Falconer – Falconer

May 21, 2014 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by blackwindmetal

FalconerFalconer – Falconer (2001)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

Falconer’s debut is a monumentally nostalgic and important album for me – not just in power metal, but concerning my musical tastes in general. It’s the first album I ever attempted to review (and yes, it was bad), it was one of the first power metal albums I ever purchased, and it’s easily one of the most familiar and comfortable compositions of music in my world. Getting away from the personal attachment, this album has ultimately proved to be quite important for power metal, and the Swedish scene in particular.

Being that this is the band’s debut, and has become a bit of an underground icon at that, I feel a short history lesson is in order. Band mastermind Stefan Weinerhall had already headed up the very well-received black/folk metal project Mithotyn, which released a trio of albums in short order between 1997 and 1999 before disbanding. Weinerhall was still interested in and already composing some similar music, but with a focus upon clean vocals, double bass, and uptempo riffing. This, of course, became Falconer, and a contract was signed to release the self-titled debut in 2001 on Metal  Blade.

Bringing drummer Karsten Larsson over from Mithotyn, Weinerhall recruited then-unknown (in metal circles, anyway) music student and opera/stage vocalist Mathias Blad whose brilliant baritone, along with Weinerhall’s distinctive riffing and songwriting style, would become the band’s most distinctive trait.

Musically, Falconer is a little bit of a shock to the system compared to much other power metal, and especially when sized up to much of the rest of the Swedish metal scene at the turn of the decade. Not only is it chock full of leads, but riffs are quite prominent as well, and both definitely call Mithotyn’s sound to mind, which was inspired by and crafted at times to sound like medieval Swedish folk melodies.  This is fairly lean power metal therefore – simple bass (which Weinerhall recorded himself on both this and the subsequent Chapters From A Vale Forlorn), meaty but relatively basic rhythm guitar, and straightforward drumwork – everything is placed so as to uplift Blad’s vocals and Weinerhall’s leads and solos. This overall formula is one that, with one noticeable exception (to be hit upon at a later date), describes most of Falconer’s recorded output quite well.

Here on the debut, Falconer’s songs are largely displayed at their simplest. Only “Substitutional World” runs longer than six minutes, and only “The Past Still Lives On”, the album’s closer, comes anywhere close to power balladry (though the interlude in “Substitutional World” and the intro/outro of “Quest For The Crown” have some acoustic passages and soft singing). Variety is presented aplenty, however, from blistering opener “Upon The Grave Of Guilt”, to the anthemic “Mindtraveller” (which contains an interlude with Blad singing a low-register round with himself), and the blazing, melodic “Royal Galley”. Most of the tunes here revolve around themes of medieval fantasy, though there are nods to history here and there as well (“A Quest For The Crown” and “Heresy In Disguise”).

I must have heard this album over a hundred times in its entirety, and I’ll probably hear it at least that many more. When I was mopping floors in college, this was where I turned, and when I’m keeping my voice in shape nowadays, this is the album that I throw on as a familiar sing-along. Likewise, it is the blueprint for everything that Falconer has accomplished over the course of its existence, as well as a seed of inspiration for metal guitarists and singers everywhere. It’s always a first-line recommendation for solid, accessible power metal with some of the best vocal and guitar melodies in the business, and is merely the first step on the pathway to greatness for one of power metal’s most sturdy, indomitable artists.

4.75 // 5