Metal Review – Falconer: Black Moon Rising

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Metal Review – Falconer: Black Moon Rising
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Falconer: Black Moon Rising
Folk Metal, Power Metal
Metal Blade Records
June 10th, 2014
Release length: 51:05

Falconer is just one of those bands that has the tendencies to do no wrong. This group came about when Viking Metal band Mithotyn dissolved and Stefan Weinerhall recruited fellow bandmates Karsten Larsson (drums) and Mathias Blad (vocals) in order to keep its spirit alive. Their self-titled debut in 2001 kicked the doors in for the band, and 2002’s Chapters from a Vale Forlorn literally blew them up with their signature minstrel vocals against the perfect balance of Power Metal and soothing Folk Metal. Sadly it wasn’t long after that the line-up changes, including Kristoffer Gobel on vocal duties for the following two albums, leading Falconer in a different direction all together. Come 2006’s Northwind, Mathias returned, and the formula was complete once more. Black Moon Rising marks the band’s eighth studio full-length, and with fans chomping at the bit for more following the release of its lead single “Locust Swarm,” does this new outing continue the tried-and-true sound, or has Falconer drifted away to new territories once more?

“Locust Swarm” actually is as a nice introduction to what Black Moon Rising has in store for the listener. The mixture of mid-tempo hooks with faster paced energy and varied gallops from the drum kit sound great, though the louder clean leads do sound a little out of place. There’s also some aggressive bridges that creep up from time to time that aren’t really necessary to convey the darker tones the performance is meant to have and seem tacked on for no real reason. These almost blackened riffs creep up towards the end of “The Priory,” though they work out better here thanks to the glorious, kind of over-the-top nature of the track itself. The use of this furious blasting approach with a smooth transition is limited as well, not being dispersed throughout the track after a very abrupt change, allowing the song itself to be nurtured until the very forlorn climax.

“Halls and Chambers” keeps the faster pace alive with tight chugging in the main verses that end with a brief catchy riff. It continues in the bridge leading to the chorus as well, but not quite as quick. The latter part slows things down while not being too simplistic outside of the lyrics, but it’s hard to shake the similarities between it and their previous hit “Emotional Skies.” The verses to “Black Moon Rising” sound a little on the epic side thanks to the obvious hooks against constant pounding bass kicks that just never let up at all. This really makes for an enjoyable performance until the chorus where the slower ritualistic pattern from the drums cut through like a knife, greatly jarring the established flow. Honestly if the bass kicks were to have slowed down during those brief hits they would feel more natural to the songs progression instead of being an illplaced fork in the road.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of traditional Falconer cuts to keep the fans happy. While the main verses and some bridges of “In Ruins” are a little more enthusiastic, especially in the vocals that really do pull away from the Folk Metal approach for the sake of pushing a greater height that sounds more commonplace than unique, the chorus itself is short and soothing with a really simple foundation all around that would work far better for that part of “Black Moon Rising” as well. Of course there’s “Scoundrel and the Squire” as well. This one greatly stands out for more than juft for its rich and robust sound. This is thanks to the stronger bass presence that helps make the tale a little more emotional and even edgier when need be. It’s a soothing piece that really plays up the Folk Metal element of the group to become one of the more memorable tracks.

There aren’t many memorable experiences after the title track due to how safe the band seems to play it at times. This leaves a good handful that don’t really just don’t really stand out on this effort, let alone in the band’s own discography. “At the Jester’s Ball” is the perfect example with its rather barren performance that is only really saved in the fact that the chorus sounds like something that would accommodate a relaxing picnic or dancing around a maypole as a child or with a loved one in either of the scenarios. Even when things get a little more aggressive it feels forced into the performance to give it a little more life until you finally reach the standard short Falconer guitar solo that simply pales in comparison to almost every other one on this release including the impressive and complex solo that hits during “Dawning of a Sombre Age.” But then there’s the other end of the spectrum with “Age of Ruins” where the band throws some thrashier material into the mix with hints of Pantera-grade grooves in and around the solo, leaving a hint of notable confusion. However, that being said, it is still a solid track, but devoted Falconer fans may find themselves drifting away from it quickly and skipping to the stunning “The Priory” instead.

Other than what was already said, there are some minor cosmetic issues to point out. One of the cymbals being a bit too loud and some of the earlier faster tracks sounding a bit thin in the guitars at times. There’s also the rare occurance of the vocals pushing a bit too much for higher notes that cause the minstrel quality to be dropped. It’s a little more rare, but that statement can also be placed on the music once in a great while. These aren’t incredibly detrimental the album though. In fact some may not even really notice any of this, but these are just some final points that do bug me every time I hear this album and, given how they can never be overlooked, felt necessary to point out.

Even though Falconer isn’t really breaking away from what made them a household name among Power and Folk Metal enthusiasts, the band does seem to try some new things that end up hit or miss in execution. The problem is that the rest of the release often sticks too close to the successful formula of the band that it doesn’t always come off as fun, emotional, or even all that memorable an experience that seems geared towards not alienating their loyal fanbase. Black Moon Rising may not be the most engaging album of the band’s career, but if you enjoy Falconer there’s no way you won’t find yourself embracing a good majority of this release. It won’t replace Chapters from a Vale Forlorn or Northwind, but there’s enough to have you come back once in a while for a casual spin at the very least.

01. Locust Swarm – 5:36
02. Halls and Chambers – 5:01
03. Black Moon Rising – 5:11
04. Scoundrel and the Squire – 3:01
05. Wasteland – 5:12
06. In Ruins – 5:25
07. At the Jester’s Ball – 4:21
08. There’s a Crow on the Barrow – 4:06
09. Dawning of a Sombre Age – 3:40
10. Age of Runes – 5:33
11. The Priory – 4:00
Initial Pressing Score: 7/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.