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In 2001, Falconer graced us with their debut album, which was chock-full of catchy riffs, sublime vocal lines, and interesting lyrics. The following year brought us another full-length, Chapters From a Vale Forlorn, which is in a similar vein, but unfortunately, focuses more on the mediocre aspects of the debut. Still, there's plenty of good things about this album. The production is much better than that of the debut, which often buried the vocals. Vocalist Mathias Blad is front and center here, although not to the point that anything else is buried; the guitar tone is actually quite organic, and while the drumming is nothing special, the production is quite good for a modern release, with everything sounding actually mixed properly rather than all being exactly the same in the mix. Some people have complaints about Blad, but I quite like him; for a more detailed description of why I like him, read my review of the debut.
The good songs are still good; great, even. Three of the first four songs ("Decadence of Dignity", "Enter the Glade", "For Life and Liberty") are top-notch, with catchy riffs and vocal lines throughout; I can't help but have a smile on my face while listening to them. I'd go as far as to say those three are better than anything on the debut ("Heresy on Disguise" is close, but the production detracts from my enjoyment of it). The first two are pretty straightforward, while "For Life and Liberty" is a bit longer and has some sweet soloing as well as an acoustic interlude like we heard in "Substitutional World" from the debut. As always, it's done very tastefully and fits well with the flow of the song. "The Clarion Call" is quite good as well, though not quite as good as the three aforementioned; it's simpler, with more of a focus on the vocal lines, but the chorus is damn awesome and it's got some solid guitar work. It's pretty good as anthems go, I'd say. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't stand up to those four. "Lament of a Minstrel" is underdeveloped crap with shoddy riffs and lame vocal lines, as well as none-too-good lyrics. Not terrible, but not really worth hearing, either. Think on the level of "Entering Eternity" from the debut, but not quite as catchy (or as cool bass work). "We Sold Our Homesteads", on the other hand, is terrible, riffless historical garbage a la "The Past Still Lives On" from the debut, but possibly even worse. If you're a huge Swedish history nut, listen to this once and then go read some books. If you're not, don't even bother.
The last three songs are enjoyable but flawed. "Portals of Light" is a half-ballad (which, thankfully, they didn't attempt on the debut) which is well-done but very simple and not aggressive even by Falconer's standard. It does a good job at being morose but the transition to electric guitar is kind of sloppy and it's something I definitely have to be in the mood for. "Stand In Veneration" is also simple and repetitive, but it is metal. They repeat the main riff/vocal melody a bit too much, and the solo is definitely subpar, but the riffs are still solid, and the chorus is quite good - I'd say it rivals that of "The Clarion Call", even. "Busted to the Floor" is really catchy but a bit more rock-oriented (though I'd definitely still call it metal). Blad does some melodic yells that sort of work but aren't really great, and the verses are merely decent; what again saves this song is the fantastic chorus. Overall this album has a bit more experimentation and less metal than the debut, but if you skip "Lament of a Minstrel" and "We Sold Our Homesteads" and focus on how fucking great the first four songs and the choruses of the last two songs are, it doesn't really matter. It's still quite a good Blad album, and the last one I really revere; his next album, Northwind has some good material but is even more inconsistent, and after that it's not even really worth listening to. If you liked the debut, be sure to check this one out as well.
Falconer is one of power metal’s often forgotten bands, met with appraisal whenever mentioned but often not the first band to pop to mind whenever someone mentions the genre. This is their best album, and I have no qualms with declaring it one of the championing power metal albums of the 2000s.
This is one of those albums like Kamelot’s The Black Halo or Lost Horizon’s A Flame… that just gets everything right – a real product of its time and something that can’t be replicated every time the band goes into the studio. It’s not quiiiiiite as good as those two albums, but that’s just splitting hairs; it’s an awesome fucking slab of metal. They blend exquisite folksy melody with heavy, hooky riffing and one of metal’s most unique vocalists and come out with a real winner that I can play any time. Great tunes like “Decadence of Dignity,” “Enter the Glade,” “For Life and Liberty,” the moving “Portals of Light”…every song rules, right up to the slamming, upbeat rocker “Busted to the Floor.” They’re all instantly memorable and you’ll be singing along by song 3.
