Falchion - Legacy of heathens 4/5

Reviewed: 2-17-06





Tracklist:

1. Immortal heroes
2. The ancient tale
3. Folk in the golden town
4. Broken stone
5. Journey in the woods
6. Swordmaster of the dragonland
7. The darkest valleys of mist
8. Burning the gates
9. Black crown


I hardly ever buy CDs from bands I've never heard of based solely on the cover art and song titles. Sure, that was a common practice when I was younger, strolling wide-eyed into the "metal section" of record stores to bask in front of the dazzling array of vinyl LPs by bands with cool names, cool logos, cool artwork and cool song titles, but about whom I knew nothing. Back then I'd grab the one that looked the most metal, take it to the counter, shell out my $6.99 and race home to see what I ended up with. But now things are different. So I surprised myself recently by impulsively snapping up this CD based exclusively on an image of the cover art (featuring 2 fearsome barbarian types wading through swamps in a misty forest, broadswords at the ready), a list of songtitles ("Swordmaster of the dragonland", "The Darkest Valleys of Mist", etc.), and a sticker on the front of the CD proclaiming "Finnish Mythological Viking Metal Feat: Korpiklaani's member." I wasn't quite sure what to make of that last bit, since last I checked Korpiklaani wasn't a one-man band. Nonetheless, with a fearless metal heart, I pulled the trigger and waited for this Falchion CD to arrive on my doorstep.

As it happens, I received a hell of a lot more than I'd bargained for. 'Legacy of heathens' is one of the finest folk metal CDs to come down the frozen tundra expressway in many moons. Sonically, this is folk metal, but not in a "stagger-down-to-the-pub-and-dance-a-jig" style of Skyclad or Mago de Oz, nor in a "let's-be-wacky-and-mix-hummpa-with-black-metal" way like Finntroll. No traditional folk instrumentation. No gimmicks. Instead, much like their countrymen in Ensiferum, Falchion have crafted a hybrid sound borrowing the melodies of traditional Finnish folk music, the attitude of aggressive power metal, and the raspy trollish vocals and attacking drum rolls of more extreme genres. Perhaps the best analogy would be to take a CD like Sentenced 'North from here', toss in a dollop of Amorphis circa 'Tales from the thousand lakes' and 'Elegy', add a dash of Falconer (in the riffing department), stir in some Andre Olbrich (Blind Guardian) licks, and then baste the whole thing with a generous portion of take-no-prisoners metal aggression. That's Falchion.

The results are exceptional. The guitar work alone is utterly mesmerizing, as the talented 6-string duo of Juho Kauppinen and Jaini Laine (both of whom are still teenagers!) dish out a neverending barrage of sparkling folk melodies that dance through your head even as the punishing rhythm section keeps that head nodding vigorously. And just when you thought the guitars could not be any more entrancing, Juho pulls out his trump card: shimmering acoustic folk interludes that break the tension momentarily, before the full-scale metal maelstrom resumes. The listener can get lost in these guitar lines, so infectious and addictive are they. Anyone who worships fast, melodic guitar work will be in nirvana (Valhalla?) with this CD, as Juho and Jani put on a spellbinding clinic.

I don't want to mislead you. 'Legacy of heathens' is not for the faint of heart. The vocals of Juho are raspy and abrasive, not unlike those of Taneli Jarva (Sentenced's first singer). The drumming is simply vicious, and Juho snarls, howls and spits over the top of it all. So if you're thinking that these Finns might nestle comfortably alongside Falconer's 'Chapters from a vale forlorn' in your CD collection, you're mistaken. But if you salivate at the thought of a more folky power metal take on Sentenced's 'North from here', if you're gonzo for Ensiferum, if you wish those old captivating Amorphis melodies could be utilized in a more exciting framework, and if you're a sucker for a stellar guitar motif, then Falchion is a must-purchase.



KIT




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