FALKENBACH had been one of the first bands to embrace a very epic approach to the Viking/Black Metal genre by incorporating folky melodies and some clear vocals with their debut album “...en their medh riki fara...” back in 1996. Fully aware of the fact that technically BATHORY had been the originators of this genre, so to say, but Vratyas Vakyas’ approach had been very different, so don’t start with me by claiming that they were not one of the first bands doing this :P
Over the next fifteen years followed two more regular full albums and one kind of retrospective, with the second effort “...magni blandinn ok megintiri...” being an all-time classic already and to date their strongest release. Over the course of time FALKENBACH reduced the Black Metal portion in favour of more of the epic and Folk-tinged melodies and clear vocals, thus alienating the old fans just a little bit, so when “Tiurida” fluttered in, I had high hopes, since so far all of their albums had been of exceptional class. Once more clocking in around the 40 minute mark, the German band (Vratyas still is the mastermind, but he has once again accepted help from members of LE GRAND GUIGNOL (formerly VINDSVAL) and also one member of EÏS) pretty much picks up, where they had left off with “Heralding – The Fireblade” six years ago, or due to the older material processed on that release, eight years ago with “Ok Nefna Tyrvar Ty”, with the emphasis once more being more on the melodic than the heavy side.
Now for the first time ever, I am split about a FALKENBACH album, though, because in some places it seems to lack a little of the magic that makes/made this band so special, since there is no real evolution to be detected, but the songs pretty much stick to the same formula that they had pretty much perfected before. Don’t get me wrong, it is a damn good formula, if you ask me, just take opener “...Where His Ravens Fly...”, which is fairly slow, hymnic, epic, with the characteristic clear vocals of VV and this light medieval/Folky touch as well as the playfulness in the melodies, taking you away into FALKENBACH’s parallel world, an excellent piece. “Time Between Dog And Wolf” on the other hand a) embraces a bit more of the Black Metal past, with VV sounding quite venomous in his vocal delivery, while the song itself is slow and stomping, still with the majestic melodies, but nothing really outstanding, which also comes back with “In Flames” (coincidentally the other heavier song). But before I get condemned for being a killjoy here, even less magic songs by FALKENBACH are superior to good parts of the rest of the scene, be it the traditional instrumentals (“Tanfana” or moody “Sunnavend”) or the super epic, mostly slow-paced hymns such as “...Where His Ravens Fly...” or “Runes Shall You Know”.
In the end “Tiurida” still is a very good album, it just pales in comparison to their previous masterpieces, especially “...magni blandinn ok megintiri...”, which in the end is its biggest problem: being measured against what the band already had created. If you are a FALKENBACH fan, though, you should not be disappointed and if you are new to this band, you won’t make a mistake by getting this one, just make sure to also check out their back catalogue to get hooked completely. FALKENBACH anno 2011 may not be at the pinnacle of their creative output, but still outshine the majority of other releases of their style.
(Online July 30, 2011)