Vocalist Matthias Blad is a real find, and many have already gone on and on about his trained theater tenor, smooth and refined as it is, so I won’t waste much of your time with that. What people usually forget about is the guitarwork of Stefan Wennerhall, who is one of the genre’s great unsung heroes, with his consistently catchy, propulsive riffing. He blends power metal and folk almost seamlessly and ends up with something that, unlike so many try-hard bands nowadays, is actually appealing to fans of either genre. The riffs just never stop coming on this album, and they’re all attitude-filled, hooky as hell stompers. He also knows how to play it more subtly, and never goes overboard and takes over the music – also a plus.
Really this is just a grade-A classic; every song is great and the songwriting is always top notch stuff. What more can I say about it? It’s one of the best PM albums of the decade, and if you like anything from Tad Morose to Kamelot you’ll find this up your alley. Highly recommended.
Falconer’s second cup of triumph continues in the tradition of their first. At first glance, one may consider this to be an extension of their first masterpiece due to the many traits it shares with it, however on closer observation you’ll see the subtle changes that separate this album from their debut.
For starters, they’ve cleaned up the production on the guitars, giving a mellower feel to the music. It seems they also slowed down the pace a bit which also adds to the mellower feel of this album. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s more a matter of personal taste. Personally, I am partial to a taste of both flavours. And there is that on this album too; some of the slower songs on this album take the form of beautiful ballads (Portals of Light).
Arguably this album is more diverse than their first. Some people might like it better; it is a really good album. The production is tighter and the use of other instruments such as the flute (Lament of a Minstrel) adds great atmosphere to the music. But I feel it’s just lacking some of the intensity that was on the first album. There are still the medieval-influenced guitar riffs and highly accomplished vocal melodies that are Falconer’s signature, and it makes for a really good album. It’s in the same ballpark as their first album, but it doesn’t quite beat it.
If you like Falconer as I do, you will enjoy this album. They seem to have mellowed a little, but that does not impede on the quality. There are some great songs to be found here. It is a strong album, nearly an extension of their first, but not quite.
"Chapters From a Vale Forlorn" by Falconer is a pretty decent power metal release. What's good about this album is that Stefan and Co. have strung together a series of catchy, melodic, folk-tinged, memorable power metal songs that kind of remind me of a heavy metal version of a group of bards at the annual renaissance singing tales of wanderlust, nature, love, greed and corruption.
Although the album is overall quite good, it is kind of lacking that extra "oomph." All the songs tend to sound the same, and also tend to follow the same pattern of intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus etc. At times it is also clear that Falconer might have had some trouble coming up with endings to some songs; although the songs are actually pretty short, they still seem to drag on at times. Speaking of endings, the song "Enter the Glade" truly has a heinous ending, I believe the song could have been ended much better. My last complaint is the lyrics. Because the vocals are actually audible, it's easy to tell what the lyrics are. However, the lyrics are just plain atrocious, but I guess this is a minor problem.
Regardless of my complaints, there are good things about this album. As mentioned before, Falconer are pretty catchy and are experts of their craft- all the instruments are well played and Falconer's overall sound is actually somewhat original- Mathias' singing voice isn't super-high falsetto like in many other power metal bands; in Falconer the singing is more calm and it seems as if the focus of the vocals is more on communicating the lyrics as opposed to showing off range. Also, the music isn't as speedy as most other power metal out there, which is nice for a change.
If you liked Falconer's debut (which I actually haven't had a chance to check out but I've read that it's just like this album) then you'll probably want to pick this up. Otherwise, if you're interested in less-hyper power metal, or just want to check out the band, this album would be a good place to start.
After being thoroughly impressed with their self-titled debut, Falconer released Chapters From A Vale Forlorn just one year later. Musically the band is, for the most part, the same, but there are some major differences between this and the debut. The song writing style and the production have changed the most, but overall this is still the band a lot of us enjoyed on the debut.
