Metal-Bro Album Review: “Backdraft” by FALLSTAR

An album review by Daniel McDonald
Sponsored by Metal-Bro Alliance Australia

Album released on 16 April 2013
via Facedown Records

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My Thoughts
There are a lot of Christian Metal bands out there. Especially metalcore bands. The really good ones are usually signed to backyard labels and have a decent following. The great ones get signed to Solid State Records or Facedown Records.

The reason I point this out is that Fallstar have been a band that made the good level. They signed to Come & Live and their music was free; Part of the Come & Live ministry. I had checked out Fallstar’s stuff from Come & Live and that was that. Potentially good, but not something that I was going to invest my valuable listening time to. It seemed, I don’t know, too generic. Just another metalcore band making the same old metalcore sound. Nothing more, nothing less.

There was one thing that stood out to me about Fallstar, though. After listening to an interview on the now dormant Anvil & The Hammer podcast, it wad clear these guys had passion. Passion to get the message of Jesus out to the metal-heads that needed to hear it. It wad a pity I couldn’t get into their music more.

Then it happened. Facedown records announced that Fallstar were signed and dropped a lyric video for “Shallow Believer”. The song had me floored! This surely wasn’t the same band. The vocals were so abrasive and had amazing range, the riffage was rib-snappingly amazing and the song was catchy; very catchy. I played the lyric video over and over. I still had my reservations, though. I noticed “Shallow Believer” had guest vocals and I’ve been burnt before with a great first songs leading into flat album scenarios. I wouldn’t jump the gun just yet.

A short time after this, another video was released for the song “El Ray”. This sealed the deal. After hearing this track, I kept singing the chorus over and over. So, with a skip in my step, I made the journey to my favourite record store, Utopia, and placed my order. Streaming the album via JB Hi-Fi Now would ease my the pain of my wait in the meantime.

Whatever influence Facedown Records had on the production of the album now known as “Backdraft”, I am grateful for. Every last song on “Backdraft” is a stand out. Even the 30 second intro track, “Malbec Blood”, had me skipping back to get more.

“Backdraft” starts with a the abovementioned “Malbec Blood”, which is a simple melodic chant. I think this shows the creative musical ability of the band. They write real catchy melodies and songs you don’t have to work at to like. Once the ice-breaker is done, the album gets moving with the cacophony of melodic hooks and gut-grazing vocals that is “Shallow Beleiver”. This song sets the tone for album.

The ‘dirty’ vocals are stand out all accross the album. I’ve tried to think of the right word to describe the dirty vox and the most suitable one that comes to mind is ‘theatrical’. Normally this would put me off, but not here. The theatricality of the vocals really allows Chris Ratzlaff to add range to his singing. There is a lot of control evident. I doubt his voice went anywhere he didn’t intend it to.

This album seems to have me eating my words on my usual opinions. Especially on the use of clean vocals and the addition of electronic elements.
In my opinion, bands just don’t get them right more often than not.
Chris Ratzlaff’s cleans are high. Which, you would know from previous reviews, I dislike with a passion. They just don’t belong in metal as far as I’m concerned. It always seems to immaculate the otherwise (generally) masculine genre.  However, try as I might to criticise, the cleans are exceptional here. High and in tune. Much more like power metal vocals than boy band mediocrity. The cleans also carry the song “Millionaires”, which only has a minor growl here and there. This track stands out because food its quality.

Not many songs on here have obvious electronic elements. The one that stands out with these elements is “Alexandria 363”. This song somehow allows a respite before throwing you back into the energetic metal that lies before you. Don’t get me wrong, “Alexandria 363” is heavy, but as it has slight elements of hip-hop and electronic beats, it seperates itself from the rest of the album.

Overall, “Backdraft” is an album that is saturated in passionate and youthfully enthusiastic music. You get the feeling that there is not one moment which hasn’t been thought through and hasn’t had less than 100% of Fallstar’s energy.

The lyrical content of the album is – as expected from a Facedown Records band – very strongly Christian in it’s theme and motivation. With lyrics like “No ones gazes me and lives. No one lives until they die. Once alone and not again, I’m yours until the end…” it’s hard for me not to get caught up in the passion of the songs.

Two of my personal favourites from the album are “Shallow Believer” and “Set My Face Like Flint”, which closes the album. The latter being almost a call to arms for the faithful. Other highligets are the short and sweet “Eclipse” and the uplifting shred fest of a song, “It’s In Our Blood”.

I recently learned that Solid State Records’ release of “Creation | Destruction” by Fit For A King is their biggest release in the label’s history. A well deserves feat for an amazing album. After listening to Fallstar’s “Backdraft”; I believe that this is Facedown’s answer to “Creation | Destruction’s”. A must own for metalcore purists and anyone who wants an album to jump around to, scream and growl your guts out to, or just enjoy from beginning to end.

My Rating
5 stars out of 5.

What else can I say. There is so much appeal in this album and I have not stopped listening to it. Catchy melodic hooks, brootahl vocals and instant likeability. If you don’t check this album out, in the words of Good Game, “You’re a noob.”

In Closing
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God bless you, Bros and Brodettes!

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