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Falconer is a band that has certainly taken the path less traveled going forward. They are incontrovertibly a power metal institution, but Weinherhall's riffs are delivered in a distinctly heavier vein than those traditionally associated with the genre. Think later Grave Digger, but replace Boltendahl with a more traditional wailer in Göbel and now we're starting to get somewhere. It should go without saying that those turned off by the superfluous decadence that has stereotypically dogged European power metal as a whole might very well find something of value in Falconer. You still get the soaring choruses, but the abstraction takes on a whole new meaning when there is a real plate-shifter of a riff murmuring underneath it.
It obviously isn't perfect, as the band still finds themselves scrambling to link the chains and rush to the requisite chorus more often than they should, but when they really get cooking, Falconer are quite a sight to behold. Grime vs. Grandeur is still relatively high-energy music by most standards, but it can't help but come off as somewhat subjugated and restrained compared to most power metal. This is probably the biggest stylistic hurdle to be cleared in order to really appreciate Falconer; you just have to look past it. This isn't exactly a difficult case considering the presence of cuts like "Emotional Skies" and "Humanity Overdose," both of which rival "Lord of the Blacksmiths" for the most skyrocketing, blissful chorus the band has ever committed to disc. I'm a big proponent for Blad's workmanlike tone, but Göbel is a suitable successor. He doesn't have as unique a set of pipes on him, but he boasts a suitably diverse range and manages to fit the atmosphere without causing any stylistic friction.
Grime vs. Grandeur gets a lot of flak for being the odd one out regarding the band's discography, but it really isn't far removed from Falconer's earlier albums. I especially dig that this one manages to telegraph the historically-tinged narrative without relying on blaring keyboard sections or other symphonic sleight-of-hand. This brings me to my next point: Falconer have always been extremely apt at crafting a great anachronistic atmosphere without the obvious, oftentimes distracting trappings normally associated with it. Other than the bouncy, synth-driven jig that erupts during sections of "Child of the Wild," you'll find Weinerhall and Göbel alternating between the driving and the sublime. There aren't very many keyboards, but this is a vacancy easily forgotten once the riffs get cooking.
I guess my only significant complaint is that Grime vs. Grandeur could use some more leads. Falconer isn't normally associated with animated leads in the first place, but Hedlund really belts out some winners like on "Jack the Knife" and the beginning of "I Refuse." It proves that they certainly have a place in Falconer's music, and adds a solid mortar between the bricks that are Weinerhall's riffs. The lyrics are so cheesy, but it is endearing and delivered with conviction. The only songs that are truly skip-worthy are "Power" and "The Return," which fail to capitalize on the polarity between the melodic vocals and the crunchy riffs.
I don't know...I really enjoy Grime vs. Grandeur, and it hardly finds itself lagging behind the rest of the band's catalogue. I'm not sure where that association comes from, but it honestly holds little water. If you find your power metal sweet tooth smarting after one too many Sonata Arctica listening sessions, Falconer awaits.
Falconer’s only album not featuring Mathias Blad is for them more than a bit of an anomaly – but, as it was the first Falconer album I ever bought or listened to, it does hold a certain honoured place in my collection. It’s really difficult for me to hate on bands that are willing to go over the top and beyond, even if it means they catch some laughs in the process – and let’s face it, there’s no question but Kris Göbel very notably brought a newbie’s enthusiasm to this album. Also, Falconer’s particular brand of bass-driven melodic metal is here served up 195 proof, chilled, neat, unmixed with keyboards or folk instrumentation (well, not a lot, anyway – you have some occasional folksy sections on, for example, ‘Child of the Wild’ making up that last 2.5%); not to every connoisseur’s taste, certainly, but it does (like most of the hard stuff after repeat consumption) come to grow on you. Just… if you haven’t yet, spare yourself the nut-twisting pain of watching Falconer’s camcorderrific MV for ‘Emotional Skies’. Great, powerful and energetic song; mind-bendingly shitty video.
No keyboards mean here that the bass and backing guitar take up most of the slack providing the meat and bones of the music. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, it is very easy to criticise Falconer’s riffs for being simplistic and overly bombastic on tracks such as the speed-metallic charger ‘The Assailant’, but on tracks such as ‘Humanity Overdose’, ‘Child of the Wild’ or even ‘Jack the Ripper’ I don’t think that criticism really holds water; the bass and the guitars aren’t always in tight harmony, and they do ‘shape’ these songs in ways which are worth more than a single listen. Even on the songs where they don't work together so well or become ham-handed (‘The Return’, anyone?) they nonetheless come down with all the thick, heavy crunchiness which sets bands like Angel Dust, Courageous and Tad Morose apart from power metal’s run-of-the-mill.
