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I don't necessarily find folk metal to be my real genre that I follow, but in this case it is an exception. Falconer has been putting out quality material for years now so I figured that I'd dive into a semi-recent release. This album is nothing but quality in it's entirety. It's one of those albums that you can put on repeat and keep it there till you go mad. It really is quality guitar, drums, vocals, etc. The tone of the guitars and tempos range from really fast tremolo picking then you hear semi-slower riffs that are totally original.
The most important part of this review is of course to stay on track and talk about the music. The intro is very brief and nearly silence till the band kicks in and unloads some pretty fast tremolo picked guitar frenzies. It's followed by vocals that are clean tone that reflect that of mainly power metal but fit into the folk metal genre. There are no screaming bouts here, just clean vocals throughout and then some songs that are not in English. Those are the slower based ones since like I mentioned the tempos change.
They use a lot of variation in instruments that make the release more interesting to listen to. No hate inspired lyrics or vocals, just moderate intensity based music that really captivates the soul. Falconer's intensity in music is there, but the voice just makes it sound more laid back. The music and the drums are really fast on some songs, but others they're easier/slowly paced. They use all sorts of instruments here. A mild metal release here, but the music just is so captivating.
The band is totally original sounding when it comes to the songwriting. It's really mildly harsh based and some songs start out with vocals that are clean like they all are, but a few are accompanied by a female vocalist. However, when the music kicks in, then that's where the metal intensity comes in. The guitar blends totally with the vocals. Everything just seems to fit together here. No problem in the production sound everything is totally well mixed in together.
Most genres of metal I can tolerate except for suicidal black metal, metalcore, and industrial. But that's obligatory here. The focus is on the music and we'll stick to that. I would says that Among Beggars and Thieves is a highly underrated album. It features so many different instruments (as previously mentioned) which makes it more likeable. Let's take an inventory here. What's on this album are mainly guitars that are really heavy, but mixed in with backup vocals, flutes, pianos, keyboards, etc. The riffs mix well with the vocals.
I'd say that this band keeps getting better and better in their songwriting. Some people would consider this genre to be "gay" metal. I don't believe that. You can't always listen to dark metal without hearing something that more mellow paced. Folk metal is a mild form of metal and Falconer proves it here. Among Beggars and Slaves is so captivating it's amazing. Such talent exists in this band's songwriting. Even the members are totally cool. I did a guitar transcription that Stefan corrected and made it official.
If you're looking for fresh and invigorating metal, this album captures it totally. The music is as I said totally diverse that one can listen to and never get sick of. A highly underrated band. Totally musical from every aspect. Some of the clean vocals featured here sometimes get annoying, mainly the ones that are combined with the guest female vocalist. Everything fits together here without any discretion on my part. Purely an album that everyone should have in their collection!
I had never been much of a Mithotyn or Falconer fan before, so you can imagine my surprise when the latest album not only made my year's end list for 2008, but actually had me listening back through their earlier catalog. Among Beggars and Thieves is probably the best amalgamation of folk and power metal I've ever heard. I didn't think it could ever be done properly but I am glad to have been proven wrong. An amazing performance by returning vocalist Mathias Blad is matched note for note by an excellent display of musicianship and songcraft.
"Field of Sorrow" opens to the distant call of synthesized winds and pipes, soon to be buried in the blazing power rhythms and rock tight drumming. Blad's voice enters, blunt and manly but possessed of just the right amount of melodic edge to ensnare you. The track picks up into a charging power metal anthem which should please fans of the European style, yet it's all Falconer. "Man of the Hour" assaults with another bewitching power metal rhythm, busy guitars flowing all over the vocal line, and a great chorus in which the metal occasionally cuts out for some glistening flutes and folks. "A Beggar Hero" in an exercise in earnest acoustics and a lovely exchange between Blad and a female guest. "Vargaskall" begins with choral chanting and then some of the sickest guitars on the album, with a very Mithotyn feel to them (continuity!). Blad sings this one in the native tongue to nice effect. "Carnival of Disgust" is a slower metal track with some amazing chorus lines, guitars here once again delivered with technical precision and extreme catchiness. "Mountain Men" has one of the best speed/folk metal guitar riffs I've ever heard, winding and complex before it parts way to the symphonic verse. Again Blad's skill must be taken into account as he weaves through quick flurries of folk, flawlessly meshing these once disparate musical forms into a perfect whole. "Viddernas Man" is another folk rock track with Swedish vocals. Beautiful. "Pale Light of Silver Moon" again delivers the technical speed metal fury, with some great leadwork. The remainder of the album is equally glorious, with "Boiling Led" leading the way and the epic "Dreams and Pyres" to round it all out.
