Falconer: Chapters from a Vale Forlorn

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Falconer: Chapters from a Vale Forlorn
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Falconer: Chapters of a Vale Forlorn
Folk Metal, Power Metal
Metal Blade Records
March 12th, 2002
Release length: 40:41

Chapters from a Vale Forlorn marks the second full-length effort of the Swedish Folk/Power Metal act Falconer. While their debut self-title effort showed the group with a strong idea and drive to move forward with it, this effort is the album that cements the group’s foundation nicely, though there really isn’t all that much of a change to the already professional and tight sound on their previous release. Chapters from a Vale Forlorn has become one of the band’s most notable ventures as well, and for good reason, as this heavy sounding album still retained enough of a lighter presence with catchy material to capture the imaginations of the existing fan base, as well as catch the ear of anyone who hasn’t given this prominant group a shot at the point of the career this effort was released. But, does this album really hold the listener from start to finish like many make it able to do?

The album starts off with the fast and heavy track “Decadence of Dignity”, and it becomes the track that Falconer sets the bar at for this release. The song has a pretty strong heaviness to it, though still retain a bit of a lighter Folk Metal vibe to it that it immediately hooks the listener with catchy music that goes at a faster pace, though eventually slows down throughout the release. Despite the changes and a much lower vocal tone that suits the building music to a much louder, in some sense regal-sounding chorus with a booming vocal performance, the song really does become one of the better songs that stands out on the release. From here, the songs remain strong, but nothing really lives up to the well mixed sound of heavier music with that catchy approach that gives a more airy Folk sound to the mixture outside of the track “The Clarion Call”, but that’s for different reasons. Like many other tracks on this release, this song has a stronger Folk influence then Power Metal, but the song itself has a bit of a sobering reality to it, taking on the concept of war to protect the peasants and their ideas. The music itself is rich and right from the start hooks the listener in the same catchy manner that “Decadence of Dignity” does, but the chorus itself is what really drives the song home. It’s softer music mixed with the soothing yet well ranged and emotional vocal performance really set up a thick Folk atmosphere to the song that makes it hard to dismiss this song after just one listen.

While “Decadence of Dignity” sets the tone of the album, there’s a lot more going on with the release that this track simply cannot really set up. Sure this track acknowledges the Folk influence in the band’s recordings, but later tracks show a strong influence from that part over a Power Metal presence. “Lament of a Minstrel” is the best example of this with it’s slower paced galloping sound that captures a genuine Folk influence. This ballad-like really captures the listener with it’s saddening beauty about venturing forth as a wandering minstrel, and thanks to the more somber music, the song really gives a feel for the fictional character and his plight in the proper time of the song. This isn’t the only song on here that feels like it’s meant to be a bit of a downer, which is a welcome to the more upbeat yet heavy music that surges throughout the recording. “We Sold Our Homesteads” has an atmosphere of sorrow, signifying the depression of the lyrics of a family forced into a compromising situation involving homelands, and much like “Lament of a Minstrel”, the passionate vocals and music help to build some real character development to the track and you can’t help but feel moved in some way for their plight, only to feel a bit remorseful towards the characters at the end given the fate they face.

Outside of that more depressing track, much of the album has a good deal of energy, and can often feel a little more upbeat then anything, and many seem to try to push a sound similar to “Decadence of Dignity”. “For Life and Liberty”, for example, has a bit of a faster pace, but still has a bit of a regal feel to the track at times. The music paints a vivid picture of a situation that goes well with the music involving a man on horseback in a stressful situation, but the song feels a little more upbeat in comparison to some of the other tracks. This isn’t a bad thing as it offers up a little more variety to the recording and what it brings to the table, as the song’s catchier approach will have listeners ready to belt along with the varied soothing signature vocals from start to finish. But, of all the songs on this release, perhaps the most impressive of all is “Portals of Light”. Whiel “Decadence of Dignity” and “The Clarion Call” really grab the listener with catchy tracks, “Portals of Light” feels more uplifting and offers a different aspect then the traditional gloomy or regal-sounding lyrical tones of the release thanks to it being more of a ballad about the acceptance of the death of a loved one in a very emotional Folk meets Power Metal ballad that captures the beauty of the lyrics to this eternally burning love song that express love, loss, hope, and guardiance perfectly throughout the entire track.

There’s plenty of great tracks to Chapters from a Vale Forlorn, but at the same time it’s not without it’s faults. Luckily, some of those faults are not that bad that it drastically hurts the album. The production quality to the release is great, but it feels a little more higher in pitch then it should be, as a bit of a richer, deeper sound would have accentuated the often depressing lyrical tones of the effort well. Aside that, “Enter the Glade” has a very random moment where the music gradually fades out, then suddenly booms back in for a quick chord. Again, nothing that hurts the album, it’s just awkward. Outside of that, there’s a few tracks that don’t pack as much of a punch, such as “For Life and Liberty” and “Stand in Veneration”, but even these songs aren’t bad, just not as strong and may find the listener skipping past them once in a great while if not in the mood to hear them.

Other then that, Chapters from a Vale Forlorn really holds strong as a fine effort from Falconer. The music here often reflects the lyrical content well, whether it’s depressing, uplifting, or regal. With the catchier material that litters the album, it becomes pretty obvious rather fast that this will be an effort that you’ll eventually spend a great deal of extra time, and one that can suit pretty much any mood the listener is in. One of the biggest draws is some of the character development thanks to the vocals and music that aid the lyrics to build up certain atmospheres to the people in the songs that you actually tend to start feeling sorry or sometimes even connected to some of these fictional individuals depicted on the release, which is something that many bands that take a general concept seem to lack, especially when working with a Folk Metal backdrop. Despite the odd outro to “Enter the Glade” and the production not bein as deep or rich as it should be, Chapters from a Vale Forlorn by Falconer is an album that you can easily walk into and feel engulfed by their concept of Folk ideas through Power Metal, and leave feeling satisfied by the experience every time.

01. Decadence of Dignity – 4:22
02. Enter the Glade – 3:49
03. Lament of a Minstrel – 4:13
04. For Life and Libery – 6:23
05. We Sold Our Homesteads – 4:10
06. The Clarion Call – 5:48
07. Portals of Light – 4:07
08. Stand in Veneration – 3:33
09. Busted to the Floor – 4:16
Initial Pressing Score: 8.5/10


Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.