FALCONER is a band that I have enjoyed for several years and as they have come back strong with two really good albums after the slightly disappointing “Grime VS Grandeur”, my expectations were as high as always concerning “Armod” Maybe even higher, as the band stated that this record would be even more focused on folk music and would be entirely sung in Swedish, which suited my perfectly. The release of the album verified that there is a marked difference between this record and the two latest, “Northwind” and “Among Beggars And Thieves”.
Don’t worry, the essence of what FALCONER is remains. Mathias Blad’s well-schooled voice, Stefan Weinerhall’s excellent song writing, dominated by a mix of Metal and folk music and Jimmy Hedlund’s competent lead guitar-work are all still present. Still, the obvious folk influence can be found in guitar melodies and rhythms, rather than in much folk instrumentation (though there is some), which is a tradition that Stefan Weinerhall has kept to since his days in MITHOTYN. Speaking of MITHOTYN, the drummer Karsten Larsson who has played with Weinerhall throughout the days in both MITHOTYN and FALCONER also delivers as usual.
There are differences however. Even though the FALCONER feeling is kept through all these familiar elements, there are changes made to both the Metal and the Folk in the music. The Power Metal that has traditionally been FALCONER’s fundament has been complemented with some new influences. There is more of a Heavy Metal sound on this album with less of the typical Power Metal stream of notes. The riffing in the opener “Svarta Änkan” almost touches Thrash and “Griftefrid” begins with blastbeats, reminiscing of the aforementioned MITHOTYN’s Extreme Metal. Overall, there is much heavy double-kick drumming on the album. The downtuned guitars and prominent bass also set a dark mood that comes slightly as a surprise for those familiar with FALCONER’s sound.
The folk influences have in some ways also become stronger, as the band stated. There are several acoustic parts. That has been heard before, but the folk influence is also clearly incorporated in the song structures, which is especially noticeable in songs like “Grimborg” and “Fru Silfver”. What I feel is most noticeable, though, is that there is more of 18th and 19th century Swedish folk music on “Armod”, while the earlier albums have aimed more at imitating medieval music. The Middle Ages are still at the forefront lyrically and thematically, but there is a change concerning this. I think it may also be a result of a stronger influence from actual folk music, since the knowledge of music from that period is much larger.
These changes combined have resulted in an album that is less epic and more down-to-earth. Both the ballads and the rougher, more straightforward Metal parts contribute to this. Personally, I feel that that is a bit of a pity, as I am a sucker for medieval music, epic parts and catchy Power Metal. Still, variation is often a good thing, this is very competently done and the band has announced that this is no permanent change of style, so I am not the least worried and choose to enjoy “Armod” for its own qualities.
The production is very good. The super clean sound brings forth Mathias Blad’s vocals very well. Even though many don’t notice, as he doesn’t do many falsetto screams, he is one of the best vocalists technically in the Metal world, being an opera singer when not working with FALCONER. Apart from highlighting that, the production also lends more punch to Karsten Larsson’s drumming than ever and the amount of detail that can be heard in Hedlund’s solos is also an impressive aspect.
It is hard to choose any highlights on the album, as most of the Metal songs are approximately of the same quality. There are also a few calmer songs, including instrumental reworking of traditional songs and a cover of the famous Swedish 70’s singer-songwriter CORNELIS VREESWIJK. While those are also well-done, I see the more as complements for the Metal songs. The real super hit is missing on the album, but I could also pick out most of the songs for this section without being dishonest. The aggressive “Svarta Änkan”, the heavy and, partly, extreme “Griftefrid” and the folky “Grimborg” must be heard, though. The female guest vocals of Heléne Blad (Mathias’s sister) are also must-hears. Check out the part from 4:20 to 5:20 on “Herr Peder Och Hans Syster” for a taste of the excellent cooperation between the siblings!
FALCONER have once again succeeded in making a very good album and varied the sound, while still keeping true to the band identity. As mentioned, I really like some of the aspects that were peeled off this time, but this album is still too good not to like. You should get this album, either to continue your FALCONER collection, or to give them another chance if you have found them too Power Metal-esque earlier.
(Online January 27, 2012)