Falconer - Grime vs. grandeur 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-17-05


1. Emotional Skies
2. Purgatory time
3. I refuse
4. Humanity overdose
5. The assailant
6. Power
7. No tears for strangers
8. The return
9. Jack the knife
10. Child of the wild

The 4th opus from this significant Swedish act begins with a simple buzz-saw guitar in "Emotional skies" clearly rasping out its riff, and beckons in the listener to the unique blending of somewhat stripped down, straight ahead metal, with a medieval bardic setting, as gentle female vocals brighten the melodic focus of the chorus. It's that kind of melding which seems to have made the band so popular among diverse segments of metalheads, from those who love to the power metal genre, to those who prefer harder and heavier styles and are tired of overly Helloweenish bands, and overall this CD continues that admirable mixture of straight ahead, crunchy and melodic metal, compelling and melodic choruses, and a yesteryear flavor of bardic forests.

The clear, crunchy guitar work prevalent throughout on the CD conveys a bit of the style of classic metal bands in the 80s when they were somehow moving on a bit, for instance, what Anthrax did in 'Among the living', in terms of more mid-range, full-throated riffs and guitar work than high histrionics, courtesy of band founder and mainstay Stefan Weinerhall and newcomer Jimmy Hedulund. But of course, with a much different focus on this CD, as the tempo is much more consistently heavy metal than thrash, with some of the more upbeat tempos more in the power metal vein. Throughout, however, the music is quite stunning, sharp, incisive riffs and melodic leads, compelling, powerful, interesting, and pure metal through and through. Listen to the guitar dance that is "Jack the ripper", and delight. The new bassist Magnus Linhardt and returning drummer Karsten Larsson provide the solid, crisp, and driving rhythmic foundation, which helps convey the music's unique setting.

The choruses generally convey some great, anthemic melodies, although current singer Kristoffer Gobel, perfectly up to the task and very strong with the band, still misses some of the more unique tone of vocalist Mathias Blad from the band's first 2 CDs, even more so than on the prior CD, and in a few spots seems to be trying to do some more typical (i.e., higher power) power metal singing, without being as well suited for it. For instance, "The assailant", while a pretty good song, takes you completely out of the unique Falconer vibe to make you feel like you're listening to much more typical power metal, especially in the vocals, without sounding like the best style in this range in any event, and he is much better suited to stay out of this area. Fortunately, for the most part he does, not only playing to his own strengths, but the unique foundations and overall feeling of the band as shown. For example, in the compelling and purely Falconer glory of "Child of the wild", with a transcendent pastoral iam. There is also less traditionally metal deviations or diversity from their priorworks, in slight touches here and there, certainly less welcome to me, but are slight enough, and not so significant or jarring as to bring down the overall quality or enjoyment of the CD. For instance, the vocal effects over the verses in "I refuse" don't do much for me, and they wrap around some of the more banal lyrics on the CD, and while it's one of the lesser songs on the CD, it's still not too bad. The welcome, speedy melody and great, epic chorus of "Humanity overdose" quickly redeems the band in their best style.

Overall, this CD should please fans of Falconer, and is throughout a solid and enjoyable CD with its own unique flavor that still appeals to much of your traditional metal tastes. The production is sharp and good, especially the continually cutting guitar work which sounds just as it should. If anything, it moves just slightly more towards a straight heavy metal sound then its 3 predecessors on some of the songs, and, in the same way, slightly more typical metal lyrics as well. Given how good those other CDs are, and the overall quality of this release, and how much of their unique identity it still retains, it is still quite the recommended purchase, and with this, Jacobs Dream, and Brainstorm, good to see Metal Blade's releases continue to reflect some of the glory worthy of their 80s heritage.




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