Falconer – Northwind
Falconer – Northwind (2006)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
“North wind embrace me as I face the horizon
Carry me safe ashore, as you did my brethren of yore”
Well damn. Welcome back, Mathias Blad, and what an entrance.
When composition for the fifth Falconer album began in late 2005, Stefan Weinerhall and company found themselves retreading old ground and returning to the epic Swedish folk-influenced anthems of yore. At some point, they came to the realization that what made Falconer so special was its original winning formula, and nothing would do other than to have Blad return to the fold for a new attempt at a return to style. The band had to trade Mathias’ vocal chords for a reduced live presence, but the result, as one might imagine, is most satisfactory indeed: fourteen songs and over fifty minutes of hard-hitting material in true Falconer fashion.
But Northwind is more than just a stellar return to form – it picks right back up where Sceptre Of Deception left off, thematically, but is a substantially more mature work in almost every department. The songs aren’t as simple and guitar driven as the debut and Chapters From A Vale Forlorn, but they are more demanding; at least for Blad, who spends more time up in his high register than ever before. As Blad’s vocal talents doubtlessly continued growing during his time away from Falconer, framing this record around his voice once more really drives home just how incredibly talented this man is.
On an individual song level, Northwind features a big fistful of Falconer’s very best. The dramatic opener is an obvious pick, and the swift “Spirit Of The Hawk” is an easy power metal favorite (it’s really quite the spiritual successor to “Wings Of Serenity” from the debut, and the two go together swimmingly back to back), but even more impressive are some of the band’s more adventurous and controlled tunes up to this point. I would include the captivating “Catch The Shadows”, the driving and commanding “Perjury And Sanctity”, and the playful “Fairyland Fanfare” as certain choices in this category. There’s little like listening laboriously through the latter’s lingering lecture of alliteration (and Blad does it much better than I, to be sure), and it’s a fun treat for fans and English nuts alike. “Himmel Sa Trind” is another remarkable song, as it set the stage for future Falconer adventures in the band’s native tongue of Swedish (with three more tunes in that language on Among Beggars And Thieves – and of course all of Armod). Blad is always a magnificent singer, and there’s something magical about him vocalizing in his own language.
With the exception of “Delusion”, I feel that the tail end of this album spins out a little bit. Fourteen songs was a lot to tackle (four more than had ever been attempted by the band before), even with a tendency for more compact structures and run times, and it shows. Several of these later songs are less remarkable than those already called out, and bear, to my mind, the label of “pretty good songs on a really good album”. That minor gripe aside, Northwind is an impressive comeback, and set Falconer back on its true course – which is a very good thing, because the next couple of albums would prove a restlessness and need to experiment – but with Blad’s commitment fully intact.
4.25 // 5