Falconer – Grime Vs. Grandeur
Falconer – Grime Vs. Grandeur (2005)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Well here it is, the black sheep of Falconer’s discography, and the one Falconer album that didn’t meet with overwhelmingly positive reception. This is due to a number of factors that require explanation. First, the Johanssons, added as full-time members on bass and guitar for The Sceptre Of Deception, were rotated out in favor of bassist Magnus Linhardt and second guitarist Jimmy Hedlund, both of whom remain with the band to this day. This particular changing of the guard may not have had an impact, but member-swapping almost always has a certain impact on sound. Although it was clear that, at the time, Stefan Weinerhall was pleased with the musical direction of Grime Vs. Grandeur (having been somewhat disappointed with the realization of The Sceptre Of Deception for reasons that escape me), audiences around the world didn’t quite agree with the new approach.
Grime Vs. Grandeur is a much more straightforward power metal offering, sometimes bordering on the greater simplicity of the more traditional realm of heavy metal. Weinerhall handed off some lyric-writing and even compositional work to singer Kristoffer Göbel, and it shows. Topically, this album is much more pedestrian and considerably less interesting, or at least less distinctive, than Falconer’s other medieval Swedish and/or fantasy-concerned works. The fairly unique vocal melodies and immediately recognizable guitar leads that characterized Weinerhall’s compositions for the group’s first three albums are almost completely missing as well, with the exception of a few flare-ups in songs like “Humanity Overdose” and “Purgatory Time”.
It’s important to note that this release is certainly not a poor one, and probably barely even sub par in relation to anything other than the rest of Falconer’s discography. While I suspect that at one time, Stefan would have been irritated with me for being “stuck in the past” regarding my assessment of his band’s music, he clearly changed his opinion somewhere along the way. Some folks will argue to appreciate this album for what it is, and that’s all well and good: but the simple fact is that it fails to stand out from the mass of heavy/power metal being released at this point in time – something that the band realized and consequently remedied.
Enough about comparisons. Grime Vs. Grandeur does have some very strong tracks despite largely trending distressing towards the unexceptional. Opener “Emotional Skies” and the following “Purgatory Time” are both good power metal tunes. However, most of the middle of the album dips increasingly in quality and originality until “Jack The Knife” hits. I feel like this is kind of a weird choice, since the song is even more basic than the rest of the album (it’s the song that Göbel wrote), but I find it a definite high note, with a cool verse and striking chorus. Almost universally, however, the closing track “Child Of The Wild” seems to be touted as the album’s pinnacle – and I concur with this absolutely. The speed gets turned back up here, the chorus is a sweeping, captivating affair, and Göbel’s vocals sound abruptly much stronger, less rough, and more accomplished (there’s a softly sung interlude where I sometimes almost think Blad is back) than they do throughout the rest of the album.
Ultimately, the lukewarm response to the album prompted Weinerhall to re-evaluate the band’s musical direction once more. This resulted in the gentle firing of Göbel (who would go on to front Swedish band Destiny), and a switch back to the band’s original, much-beloved style for 2006’s Northwind. Though it has a strong tendency to be forgotten about and/or maligned, Grime Vs. Grandeur is almost definitely worth the purchase price for Falconer fans and Swedish power metal completists, as it’s pretty hard for Weinerhall and company to go wrong even when they’re not mining their signature vein of metal. If nothing else, it does a fairly good job of molding to Göbel’s singing style, and he sounds more natural than on The Sceptre Of Deception.
3.25 // 5