Album Reviews

Falconer – Black Moon Rising Review

falconer_cover

Released By: Metal Blade Records

Release Date: June 10, 2014

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/falconermetal

 

Line Up:

Mathias Blad – Vocals

Stefan Weinerhall – Guitars

Jimmy Hedlund – Guitars

Magnus Linhardt – Bass

 Karsten Larsson – Drums

 

Tracklisting:

1. Locust Swarm

2. Halls and Chambers

3. Black Moon Rising

4. Scoundrel and the Squire

5. Wasteland

6. In Ruins

7. At the Jester’s Ball

8. There’s a Crow on the Barrow

9. Dawning of a Sombre Age

10. Age of Runes

11. The Priory

 

Swedish power metal band Falconer has long been one of my absolute favorites, so when they announced their eighth full length album Black Moon Rising, it instantly became one of my most anticipated albums of 2014. Storming onto the scene in 2001, Falconer released two incredible albums in a row, before vocalist Mathias Blad decided he was no longer able to commit to the band full time, leading to a couple of solid but disappointing albums by their standards, as their music has a very distinct sound that doesn’t work nearly as well without Blad. Thankfully, he returned on time for the stunning 2006 release Northwind, which ranks as my personal favorite, and then in 2008 they followed up with Among Beggars and Thieves, which was hardly a step down. In 2011 they attempted a slightly experimental album with the entirely Swedish sung Armod. More importantly,, though, that album represented their first full on power/folk album, as normally their albums are straight melodic power metal with some folk elements here and there, but Armod fully showcased their folk side and had a very unique sound. While it wasn’t one of my favorite Falconer albums I still appreciated it as an interesting and successful experiment, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in hoping that Black Moon Rising would see them return closer to their roots.

It does, and it undoubtedly earns its place beside all the pre-Armod albums with Blad. In many ways it feels like an attempt to recreate their first two albums, and I think fans of their self-titled debut in particular should be very pleased. Compared to Armod, this album is much speedier, catchier and more epic, just like classic Falconer. Everything sounds as fresh as ever, from their easily recognizable guitar tone to Blad’s excellent and very distinctive vocals. At the same time, it’s easy to spot some new elements on this album. Specifically, this is by far their most aggressive, most guitar driven album to date, and there’s some points where the riffs have a thrashy feel to them, most notably on “Wasteland”. Basically, fans of Falconer’s power metal side who don’t mind some heavier parts are going to absolutely love this album.

The only longtime fans I can see possibly being disappointed are those who prefer their folk metal elements, as Black Moon Rising feels like a complete reversal of Armod: Where Armod emphasized their folk elements and removed a lot of the speedier parts, Black Moon Rising fully emphasizes their power metal side, and as a result, the folk elements are toned down to the point of only showing up on a couple tracks, and with the exception of one track, their presence is never felt in the way it was on their last few albums. If anything this might be their least folk influenced album to date. Even then, fans can look forward to the excellent mid-tempo track “Scoundrel and the Squire”, which would have fit in very well with the more folk infused tracks on Chapters of a Vale Forlorn.

As much as I love Falconer, there’s one elementnt of their sound that if removed would greatly reduce my enjoyment. I not so subtlety hinted at this earlier, but it is in fact vocalist Mathias Blad. He has a very distinct baritone voice that sounds completely unlike any other metal singer I’ve ever heard, and he sounds particularly awesome on their softer, more folk-ish songs. Because this is a heavier album, we get to hear to him sing with a bit more intensity than usual, and while his tone is as wonderful as always, there are a few points on this album where he goes much higher than usual, and these parts are very epic.

Opening track “Locust Swarm” is a masterpiece, and gives listeners a great idea of what to expect. It represents a return to the style of their first two albums, while at the same time briefly showcasing the more aggressive guitar work that dominates a few later tracks, and a surprisingly dark tone, which remains for the entire album. The following track “Halls and Chambers” sounds even more like classic Falconer, and the chorus features Blad at his absolute best. Another highlight is “Wasteland”, which is also the most surprising track. Right from the explosive opening riff, it’s clear this song is more aggressive than normal, and as it goes on the thrashy riffs start to take over, with Blad singing some surprisingly high notes during the chorus. Despite being one of the most surprising songs they’ve ever made, it still retains that distinct Falconer feel, and it’s actually one of my personal favorites. My absolute favorite is the pure speedy power metal song “There’s a Crow on the Barrow”, which rivals classics like “Upon the Grave of Guilt” and “Mindtraveller”. “The Priory” is an excellent closing track, and it has some very minor folk elements. Really, though, the only true folk metal song on this album is the previously mentioned “Squire and the Scoundrel”.

After an interesting experiment and a brief break, Falconer are back in business with Black Moon Rising, an excellent album which represents a return to the speedier, more aggressive sound of their earlier albums, while introducing some slight thrash elements and in general being much darker than anything they’ve done before. Highly recommended for any fans of folk influenced power metal, and especially for fans of their first two albums. I wouldn’t quite rank it up there with their debut or Northwind as their best work, but it isn’t too far behind.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    9/10

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