Falconer – Among Beggars And Thieves
Falconer – Among Beggars And Thieves (2008)\
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
After picking up and dusting themselves off in fine fashion with Northwind, Stefan Weinerhall, Karsten Larsson, and the rest of Falconer set to work recording Among Beggars And Thieves, the group’s sixth full-length album, and one that would prove to be a bit of a pivot point for its sound. Rolling out the usual blend of original fictional themes, balanced with lyricism based upon Swedish history, Weinerhall’s songwriting (and especially guitar playing) takes a noticeable turn for heavier and darker realms rarely witnessed from the band before.
If Northwind was built first and foremost as a feature album around having Mathias Blad back in the band, then Among Beggars And Thieves is almost naturally a tilt back in the other direction: with more attention to instrumentation. Not only do we see more rhythmically chugging sections (“Carnival Of Disgust” and opener “Field Of Sorrow”), but also more sampled pipes, flutes, and strings than ever before. In this way, the theatrical element gets turned up, and a number of songs featuring a surprising variation of sounds crop up. Notable is the short, lovely tune “A Beggar Hero”, which boasts the strong touch of soprano Evelyn Jons, as well as the frequent breaks during “Mountain Men” which place acoustic instrumentation and quick, lilting vocal delivery first.
While Falconer had included a bonus track or two in Swedish previously, as well as “Himmel Sa Trind” on Northwind, Among Beggars And Thieves sees three full songs in the band’s own language, each of which I could see being considered to be an album highlight. “Vargaskall” is a vocal-focused song that relies on some quick and heavy riffing to support the tuneful chorus; “Viddernas Man” is a mid-paced, softer track featuring piano during the verse; and “Skula, Skorpa, Skalk” is perhaps the most interesting of the three, with a brooding vocal intro elevated and dramatized by deep, resounding percussion and sung bass pedal tones. Finally, closer “Dreams And Pyres” calls upon everything that Falconer has put into the rest of the album to create one of the band’s longest and undeniably most ostentatious songs ever – a bombastic and dramatic concept track featuring orchestral hits, choirs, and a couple of guest vocalists to pull everything together.
Among Beggars And Thieves is a different sort of Falconer experience. There’s more double bass here, a bit more complexity (dare I say ‘progression?’), and the vocal melodies are decidedly less straightforward and blunt than witnessed on some of the uptempo power metal burners from days of yore. It’s not always a heavy album, but when it is, it’s heavier than ever before (and this would carry over to Armod). I think that, of the bands more “traditional” releases (and by this I mean Falconer, Chapters From A Vale Forlorn, The Sceptre Of Deception, Northwind, this album, and Black Moon Rising), Among Beggars And Thieves is the most difficult to access after a spin or two. It’s an unlikely case of a powerful folk-influenced metal album being more of a grower than a charging riff- and chorus-fest, and I admit that I used to count this as one of the least in the band’s discography. Maybe it’s not an album ideally suited for brand new fans to the band, but a very rewarding one for those looking for a full experience.
4.0 // 5