The mix of the album is superb, considering just how much is actually going on it really delivers the backbone. The great Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) did wonders recording this. Female vocals are used only sparsely and never in an offensive or cheesy way to deride the music. Stefan Weinerhall and Jimmy Hedlund deliver their riffing with a fury, and the rhythm section of Magnus Linhardt and Karsten Larsson keep up easily. I can't think of a single gripe except that one or two of the tracks are ever so slightly weaker than the rest. Even the lyrics are good.
'Lower decks were flooded,
Chaos and agony.
The morning air was filled with an aria of cries.
Crewmen jumped the rail now
Choosing ice before the fire.'
Any questions? This kicks serious ass, so much so that I feel very wrong in having ignored the band in its former years. I have yet to track down the bonus tracks for the Japanese/Digibook release, if so I'll update this review. This is exactly what I want to hear out of a power/folk metal album, and it's a fucking travesty that this has come and gone already with very little fanfare.
So I'm bringing it. Heralds, sound the trumpets. Buy this album immediately, you apathetic parasites. My will is your command!
Falconer and I have an extremely convoluted relationship dating back a few years ago now, safe to say too complex for this review but the implication being that they are a band I shall never forget. Back then, around 2002/2003, I loved their album "Chapters From A Vale Forlorn", giving it spin after spin, before I promptly fell out of love with Power Metal as quickly as Papa Roach are seen to jump onto new bandwagons, and like the sad tale of the ugly ducking it's face was never seen again. So with the task of reviewing of their new, sixth album, "Among Beggars And Thieves", it was like meeting up with a long-lost ex-girlfriend: would I be relieved to see she is now an alcoholic whale, or would I kill myself for splitting up with a beauty queen in the making?
Thankfully the girl is now a semi-alcoholic with some puppy fat, but alas no Margaret Thatcher. What seemed like excellent 'heavy' riffing and epic Metal compositions has been revealed to be fairly standard power metal gaiety with less real aggression than a neutered kitten on valium. "Among Beggars And Thieves" is largely similar to the aforementioned "Chapters..." but with a cleaner production and greater theatrics, exemplified by closer "Dreams And Pyres”, and a singer in Mathias Blad who still doesn't seem like he is singing to the same song being played by the rest of the band. The power metal-ness on "Among..." really doesn't differ significantly from the hordes, with faster sections here and there where the band do their best to sound like all the other Symphony X-es and Stratovarius-es out there ("Man Of The Hour"), slower choral sections that rival Blind Guardian and Manowar for pomp ("Vargaskall", "Carnival Of Disgust"), and like every good PM album, a section in "Mountain Men" influenced by the backing band of 'Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot' from the classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". When Falconer do feel like doing so however stronger riffs can emerge from the depths; the opening Immortal-alic opening to "Vargaskall" and "Boiling Led" being good places to start for those who like a bit of meat on the proverbial bone.
