There are many types of melodeath; the moody, acoustic-tinged odes of ’90s Dark Tranquillity, the thrashier Gothenburg style favored by early In Flames and At The Gates (and the thousands of other bands that ape them), as well as the poppier sound of Soilwork clones that seemed to crawl out of the woodwork in the late 2000s (hey, look, In Flames again!). While the latter of these styles is often credited with the decline of the genre, Steel Druhm thinks it’s still going strong in the more mopey, doom-riddled albums that he heaps praise upon every so often. Texas-based Fall don’t fit neatly into any of these categories, but fall more towards the modern group, albeit with some prog twists.
Fall can write some pretty cool song intros, but seem to have trouble following them up with anything really exciting. “From Ashes” opens the album with a fast-paced wall of fury, but shuffles between riffs so fast afterword that it’s forgotten within an instant, and the song quickly lapses into its catchy, but quite brief chorus. But sometimes the band really does make their best moments work for them; “…to dust” rolls in with an upbeat, thrashy riff that’s quite the little gem, and its reprisal under full steam at the song’s end is one of the best moments The Insatiable Weakness has to offer.
The greatest praise I have for Fall comes from their wide palate of influence; bluesy Mastodon riffs bridge melodeath staples in “Ever Hollow,” and “Soul Ignition” comes with appropriate reference to Soilwork and Disarmonia Mundi, all while swamped in synth strings. “Cinis” takes its place among the album’s best – and heaviest – tracks due to an Arsis vibe that works out quite well, especially when the shredded guitar solo hits in the first half. Yet its final two minutes or so fall a little bit short of expectations as the band’s writing steps out of the spotlight and all attention falls back on the album’s most obvious shortcoming.
The Insatiable Weakness sounds weak and crushed, with remarkably poor instrumental separation; when the instruments are going full blast, it’s a true challenge to pick out anything other than cymbals. Especially in cases where the guitars have some synth backing, which is a lot of the time, they seem almost painted on, a wafer-thin film of tone that would puncture as easily as the skin on a pear. But most of all, the vocal performance here rubs me the wrong way. While singer Jessie Santos’ growls are nothing too remarkable, his cleans are a treasure trove of issues. Even when you ignore the slapped-together and often incoherent choice of vocal melodies, his singing voice just isn’t very strong, and the album’s production really doesn’t do him any favors. His cleans are truly terrible and synthetic; at times they reek of autotune and excessive overdubbing, while in other spots they’re almost tone-deaf (“Not of the Sky”), and whether it’s because his voice lacks richness or because it’s been robbed of that through overproduction (I suspect the latter, given that the guest vocals on “Harvester” sound absolutely abhorrent), vocals throughout the album are flaccid and without exception serve to detract from the music.
The Insatiable Weakness proves to be a frustrating listen, because despite its adventurous writing and competent instrumental performance, the production choices have rendered parts of it (the back half of “Harvester”) near unlistenable. Fall are a good band that needs to rely more on their obvious talents than their choice of production to make an impact. With more headroom, a little fat trimming, and a more tempered vocal approach, their follow up has a chance to go far.