Falconer – Black Moon Rising
Falconer – Black Moon Rising (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Even though it’s been almost three years since the release of Armod, I completely forgot that there was a new Falconer coming sometime soon – and here it sits before me in all of its avian-flying-before-a-black-sun glory. As promised, the lads are back to business after getting all that Swedish out of their collective systems. With Black Moon Rising, it’s back to the band’s well-known (and much-loved) sound that developed over the first two albums: galloping leads, hooky choruses, and soft spots for Blad to shine.
Single and opener “Locust Swarm” was mildly underwhelming to hear prior to getting the full album, as I was hoping for a little less of the extremity and lack of more general accessibility that characterized Armod. However, it’s but one song, and not one that embodies the rest of the album terrifically well. That said, I’ve come to enjoy it considerably, and Falconer continues to throw in a few darker, heavier tracks along the way (title track “Black Moon Rising” and “Wasteland” foremost among them). Triumphantly returned however are the Chapters From A Vale Forlorn and Northwind-era romantic melodies, though they are often quite morose. The immediate example, the splendid “Halls And Chambers”, follows the opening tune in royal fashion, and is probably my favorite individual Falconer song since…probably something on Northwind.
As has become increasingly typical, the lyricism here is downcast and tragic in a very artistically pleasing manner (Weinerhall had a rough time over the last several years, and had left music altogether for a period of time). “Scoundrel And The Squire”, aside from its superb guitar lick, epitomizes this behavior, and the terrific closer “The Priory” (“Ahhhhhh, the priory burns!”) has much the same effect. There are also a few tracks built completely around Blad’s ability to bring everyone to their knees – and “In Ruins” is the best pick here, with some of the man’s highest vocal work ever. Lastly, no classic Falconer album would be complete without a few strikingly solid and more traditional power metal pieces, and “There’s A Crow On The Barrow” is one of the band’s best in years.
More than anything else, Black Moon Rising feels like Falconer retracting its questing artistic arms back into its comfortable shell, but not without bringing back exciting new discoveries with it. There are hints of almost everything across the band’s discography here – simpler, riff-driven portions from the first couple of albums; stomping, mid-tempo numbers a la Sceptre Of Deception; gorgeous, melismatic performances from Blad calling to mind some of his best work from Northwind; and ample amounts of the punishing nature of Among Beggars And Thieves and Armod. Interestingly, there are a couple of typical Falconer elements that are missing. The first is a song sung in Swedish – which is frankly just fine at this point, thank you very much – and the second is a dedicated ballad: something that the band hasn’t been without since…the debut? Or I suppose Grime Vs. Grandeur, if it counts.
Because of its dynamic nature and tendency to tap the experience of all the band’s eras, I find Black Moon Rising immediately lovable and continuing to grow on me at an alarming rate. The only fans of the band that I imagine might be disappointed would be those that found Armod to be their favorite. This album is definitely more accessible, and less extreme and progressive. However, it’s definitely one that should sit pretty darn well with those who enjoy the rest of the band’s catalog. It’s not a bad starting point for new fans either – perhaps one of the best. Three cheers for one of the best power metal bands on the planet for giving us another mighty round! Stefan and company: don’t you quit on us yet, not when you can still produce work of this caliber.
4.5 // 5