So what to conclude from all this? If "Among Beggars And Thieves" was my aforementioned ex-girlfriend, a particularly slutty skirt on her and a few pints in my belly would inevitably re-kindle those past romances, but a lot more could be done to save on such mandatory pre-sexual requirements. Metal revels in it's status of being a rallying call against something, or if not it has to be damn good at being happy (read: Korpiklaani). Falconer are neither of these, but certified power metal fans will no doubt find much to enjoy in its tendencies to settle for in this new genre of bourgeois-Monty-Python-metal.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Falconer was one of the few bands to nearly collapse but catch itself just in time and they should be applauded for that. Northwind was a weaker album, however, because they tried to add too much of the bard-like quality to the music. The wandering yet solid guitar sound was all but lost in this change, and as a result Northwind was still a weak album, despite being way better than Grime and Grandeur. Falconer also seemed to have realized this as well and with this album they return to their signature sound, with a few twists.
As I said before, the guitar melodies have returned and are stronger than ever. The lead guitarist does a great job mixing all the sounds that falconer incorporated(folk, classical, and of course metal) before their big mistake into one guitar sound. The solos are also possibly better than ever before and are certainly a step up from Northwind. As a bonus almost every song has at least two solos as well. All this makes the guitar as big a voice as the vocalist himself, which, with a vocalist like Mathias Blad, is very hard to achieve.
Blad's voice is better than ever as well. His voice is unique to power metal in that it is not whiny or nasally at all and in songs like Mountain Men in which he changes octaves every few verses, without sounding bad, shows how amazing his range is. The theatrical air he has only helps make the stories the songs tell more real and helps especially in some of the songs.
For the rest of the band, the drummer is great and drives the tempo when the band is going fast, but has no problem slowing down on some of the slower songs. The bass is noticeable and although it's nothing special, you can't argue with a job well done. The keyboard retained the harpsichord sound from Northwind, but it doesn't clash with the guitars and actually adds a lot to the sound.
Now that we've determined that every part of the band is good it's time to look at the songs and see if they reflect the bands talent, which for the most part they do. Falconer plays their music very well, and they add just enough twists and turns to make every song sound just a bit different. By doing this, they avoid the trap that their first album fell into, every single song is memorable on this album. Whether it's slow buildup in Skula, Skorpa, Skalk, or the acoustic intro to Carnival of Disgust it's all good and memorable. Falconer's best song on this album is the epic Dreams and Pyres which how is best described as being a metal version of Bohemian Rhapsody except about witch burning. With a several minute intro that blasts off into an aggressive guitar part this song could be described as being as close to perfect as possible. Incorporating two female singers and mixing them with Blad's voice is no easy thing, but Falconer makes it seem that way.
This is almost everything you could ask for in any album. They play their normal stuff amazingly as always and add enough good twists and turns to make fans of almost any music like it. Not only recommended to anyone into metal, but anyone into music at all.
Here we are! The latest installment by the legendary folk/power band: Falconer! I'm sure I'm not the only one who’s been hanging out for this one after the mild disappointment of Northwind. Even though Northwind was still pretty damn good I felt that it lacked the thought and effort that the previous albums had.
This is the second release with their original singer Mathias Bald who reunited with the band in ’06 on the aforementioned album and it’s good to hear his voice again. There's not much that can be said about him other than he rules and sings in the same vein of the deep vocalists like Hansi, Piet and Jens Carlsson. But enough about Mathias, let’s discuss the music.
I’m happy to say that this album is a return to the bands roots, namely; the self titled debut and Chapters From a Vale Forlorn. These two albums being closer based on power metal than the next few, which i felt (while still killer!) were closer based on heavy metal. This release however, achieves the balance between the two genres perfectly. We’ve got the speed and melody of the first two albums and the heaviness of the later few. So basically the music is really on par with this one, its powerful, catchy, progressive and more folky and epic than ever.
Speaking of folky, we've got a few ballad tracks on here too where the vocals are all sung in Swedish. Personally i would say this is the album’s only downfall but that may just be because I'm not a huge fan of ballads,
There are some new elements in the album too, namely the introduction of metal opera/symphonic influence and also another guest vocalist who duals with Mathias on the last track. It’s great to see this sort of thing in the band because it really makes their music sound more dynamic and epic (think Rhapsody of Fire) and also shows that their are growing as band. The best thing about this is that it’s not over done so much that you would have to re-classify them because they exercise control and still keep it heavy.
