Falconer – Chapters From A Vale Forlorn
Falconer – Chapters From A Vale Forlorn (2002)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
A mere ten months after its debut was issued by Metal Blade Records, the Swedish power metal entity known as Falconer was pushing its second release out the door to an audience that was still starstruck by the group’s unique sound. Chapters From A Vale Forlorn, like its predecessor, was a studio project featuring the trio of Weinerhall, Blad, and drummer Karsten Larsson, though it was the last Falconer album before the group began adding additional members.
Chapters From A Vale Forlorn strikes out in a very similar style to that witnessed on the debut, with a few minor exceptions. First of all, the tone of this album (as one might surmise by the title) is a bit more brooding and contemplative. The relatively inconsequential lyrical themes of songs like “Lord Of The Blacksmiths” and “Mindtraveler” from the debut are pared back and replaced by tunes like the grieving ballad “Portals Of Light”, the damning “Decadence Of Dignity”, and the grand, almost reverent “Stand In Veneration”. The former is a very poignant ballad for a lost love that’s one of the most touching I’ve heard within the realm of metal, and one of the first songs to bear witness to the magic that Blad and Weinerhall are capable of when it comes to restraint in their music. Hand in hand with more lyrical stoicism comes a more moderate tempo for many (but not all) tracks.
Though I wouldn’t really consider it a ballad, at least not in the same way, the morose, dirgelike “We Sold Our Homesteads” is one of the first songs featuring historical Swedish lyrical themes in addition to the group’s (by now familiar) use of regional melodies and tonality. Also, despite the more somber atmosphere that’s heard in many songs, there are a few exceptions. “Enter The Glade” is a rollicking tune with a pied-piper theme that’s one the band’s easiest and most accessible, and the closing “Busted To The Floor” (featuring Andy LaRocque on guitar) largely departs from the band’s typical sound for a straightforward heavy metal/hard rock song that makes for an interesting change-up.
The band’s greatest accomplishments with this album, however, are the two longer, faster, and more dynamic songs: “For Life And Liberty” and “The Clarion Call”. Both feature bridges with an extended vocal solo by Blad, as well as some of the finest melodies on the record. The furious chorus of the former and the wonderful vocal harmony during the last minute of the latter show off a band that is truly maturing and capitalizing upon the strengths of its immensely gifted vocalist.
And that is one minor revelation about Chapters From A Vale Forlorn in and of itself. Despite it’s considerably shorter length and the short space of time between this album and the debut, Falconer quickly morphed from what was at first a guitarist’s solo project of sorts into a musical group that began prioritizing its members equally. Blad is seen increasingly as a focal point, and the music parts around him like the sea around the cliffs of a lighthouse, with Blad’s voice very much a beacon of considerable intensity. (Somewhat) Unfortunately, this growth would be counteracted in coming days, as fans and the band’s label alike began pushing for Falconer to become a live band, but Chapters remains to this day one of the band’s very strongest efforts, and possibly my personal favorite.
4.5 // 5