On the warpath

Bay Area death-metal titans Fallujah are more passion than politics

Out of the darkness …

Out of the darkness …

photo courtesy of Fallujah

Fallujah performs Thursday, Jan. 17, 8 p.m., at 1078 Gallery. Soren and Io Torus open.
Tickets: $5.

1078 Gallery
820 Broadway

Fallujah—like many cities in Iraq—is still reeling from the effects of a war that started a decade ago. Bay Area death-metal outfit Fallujah aren’t an outright political band (though they started off that way). They’re not much on discussing their name, either.

Vocalist Alex Hofmann says it’s something the members (understandably) are always asked about in interviews, which is why he skipped right over that one when I lobbed him some questions via email, pointing me instead to the band’s Facebook page: “The city of Fallujah represents the pinnacle of tensions, hostility and destruction that has come to define the world we live in.” Standard bio fodder, but a perfectly acceptable metal explanation.

Musically the five members of Fallujah have been steadily building a following for their technical prowess and their ability to thrash mightily. The seed was planted early on. Hofmann and guitarist Scott Carstairs met in their teens; they were the pimple-faced misfits who avoided the popular crowd in school.

“I think the fact that high school was a very alienating environment for us had some influence on our enthusiasm to start a band and turn it into something,” Hofmann explained. “That place was populated by a lot of spoiled conservative kids with lots of money who really didn’t have much perspective on the world or music, so I don’t think either of us was really able to integrate in a way the other kids did.”

The members of Fallujah released a couple of EPs that were rougher and more to the point than the unruly time signatures and guitar acrobatics that were to come. By the time the band released their full-length debut, The Harvest Wombs, in late 2011, the music and production had become more sophisticated, and they were playing more shows.

“We did a bit of growing up,” Hofmann said. “Our musical tastes changed, our priorities changed, and we didn’t want to keep making the same music. After having the hardcore influence for a long time, then witnessing just how adolescent and herd-minded the hardcore scene was becoming, our drive to associate with that scene dwindled.”

Hofmann says touring was key in the development of Fallujah’s sound. The Harvest Wombs draws influence from Scandinavian black metal, where blast beats and hellish growls meet dual leads and epic instrumental passages on songs like “Cerebral Hybridization” and “The Flame Surreal.” It’s good and evil all in one.

Fallujah are currently on the road, and as Hofmann gets ready to graduate college this year the band will begin touring full time. They’re also working on the follow-up to their debut LP, which Hofmann says is pushing the band in new directions.

“It’s not sounding very much like The Harvest Wombs, which I love,” he said. “The new material is the best we’ve made—it’s way more expansive and melodic. People are going to really have something fresh and progressive to dissect for a while.”

Just in case the point hasn’t been made clear—the members of Fallujah take their music very seriously. And the band’s progression over the past five years is impressive. As Hofmann explains it: “We’re a band that’s always moving forward, and I don’t see that ever changing.”