All up, this is a another solid release from a solid band that really just cant seem to do no wrong. The music is brighter and folkier than ever with catchy guitar riffs and hooky melodies. The arrangements are well balanced, introducing new elements whilst still emphasizing the old. These guys really are the role models of their genre.
While 2006’s ‘Northwind’ was an excellent comeback from Falconer, featuring the return of both original vocalist Mathias Blad and the folk-tinged sound that had put the band on the map in the first place, it lacked just a little something compared to their earlier CDs. A fine effort to be sure (and well worth the 4/5 rating it received on these pages at the time), but in retrospect a few of the songs lacked just a little of the staying power of their earlier material, and at the same time the more-prominent-than-ever folk influences contributed to a slight lowering of the overall speed and intensity.
CD number 6, ‘Among beggars and thieves’ certainly addresses some of these issues, and in fact could be billed under that most wretched of clichés, ‘a combination of all the band’s styles to date.’ While the amped-up medieval sounds and symphonic aspects of ‘Northwind’ remain, the galloping rhythm guitar and hammering double-bass drumming is back with a vengeance.
Lead guitarist Jimmy Hedlund, now on his 3rd CD with Falconer, seems to revel in this increased heaviness. His solos on the previous 2 releases were superb, but he manages to outdo himself on this occasion with a stunning display that fits seamlessly with the CD’s steelier tones.
But almost as if to make sure the more historic side of their sound isn’t left behind, there are no less than 3 original songs entirely sung in Swedish, kept company by the heartbreaking acoustic piece “A beggar hero”, and for the digipack purchasers out there, a traditional Swedish song called “Vi salde vara hemman”, which may be just a little familiar to fans of the ‘Chapters from a vale forlorn’ CD. Opener “Field of sorrow” is a fine embodiment of the entire CD in just a few minutes: a gentle folksy opening breaks into a pulsating riff and a typically wonderful bittersweet chorus, all topped with a beautiful, soothing bridge delivered in the way only Mathias Blad can.
In addition to all the familiar elements, now together at last, there is even a hint of progressive tendencies to be found here and there – “Carnival of disgust” features enough twists, turns and time changes for a song twice its length, while the jarring acoustic break right in the middle of the chorus to “Man of the hour” is just audacious enough to be a success. “Dreams and pyres”, arguably the most large-scale song Stefan Weinerhall has ever written, is something almost completely new for Falconer. Revisiting the metal opera style attempted on their 3rd CD, Blad is joined by both a male and a female guest vocalist to tell a sad tale from the days of witch burnings. Their most symphonic piece yet, including an intro of over 2 minutes with no guitars, it is a hugely ambitious song for Falconer and is a resounding, haunting success.
Weinerhall and his band mates can be very proud indeed of their efforts here. They have managed that most tricky aspect of condensing nearly all the best aspects of their existing CDs to date - even finding room for a bit of ‘Grime vs. grandeur’ rock ‘n’ roll on the 2nd bonus track, “Dark ages” - and managing to throw in a few new elements to boot without creating a CD that is a directionless clutter. After their flirtation with disaster a few years ago, Falconer are now only showing signs of getting stronger with age. Weinerhall may never quite get his wish of topping their modern classic debut, but as long he and his band mates keep trying this hard and producing results of this quality then no one should care. A one-CD misstep aside, their discography is near-flawless, and ‘Among beggars and thieves’ is another stellar addition to the ranks.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Falconer have long been a driving force within the power metal scene and with the release of their 6th studio album, Among Beggars and Thieves, the Swedish quintet serves up perhaps their finest offering to date. Power metal is often derided for having more cheese than a Green Bay home game, and for the close minded listener, Among Beggars and Thieves might seem a superficial outing. However, Falconer have crafted a loving tribute to their home country as well as gracing the listening public with 11 tracks of emotional, creative, and just plain entertaining music.
