Falconer – Armod
Falconer – Armod (2011)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
After hearing about the direction that Armod would be taking (it was announced that this would be a very “different” album prior to release), I conjectured for the longest time about just what this new work would sound like. There were a number of rumors, including being entirely sung in Swedish, being less of a “metal” album (this one was false), and relying far more on folk instrumentation (this was largely false as well). As it turns out, only the first of these, other than the bonus tracks, is entirely accurate. However, while the vocals are 100% Swedish, this is most decidedly still a metal album, but it is definitely not your average Falconer album. While Falconer has long specialized in its special crafting of a bridge spanning power and folk influences, on Armod, the band’s sound tends more often to leave this usual marriage behind. Some of the time, it almost feels like Mathias Blad is singing with a different backing band, but little reminders pop up now and again that this is indeed the same veteran act that we’re used to hearing.
So what’s changed, and what separates Armod from thundering releases like Chapters From A Vale Forlorn and Among Beggars And Thieves? Like the latter, Armod continues the usage of heavy and rhythmic guitar, and is a much more constant companion to Blad’s voice than on that album as well. The guitar lines have more of a primal savagery to them in places, rather than the rough-edged, rustic melodic charisma that listeners have come to know. The opening riff of “Svarta Änkan” (“Black Widow”) exemplifies a change in tonality and guitar riffing, as does the brutal instrumental introduction to “Griftefrid” (There are even blastbeats!). There are some songs where the classic vibe of the band is present (“Rosornas Grav”- “By The Rose’s Grave”), but even here the appearance of different elements, be they female backing vocals, alternate instrumentation, or a more melancholy tone, is evident. In almost every way, Armod is a less traditionally melodic venture than anything else that Falconer has ever written.
For some, I would say that Falconer, on this album especially, can almost be compared to the Faroese Týr (specifically Land and By The Light Of The Northern Star). The bands have decidedly different sounds, but the similarity in meshing styles is clear. To Falconer’s credit, they have a much more refined feel going, and Mathias Blad is, as always, a vocalist of the highest caliber. Few (if any) in metal can equal his grace, and his smooth baritone range has an opportunity to come out more often than ever during this album. With Armod being sung in Swedish, Blad’s vocals sound a bit more harsh and cold to native English-speaking ears, which further accentuates the harsher, almost dismal feeling of the album.
In some ways, Armod is surely as distinctive as Falconer’s previous work, and fans of the band will be able to recognize it immediately by means other than Blad’s voice. However, the template is so different that it has split opinions amongst the band’s fanbase. European power metal fans (understandably) tend to care for it less, while it attracts more attention from those predisposed to folk and extreme metal. It’s important to remember while listening to Armod that the band was very open about what it wanted to do with this album from the beginning, and that it was a very personal album for Stefan Weinerhall, who realized that it wouldn’t appeal to some of his regular audience. I accepted this album with good grace, and it has consistently grown on me over time, but I still wouldn’t take it over most of Falconer’s other work.
3.5 // 5