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Falconer have already cemented themselves as one of the best power metal bands, if not the best, to come out of Sweden. If you've ever looked into the history of Falconer, you've probably also found band leader Stefan Weinerhall's previous band, Mithotyn. Mithotyn was heavily influenced by Viking Metal and Folk Metal and they put out some exceptional albums underneath the banner of those genres. When Stefan started up Falconer, a lot of that sound was morphed into the new band's riffing, but was nowhere near the forefront of the instrumentation.
With all that said, the new Falconer album, Armod, is a step back toward Stefan's days in Mithotyn, while still retaining the values that make the band Falconer. There is a much heavier folk influence to the music, similar to the track or two per album up to this point that have been sung in Swedish and incorporated more folk elements. If you're a fan of previous songs like Himmel Så Trind or Vargaskall, then there will be plentiful things about this album you'll enjoy.
However, not all things are folk-like when listening to Armod. Track 3, Griftefrid, features prolonged segments of blast beats, which Falconer have never used before up to this point. It's shocking to hear on first listen, but brings a new sound to the band that's surprisingly not out of place (Mithotyn had also used blast beats). Another new sound from the band comes on the seventh track, Herr Peder Och Hans Syster. This is the longest of the album, featuring a very old-school Viking Metal riffing style and a slow, trudging pace akin to Enslaved's now-classic song, Havenless. Again, this sound is new to Falconer, but not altogether outside of the band's ability and ends up being one of the strongest tracks of the album.
The vocals are exceptional from Mathias Blad, as usual. Even though all of the songs are sung in Swedish, you can hear great emotional impact to how different lines are sung and certain syllables enunciated differently. The overall effect is beautiful and fits perfectly with the sound of the album in general. I find the same kind of transfixing sound while listening to the very operatic tonality of Till Lindemann, from Rammstein. You don't know the words, but the way they are sung is so interesting that you can't help but love it.
Overall, I'd say this is one of Falconer's strongest efforts to date. It may not always be the power metal you've come to expect from them, but the package is full of great songs that will have you headbanging and playing air-guitar despite the change in pace. You will be hard-pressed to find a better folk metal release this year.
My only big gripe with this album are the bonus tracks. All four of them are simply songs from the album, repeated with English lyrics. Not only do I feel a little cheated, but the English vocals do not fit with the music at all. It's obvious that these songs were meant to be sung in their native language, so English does not sound right after you've heard the way they are sung in Swedish. I'm not basing my score on this, since it is bonus material, but it is definitely something to think about before purchasing a more expensive copy of the album for these four tracks.