With the return of founding vocalist Mathias Blad, many long time fans of Falconer were anticipating a return to the folk stylings that first gained the band notoriety, and Among Beggars and Thieves doesn’t disappoint on this account. Several of the songs, most notably “Beggar Hero” and “Skula Skorpa Skalk”, explore the lilting, playful soundscapes of traditional folk tunes. The influence is profound throughout the record as well, as most tracks contain at least one section of acoustic guitar, lute, and/or other minstrel-esque instruments.
The vocals also convey the storytelling vibe of the album. With lyrics detailing the rise and fall of kings, peasant uprisings, and historical Swedish battles, the folkish overtones of the music are made much more visceral. Blad has a unique singing style that again compliments the music. His singing is very understated and non-forceful, and yet he still conveys power and command over the listener. Another interesting note is that two of the tracks, “Vargaskall” and “Skula, Skorpa, Skalk”, are completely sung in Swedish. A risky move perhaps, but one that works very well, as it again highlights the folk elements of Falconer’s music.
“Dreams and Pyres” might be one of the best power metal songs I’ve ever heard and is far and away the best track on an already solid album. This power metal opera (which is a perfect way to describe it) relates the story of an Inquisition-esque trial for a woman accused of witchcraft. What truly stands out is the extensive use of orchestral passages as well as the call and response between Blad and the female guest vocalist. The music is stirring and the choir that ends the song with the chant of “God save him from Satan's demons!” sends chills up my spine every time.
One of the few qualms I have with this album is the lackluster production. While everything is audible (except the bass… again) the guitars get shafted as far as placement. Power metal is a genre in which the vocalist and guitars battle for dominance and it’s the interplay between the voices that creates much of the atmosphere; however, with Among Beggars and Thieves, Falconer gave prime channel placement to Mathias Blad. As much as I appreciate his distinctive style, the guitar work of Stefan Weinerhall (yes that is his last name, he’s Swedish) is one of the reasons I first fell in love with this band, and it’s upsetting that much of the intricacy gets lost in behind the vocals.
Among Beggars and Thieves is a great way for those unfamiliar to power metal to explore the more artistic side of the genre. With thick folk roots and supremely catchy guitar work, songs like “Pale Light of Silver Moon” and “Boiling Lead” immediately appeal to a wide audience. Overall, I feel that this is one of, if not the, finest power metal offering of the year as well as Falconer’s best record. As long as you’re not lactose intolerant there is no reason why you won’t enjoy this record.
Review originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
For me, the allure of Falconer, one of the handful of power metal acts I can tolerate, was they were essentially a power metal continuation of Mithotyn, one of the best Viking metal acts of their time. However, after three well received albums, internal strife resulted in a new vocalist and the stylistically different Grime vs. Grandeur.
However, the ship righted for 2006s Northwind, with singer Mattias Blad back in the fold and a return to the frilly shirts and green tights style of power metal that made the band standout. Continuing and improving where Northwind left of, Among Beggars and Thieves is folk and slightly Viking influenced power metal led by Blad’s unassuming, calm voice. The guitars are the expected power metal romp and gallop with a very slight Mithotyn undercurrent (just check out the riffs in standout native tongue tracks “Vargaskall”, “Skula Skorpa, Skalk” and “Mountain Men”) and lots of folk tangents, female vocals and hair in the wind ballads.
It’s all never quite Rhapsody-like in its pomp and over the top majesty, but more early Elvenking, another band who mixed power metal with folk influences with great results. That being said, if you despise anything Renn Faire, SCA or LARP related, Falconer’s epic songs of heroes, forest, villains and other flute laden, medieval frivolities will no doubt have you fuming in your denim. However, for the rest of us, Falconer is simply perfectly adept at mixing soaring, upbeat, folk laced riffs, and a few hey-nonny-nonny, admittedly fairy metal, guilty pleasure moments that in truth share as much with the likes of Turisas and Ensiferm as well as their power metal brethren.
