Falconer – The Sceptre Of Deception
Falconer – The Sceptre Of Deception (2003)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Before looking too deeply into the music here, it’s important to know about changes going on in the background that affected Falconer’s sound on The Sceptre Of Deception. Signed to Metal Blade and with two successful albums under its belt, Falconer was being asked increasingly for tours and live shows – something that frontman Mathias Blad simply did not have the time for. After adding live guitarist Anders Johansson and bassist Peder Johansson as full band members, Blad cordially parted from the band as a full time member in order to remain dedicated to his music and theatre pursuits, while young Kristoffer Göbel replaced him as lead vocalist for the next pair of albums, as well as for live shows and a full tour in 2003.
Not having come to power metal (and Falconer, by association) until late 2005 myself, I never knew the Göbel-fronted version of the band for much other than “two subpar albums” until properly exploring them much later in my tenure. Dismissing The Sceptre Of Deception so easily would be a very grave mistake, as it is an important and powerful part of Falconer’s overall discography, as well as the band’s only (to date) concept album.
By and large, the musical style here is extremely familiar and comfortable for those well-acquainted with all of the albums fronted by Mathias Blad. The medieval-influenced melodies and Weinerhall’s signature riffing style is present in force, and the lyricism is inspired by the account of Swedish King Birgir and his rivalry with his siblings, as well as Denmark and Norway. Additionally, though Blad was not a full member of the band, he is noticeably present on at least three songs here (“The Trail Of Flames”, title track “The Sceptre Of Deception”, and brief closer “Child Of Innocence”) in varying capacities, from a soloist to having been involved as a member of the choir. The Sceptre Of Deception also features an impressive number of guest appearances, including Thomas Sjölander (Nostradameus), Johannes Nyberg (Zonata), and even Elize Ryd, now known for numerous projects like Amaranthe, Dragonland, and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.
That said, Blad as full-time vocalist is sorely missed, and there is a certain amount of the band’s former (and future) flair missing from this album’s vocal passages. To be blunt, Göbel isn’t half the singer that Blad is (and many were well aware of this at the time). Despite having a much rougher voice and considerably less firm technique however, his singing is nowhere approaching poor, and his high passages on songs like “The Trail Of Flames” and the eponymous title track reach into areas that Blad may not have been comfortable in. If nothing else, it’s a novel experience for Falconer fans.
Songs like the determined, martial “Under The Sword”, the dramatic “Ravenhair”, and the magic of “The Sceptre Of Deception” are all Falconer classics, regardless of era or frontman. These tracks help a few others, like the fairly basic “Hooves Over Northland” and the somewhat forgettable ballad “Hear Me Pray”, escape complete obscurity. The Sceptre Of Deception doesn’t suffer from pacing problems, and it executes an interesting story with a good amount of flourish. However, compared to albums past and future, it feels much less professional and cohesive – almost as if the band members are limping a bit and utilizing all of their (admittedly excellent) session musicians as support. Still, a solid entry for the band’s discography, and a fair cry better than its successor.
3.75 // 5
P.S. – I’ve always felt strongly that a re-recorded version of this album with Mathias Blad handling all lead vocal duties would place it at (or at least near) the same level of most of the band’s other work.