The s/t debut had a somewhat muted production, as it was a little more raw sounding than typical Power Metal and had more in common with the dirty production mix found on Mithotyn's releases. Sure, everything was still audible and the riffs and drums were powerful, but I think we can all agree it wasn't on-par with current releases in the genre. This wasn't a bad thing though because it helped give Falconer a sound of their own. With Chapters From A Vale Forlorn that has changed. Now we are left with a heavy, crystal clear, powerful Power Metal production job. The guitars are heavier, the vocals louder, the bass more present, and the double kicks more punishing. Is it for the better though? There are two schools of thought I suppose, but regardless on what the production sounded like on the first release, the crystal clear style does fit the band here and gives them a new found power which was not as clearly heard on the debut. Most of the songs on the debut were fast; yes, you had some slower songs and about 2 more progressively structured tracks, but it was largely a fast, double bass filled release. Once again, this has changed. Yes, the fast tracks are still there but there is even more variation this time. The songs are structured in a way that they all incorporate various tempos, and the up tempo mid-paced rhythms show up more often. At first I was discouraged by this, but as I listened to the CD more and more, I realized the songs are just better written on here. The ending result is a CD that is filled with, as another reviewer put it, catchy as fuck songs.
Guitarist Stefan Weinerhall out did himself again, as he displays some killer leads, folkish riffs, and an all-together pleasing guitar style. Likewise, the drumming is also impressively precise and Karsten Larsson shows a quality amount of variance with very fast double bass, galloping rhythms, and good fills. Vocally, Mattias Blad had improved a lot, not that his performance on the debut was bad, but his vocal melodies are even stronger and help define each song. That's what is what important here as well, each song is different. With a combination of clever song writing, unique vocals, and Weinerhall's guitar style, each song has its own feel, atmosphere, and stands on its own. You'll never mix songs together and because of that each one is memorable in its own way. I would say that "For Life And Liberty" and "The Clarion Call" are the most brilliant songs on this release and I can almost listen to these tracks over and over again and be blown away every time. Not to take away anything from the other songs, which are very good too, but these two tracks are probably two of my favorite songs in the entire genre. "For Life And Liberty" is the longest song and because of that features a couple of interesting breaks and some excellent folkish guitars. It also goes without saying that the vocals are very strong. Meanwhile "The Clarion Call" really comes alive with the chorus; not only is the performance fantastic, but the lyrics are interesting as well. What makes "The Clarion Call" stand above the rest, though, is the lead break followed by a different version of the chorus. Though this song progression was heard on Wings Of Serenity, it is nevertheless as effective with the harmonized vocals. Then there's the final section of the song that comes out of nowhere and is totally different from not only the rest of the song, but Falconer as well (you'll know it when you hear it).
Chapters From A Vale Forlorn is one of the most, if not the most listened to Power Metal CD in my catalogue and with good reason. Few bands actually put the Power in Power Metal these days, but Falconer does. Being one of the catchiest bands around, but also one that has some of the better guitar work in the genre, it all comes together in the end with the intelligent song writing. Slightly superior than the debut, which I scored as a 96, this is a must have in my opinion.
Falconer's self-titled debut turned me into an instant fan. You may be asking yourself, "What makes Falconer so unique and essential amongst the shitloads of power metal bands out there?" Well, power-metal is typically dominated by high-register, wide range, Kai Hansen-esque singing, but Falconer's Mathius Blad is a baritone. His deep, rich vocals are a refreshing change of pace and my favorite aspect of the band. However, people who don't like Falconer (including my mother) often cite the vocals as the sole reason they cannot get into the band. Blad's singing style is rare in metal, and therefore an acquired taste. I recommend that you download some mp3s from the band's official website (http://www.falconer-metal.com) to see if the baritone vocals are for you. I love them, personally.
That being said, fans of Falconer's first album should also love this new one as well. There isn't that much different between "Chapters From A Vale Forlorn" and the band's debut, which is understandable considering that the two were released only a year apart. If anything, the tracks on Chapters have greater diversity. In addition to melodic metal gems like "Decadence of Dignity" and "Enter the Glade," we are treated to the extremely mellow "Portals of Light," as well as "We Sold Our Homesteads," which according to guitarist/songwriter Stefan Weinerhall, used to be an old Swedish folk song. Album closer, "Busted to the Floor" is an extremely catchy, dare I say "hard rocky" type of tune. It wouldn't sound too out of place on the radio.
There aren't many ripping guitar solos on this album, so shred fans might not find much of value here. Still, who needs technical guitar wankery when the rhythms, the melodies and most importantly the songs are all here? Falconer is a band whose songs have a distinct atmosphere. It's easy to distinguish a Falconer song from, say, a Helloween or Gamma Ray song, which is commendable in a subgenre where most artists pay tribute to their favorite bands by plagiarizing their style.
This album is incredibly short, containing only 9 tracks. While I remain thankful that there is not any filler, I would have preferred an extra song or two (or three).