Falconer - Northwind
Metal Blade
Folk-influenced Heavy / Power Metal
14 songs (54'49)
Release year: 2006
Falconer, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Marty
After the poor showing by their fourth album Grime Vs. Grandeur, Falconer mastermind Stefan Weinerhall realized that the band had reached an impasse in their career. The second album to feature new vocalist Kristoffer Gobel, it also found Falconer straying a little too far from the medieval and folk influenced heavy metal of the first two albums. Although as a power metal album, it wasn't all that bad, it just wasn't a very solid Falconer album and was not well received by the fans. Original vocalist Mathias Blad is also a professional theater and stage actor by trade, which often left him unable to commit to the kind of live schedule that the rest of the band was aiming for. As a result, the span of the first two albums saw only a handful of live appearances, mostly at some of the larger festivals in Europe. Replacing Mathias Blad was both a difficult and very unpopular decision but by bringing in Kris Gobel for the third album Sceptre Of Deception, they had acquired a very versatile vocalist and one that could commit to a regular touring schedule. However, earlier this year, after much soul-searching due to the poor response to Grime Vs Grandeur, the decision was made to bring back Mathias Blad in order for there to be a future for Falconer in the ever-so-saturated power metal genre. In doing so, the band will have to sacrifice some of their abilities to play live gigs on a regular basis. The idea was to concentrate more on the music and putting the band "back on the map". The fans were also promised a return to the medieval/folk influenced power metal of the debut album and Chapters From A Vale Forlorn. The resulting new album Northwind, is a fine return to form and in fact features even stronger folk and celtic influences than ever before.

With Mathias Blad's unique and melancholic voice belting out the chorus to the title track Northwind acapella, we are immediately brought back to the early 2000's when this band stormed the metal scene with their unique brand of folk influenced heavy metal. Also returning are the galloping rhythms and double bass flurries that made both the debut album and Chapters From A Vale Forlorn such great pieces of work. The chorus for Northwind is huge and instantly likeable. Waltz Of The Dead continues with more of Mathias' melancholic vocals and the swaggering heavy style combines crunching heavy riffs with lots of melody and another solid chorus section. The ultra-speedy power metal styles are also revisited on several tracks namely Spirit Of The Hawk, Blinded, Catch The Shadows and especially the tour-de-force Perjury and Sanctity. Besides the speedy tempos, Falconer takes time to sprinkle in short quiet, folk influenced segments within many of these tracks that often see the use of acoustic instruments including flutes and string sections. A more dramatic power metal style is used for tracks like Legend And The Lore and Tower Of The Queen that combine romping heavy and thematic riff patterns with lots of Queen-influenced guitar harmonization that really drives home this band's ability to evoke visions of an epic medieval tale. Tracks like Delusion are a great example of Falconer using more intricate and complex rhythmic patterns to create an awesome force of mid tempo heaviness complete with some excellent building lead guitar work and some nicely blended Hammond organ over the guitars. Other tracks worth a mention are Home Of The Knave and the ballad Long Gone By. Home Of The Knave mixes in a crushing heaviness with celtic overtones to the melodies and gets speedier for the chorus section that once again just soars with yet another killer Mathias Blad fuelled vocal. Even though a ballad by any other means, Long Gone By showcases Mathias Blad's voice and his performance on this track is outstanding. Largely acoustic guitars with some orchestration effects, this one also gets a shot in the arm with some wonderfully melodic lead guitar work by guitarist Jimmy Hedlund. Like the debut album, Falconer includes a track Himmel SA Trind that is sung entirely in their native Swedish tongue. This mid tempo track has a traditional folk feel and is propelled by crunching riffs and a vocal that seems to roll very naturally off of Mathias' tongue. For the limited digipak version of this album, a second bonus CD is included that features 4 more traditional Swedish folk hymns done in true Falconer fashion as well as a video from the recordings of the Northwind album.

Although all of the tracks are solid, there are a few that definitely stand out. Overall, this album might not quite measure up to either the debut album or Chapters From A Vale Forlorn as far as song quality and huge memorable choruses but there's no denying that this is the best sounding Falconer album yet. The addition of Jimmy Hedlund for the Sceptre Of Deception album as a permanent second guitarist was a great decision. His lead guitar work takes on much more of a presence and really colors the sound on Northwind over material from the first two albums. Mathias' vocals still have that laid back melancholic feel but he really takes it up a notch as far as the passion and emotion in his voice. The more frequent use of vocal layering and overdubs adds more melodic energy than ever before to his vocal performances. I really don't think that he has ever sounded better and the "tentative" aspect of his vocals on previous albums has all but disappeared in favor of a newly found confidence. Mathias Blad is the voice of Falconer and the only to truly complete the band's unique brand of heavy metal. Northwind builds on the foundations of their medieval/folk metal which was laid out over the course of the soon to become metal classics that were the band's first two albums.

Killing Songs :
Northwind, Waltz With The Dead, Spirit Of The Hawk, Perjury and Sanctity and Home Of The Knave
Marty quoted 84 / 100
Mike quoted 90 / 100
Jeff quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Falconer that we have reviewed:
Falconer - Black Moon Rising reviewed by Andy and quoted 88 / 100
Falconer - Among Beggars And Thieves reviewed by Marty and quoted 83 / 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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