Falconer - Black Moon Rising
Metal Blade
Power Metal
11 songs (50' 59")
Release year: 2014
Falconer, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Andy

Swedish medieval-style power metal outfit Falconer had always put one or two Swedish folk songs on their albums, and in 2011, they released Armod, which was almost 100% folk songs sung in Swedish (though still played as metal). I have no idea if that turned off some people; die-hard fans such as myself still loved it, but now that the band has gotten it out of their system, they have turned out Armod's polar opposite -- Black Moon Rising, an album with neither a folk song nor a word of Swedish, and a much stronger leaning towards the heavy metal side of their music. I'll have to say that I don't feel like this is as strong an album as my favorite, Chapters from a Vale Forlorn, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best power metal albums of this year.

Locust Swarm, which starts the album, sets the tone for what is to come: Guitar-driven, high-speed power metal with the distinct Falconer guitar sound, a crunchy sound heavy on the riffs and punctuated by palm-muting from rhythm guitarist Stefan Weinerhall, mixed with tremolo picking that would be perfectly at home on a melodic black metal album. While no instrument is neglected -- you can hear everything --, Weinerhall's guitar, and lead guitarist Jimmy Hedlund's shredding, is front and center in the mix, probably owing to the songwriter (Weinerhall) and the producer, Andy LaRoque (the guitarist for King Diamond). Both it and its follower, Halls and Chambers, are straightforward power metal tunes with strong melodies carried to perfection by vocalist Mathias Blad. Black Moon Rising is a little different; it, too, relies heavily on the guitar riffs and is powerfully melodic on the verses, but it starts switching keys on the chorus, which is a little uncomfortable for the listener. Scoundrel and the Squire, the one track on this album that is more on the medieval/folk side of Falconer's style, is a short, darkly poetic ode to some of the bad guys of the medieval world and their victims, sung in a higher voice than usual by Blad; with slower riffs and without as much drumming as the faster songs, one can really get a taste of the sparkling riffs being used. The slower, softer tunes take a back seat on Black Moon Rising, though; after three minutes of medieval leanings, we go back to the straight power metal of both Wasteland and In Ruins, with ever more intricate riffs and soloing.

Those last two are not particularly inventive in melody and aren't Weinerhall's finest moments as a songwriter; the riffs are as heavy and nice to listen to as ever, but we've heard a lot of the melodies before, especially on the chorus. They're saved from being forgettable by Blad's voice, an emotional combination of nobility and deep sadness which can make a decent song good and a good song amazing. Over the years he's moved from sounding like he doesn't quite know what he's doing with a metal band after being primarily a stage musical actor, to singing with such an assurance that one can't imagine Falconer without him (due to his busy schedule, they tried once; it didn't work). And from those two songs till the end of the album, things get progressively better. More odd key changes occur on At the Jester's Ball, which sounds strung together out of scraps of spare melodies, but those scraps are melodic and memorable, especially the chorus. There's a Crow on the Barrow, a song with an Iron Maiden-style gallop on the verse and a much more straightforward set of hooks to it, is also a high point. Fans of Weinerhall and drummer Karsten Larsson's old band Mithotyn will probably enjoy Age of Runes, which sounds a bit like a throwback in lyrical content and music style (minus the black metal vocals) to their past days of Viking-themed glory.

Black Moon Rising is probably the heaviest Falconer album released thus far, probably closest to the Northwind album in terms of musical content, and the guitar work on this one is the most complex the band's ever done. Though I do wish there had been a bit more of the variety they provided in some of their past albums, there is very little to complain about. Even with the additional power metal overtones on this one, the folk sound still pops up, and Falconer's ability to write songs that sound like they've been written by authentic medieval minstrels who just happened to try out the metal genre remains uncontested.

Killing Songs :
The Locust Swarm, Scoundrel and the Squire, At the Jester's Ball, Age of Runes
Andy quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Falconer that we have reviewed:
Falconer - Among Beggars And Thieves reviewed by Marty and quoted 83 / 100
Falconer - Northwind reviewed by Marty and quoted 84 / 100
Falconer - Grime vs. Grandeur reviewed by Ben and quoted 58 / 100
Falconer - The Sceptre Of Deception reviewed by Marty and quoted 94 / 100
Falconer - Chapters From a Vale Forlorn reviewed by Mike and quoted 86 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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