Tracks like the aforementioned standouts “Vargaskall”, “Skula Skorpa, Skalk” and “Mountain Men” as well as “Viddernas Man”, “Pale of Silver Moon” and “Boiling Led” provide plenty of rousing, solo filled, galloping, maypole jig moments while the likes of “Carnival of Lust”, “A Beggar Hero” and “Dreams and Pyres” provide plenty of lighter waving controlled, somber balladic moments.
In all, this is a classic high quality, Falconer album that will appease Falconer fans as well as power metal fans and provide an amply epic soundtrack to your next game of Dungeon and Dragons in your mom’s basement
Falconer - at least with Matthias Blad on vocals - has to rate as one of my favourite bands in power metal, and this is coming from a confirmed power metal addict. There's just something uncanny about their chunky riffs and folk sensibilities, and having Matthias' unmistakable tenor soaring over the top of it all caps off a wonderful package.
"Among Beggars and Thieves" doesn't disappoint on any score. We kick off proceedings with two tracks displaying the trademark Falconer sound - "Through the Field of Sorrow" and the truly special "Man of the Hour" - and from that point on, things just get better and better. Matthias gets the chance to sing in his native language on no less than three songs, which is a newish idea for the band, and in contrast to the traditional method of tacking a Swedish folk song on at the end of the album. "Vargaskall", for example, appears as the fourth track overall and is just as tasty as any of the power/folk standouts of years gone by.
Indeed, this is a much braver effort from Falconer than before in general. Where acoustic folk used to seem almost an afterthought at the end of the album, it's front and centre here, as in the case of "A Beggar Hero". Indeed, this song demonstrates the other important change from the traditional Falconer template, namely the introduction of female backing vocals. I'm not entirely convinced that the female vocals work - partly because they seem so unexpected when they crop up - but it's definitely an avenue which I'd like to see the band explore further.
Musically, all the ingredients are still there. When we remember that Stefan Weinerhall - the brains behind the band - used to play in Mithotyn, it's still quite clear to see that he wears his influences on his sleeve. A lot of the folkier riffs here could easily be converted from terrific folk-power ones into terrific black-viking ones given a bit of time. "Moutain Men", in particular, sounds as though it could have been written as a viking metal track first off, and it's testament to the genius of the band that they're able to carry this feeling off in what is clearly a folk-power metal number. Watch out for the cod-medieval vocal runs in the middle of this song, in fact.
On the whole, though, the point about this album is that it's a Falconer album with Matthias Blad on vocals. The overall stylistic template of the band hasn't altered much throughout its career - with the exception of the ill-advised change of vocalist, but thankfully for all concerned Matthias returned to the fray. For my money, this is a template that's never going to grow old, but the facts that acoustic parts are more prominent and the band is experimenting with additional vocalists both show that things are moving along nicely and everyone is aware that stagnation isn't a good fate at all.
Highly recommended to anyone of a folk metal or power metal persuasion. This is top-notch stuff.
Since when Mathias Blas has come back behind the microphone of Falconer, they have acquired a bigger awareness and confidence, starting to follow that debut album that is still remembered by many as their absolute peak.
The new "Among Beggars And Thieves" could only remark the main characteristics of the Northern band, wisely mixing a melodic classic heavy metal with some powerful, at times very strong folk influences that enrich also the lyrics of the album and that deal with the hard life medieval Sweden has been through in the past.
The music tries to fit the themes and, in full Falconer style, gives us many moments of thick concrete epos that seems recalling to mind foggy landscapes, snowy mountains and warlike atmospheres. At times supported by a valid female counterpart that increases the scenographic effect of the vocal parts, it's the singer who leads the game, laying his declaiming clear voice upon the mid tempos, standing the clash of the instruments in the most accelerated heavy scores (as the starting "Field Of Sorrow"), interpreting with cleverness the expressive peak of the final theatrical "Dreams And Pyres".
For who doesn't know it yet, the true Falconer are back and "Among Beggars And Thieves" is the touchable proof.