rap in a hardcore song; can it work? Several have tried and it usually falls flat, but Living Witness and Fallstar seem to be on the same page. The rap goes along perfectly with the music already set in place and the short length really just highlights and already fun song. "It's in Our Blood" returns things to the metalcore norm a bit and features the nice lyrical line, "Your air blows fresh into our lungs. Is this belief or is this love? All praise to the Giver. I've got my head in the river," in the chorus. "Eclipse" is not even a minute long, but it has the feel of a classic hardcore song, but sounds nothing like one. The music and vocals are completely chaotic and executed at a blazing pace. Don't let the first 10 seconds fool you; this one is nasty. "The New World" follows and mixes up the rock and metal genres again for an enjoyable listen. The closer, "Set My Face Like a Flint," is a bit of a hardcore/metalcore mash-up and manages a decent sound. It's not the worst song of the group, but it would have been awesome to see the album conclude with "Eclipse" instead.
Fallstar has produced a solid product in Backdraft. The music and lyrics reflect that of a band who has both faith and fun. It sounds excellent, but it's not overproduced. They experiment with some ambience here and there, but it's nothing overbearing or annoying. It's sad to see a band leave a label like Come&Live!, but it seems like the group and their management knew what was best for them in the long run. Backdraft has a lot of metalcore tendencies, but has the ability to reach beyond the genre and draw a bigger audience. The fun factor and replay value are off the charts and, to top it off, the lyrics are faith-based. Songs like "Shallow Believer," "Millionaires," "Alexandria 363" and "Eclipse" should make this album a no-brainer. Metal fans should absolutely give Backdraft a listen; I seriously doubt there will be many disappointed.- Review date: 4/14/13, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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