Album of the Week 24-2014: Falconer – Black Moon Rising

After its direct predecessor ‘Armod’, the first album for Swedish Power Metal band Falconer that was fully in their native tongue, being a relatively Folky affair, ‘Black Moon Rising’ can almost be seen as a reaction to that record.  This eighth full length is easily the most guitar riff driven and allround Metal effort that Falconer released since their amazing self-titled debut. And though the relatively little amount of Folk Metal may disappoint fans of that particular side of the quintet, ‘Black Moon Rising’ is arguably the best Falconer album since the debut. Possibly, it’s even better.

Essentially, all the elements that made Falconer’s best moments just that are firmly in place on ‘Black Moon Rising’. Guitarist Stefan Weinerhall’s compositions are once again highly melodic, marrying the intensity of uptempo Power Metal with the melodies of Scandinavian Folk music, but without sinking into drinking horn wielding Folk Metal territories. Then there’s the fantastic vocal force of Mathias Blad. He’s been compared to Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson quite frequently and although his range is similar to Anderson’s – meaning much lower than the Power Metal standard – Blad has a significantly more powerful timbre. Or simpler: he’s a better singer, which is fairly obvious, considering his day job as a musical actor.

What is new this time around are the influences from the extreme Metal field. Maybe unsurprisingly, given Weinderhall’s past in more extreme Metal bands. It’s not like ‘Black Moon Rising’ is full of them, but especially the blastbeats in the middle section of the amazing opening track ‘Locust Swarm’, the very last section of closing track ‘The Priory’ and the intro of the awesome ‘Wasteland’ as well as the dissonant semi-Black Metal riff on the latter provide a fresh take on Falconer’s core sound. It helps that they have a drummer fully capable of these things in Karsten Larsson.

But also on more familiar ground does Falconer convince here. ‘Scoundrel And The Squire’ is much more convincing than the similarly Folky detour ‘A Quest For The Crown’ on the debut, ‘Dawning Of A Sombre Age’ has an almost Hard Rock-like flair, ‘At The Jester’s Ball’ is catchy and has a strong, melodic chorus and ‘There’s A Crow On The Barrow’ and ‘Age Of Runes’ are epic Power Metal masterpieces that any fan of the genre should hear. The blend of aggressive riffing courtesy of Weinerhall and Blad’s amazing voice works really well. In addition, Jimmy Hedlund provides some of the band’s best guitar solos to date.

Since the release of ‘Falconer’, this album is what yours truly has been waiting for. Those of you who got into the band at that time would probably agree. While every album since Blad’s return was good, this is the first time Falconer reaches the unique heights that made their debut the impressive work of art that it is. ‘Black Moon Rising’ is without any doubt the best Power Metal album of the year so far, but fans of Folk Metal who aren’t just in it for the drinking should give Falconer a chance as well. This one is for the Metalheads though.

Recommended tracks: ‘Wasteland’, ‘Locust Swarm’, ‘Age Of Runes’, ‘There’s A Crow On The Barrow’

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