Back when Chapters Through a Vale Forlorn came out, my buddy Pat left the album on loop in his car. For probably six months. Hearing the Lament of a Minstrel in the Decadence of Dignity was just great during our epic quests to get Taco Bell. Falconer is one of those bands that feels like the embodiment of power metal. Fast drums, big guitar work, and an incredibly talented signer, all squished together into epic tales of times long passed.
Unfortunately, for me, there were a couple albums in the mid to late 2000’s that seemed to have a stronger political slant, and it kind of turned me off from Falconer for a while. There were also a couple albums with a different singer, and that just felt like blasphemy. But now that I’ve heard Black Moon Rising, I’m back in. This album sounds like the Falconer that accompanied quests to pick up new video game releases, or just go to the grocery store. If you listen to Falconer while en route to get TP, the TP becomes 95% more epic.
The album starts with Locust Storm and a great dual guitar/double bass kick intro, and once the vocals kick in you’re prepped for a great ride. There’s even a break after the first chorus that has a kind of ominous bend to it, like the locusts are wreaking havoc on the land, eating all your stuff. The chorus features the similar dissonance of insanely fast drumming with Mathias Blad’s fantastic singing, something few bands can really accomplish like Falconer.
I’d like to talk about the vocals for a bit. Most of the time I listen to metal I’m all about noodly guitars and crazy basslines, because, hey, heavy metal. I do love hearing great, unique vocal work, such as the crazy falsetto of Cam Pipes or any of the metal gods like Halford or Bruce Dickinson, but most acts I follow for the guitars & drums & stuff.
The vocal work in Falconer seems more fitting in theater than power metal, and that combination really amps up the pomp of the material. This is all due to Mathias Blad, one of the most amazing singers in metal, and really in music in general. As a formally trained opera singer, he is able to hit great notes while staying within a natural range. You don’t need to scream out a falsetto or get all guttural when you can ride a note for a few measures no sweat. I am very certain he could recite the phone book and I’d give it at least a couple listens. Given his theater and opera background, it’d probably sound awesome.
Back to the album, Wasteland is one of my favorite tracks. Going from feedback to explosions to massive drums right in your face just amps me up for the vocals that lilt and dance above the instruments. Karsten Larsson does some amazing stuff with the drums, able to run crazy fast double kick while layering in complex rhythms that help drive the songs along. The song has a bit heavier/chuggy feel to it, reinforcing the mood that there’s some form of escape going on. And breaking free out of this wasteland, that seems important. This is another one of those songs that you drop into the end of an exercise mix just to see how fast you can get your heart going when you think you’re out of gas.
There’s a Crow on the Barrow shows off some of the gallop rhythms that are part and parcel of power metal, plus some of the guitar phrases familiar to older Falconer tracks. And I just learned a barrow is a small hill or mound. Thank you, Falconer, for teaching me! And if you’re looking for folky power metal, the Priory is a great fit.
Some people want bands to continually change and evolve their sound. But sometimes it’s great to just settle in and get your face rocked with familiar and solid power metal. Falconer is able to play different themes and styles into their music with deft skill, going from balls out fast metal, to power ballads, to folk metal, and back. This is definitely a top metal album of 2014 for me.