But are they—Heaven forbid; such a mortal sin is completely beyond the pale for a power metal band!—cheesy? Yes. And unrepentantly so. The lyrics and vocals on ‘Purgatory Time’, ‘Power’, ‘The Assailant’ and ‘Jack the Ripper’ dump them rather unceremoniously straight in the middle of Hammerfall territory. The falsetto yelps on ‘like a tiiiiger… closing in for a bite!’ had me clutching my stomach (liver?) in laughter first time I heard it. Also, if I happened to be in a dark alley in Victorian London, I’d likely be easy prey for Jack (at least, if he had Göbel’s voice) as I’d be too busy guffawing at him. But, as I said earlier, it’s really, really hard to hate on Göbel or on Falconer for these transgressions.
This album is markedly less historical (Jack notwithstanding), less philosophical and less introspective than the Falconer albums which have come before and after – the closest they really come is on ‘Humanity Overdose’, which criticises the claims of clericalism in what I think is a fairly interesting way, on ‘Power’, which at once acknowledges the grim necessity of, and the corruption inherent in, power politics, and on ‘Child of the Wild’, which contrasts our fear of nature with our conditioning not to be afraid of that which can harm us most deeply (namely, ourselves and our own kind). On the whole, I’m not sorry Falconer went back to Mathias Blad and their more familiar folk- and prog-metallic vintage rather than continuing to distil this kind of Ur-power metal with Kris Göbel on board, but this was by no means a bad release from a highly-talented band.
18 / 20
Is there anyone out there who would call Falconer their favourite band? I’ve wondered about that for a while. I myself own all their stuff and have followed their trek from heavy power folk, to heavy power non-folk – and back again. But none of it has convinced me that anyone will ever claim this band is top of the heap stuff.
What’s really strange about all that is the fact that band mastermind Stefan Weinerhall can write a vicious hook alright. The first couple of albums are utter classics. And there’s absolutely no way Falconer are the type of band you’d label under the “I like their early stuff only” category. I say that because despite the change in lead vocalists, and on-again, off-again folk meanderings – the band really hasn’t changed all that much.
Now all of this explains why I chose this album to review out of all the Falconer albums. The reason is that I think there are basically two kinds of Falconer songs (on both this album – or any other for that matter). But it was on this album that I finally noticed it. Here’s what I’m talking about.
Falconer songs are made up either a killer riff or a killer chorus. It’s rare you get both. Now stop and think about that for a moment. A great little riff grabs your attention, but a great chorus is the shiver up and down the spine stuff. Well, ‘Grime vs Grandeur’ is attention grabbing alright, but man oh man do the shivers go begging.
“Emotional Skies” is exactly what I’m talking about. At about twenty seconds in you’re probably wondering what the band was thinking when they ripped off this clichéd power metal riff arrangement. But then it hits you – a chorus that says raise your fist and cry metal people. It works. So does the riff firepower driven onslaught that is “Humanity Overdose”. But unfortunately everything else only ever gets as far as threatening to work.
In between you get a never-ending parade of riffs which someone walking past must have said “hey that rocks man!”. And instead of writing a real song – Weinerhall (who writes almost everything) decided to just stick some words on it and have the chorus either sung faster (i.e. “The Assailant” or “Power”) or with layered vocals (“Purgatory Time” or “I Refuse”) and call it a chorus. No dice guys.
By the way, I like Weinerhall. He’s a dude with a vision. Even if his lyrics can get pretty dead end – and his song titles can seem strange – he’s still his own man. On this occasion though, it’s all about the riffs. He hopped on a freight train but missed every station after that. You’ll probably love this album if you’re into straight up, US or NWOBHM. As for me, I’ve always thought catchy and chorus are the same word. So do Falconer most of the time. But not this time.
OK. So for any Falconer fan, this release would seem like an utter devastation. The new vocalist, the adding of more power and less folk, and the fact it doesn’t sound like Falconer.
Then one has to ask themselves, "Did they slowly progress into this? Or was the band simply not going to sound the same without the original vocalist?" The answer is the latter half.
Nearly every band that has changed a vocalist, especially power metal bands, loses what a lot of fans love. The vocal harmony just gets offset by the rest of the band. You could slap another name onto this band, and anyone would love it. Any power metal fan anyhow. This is not a bad release by far, just a release unexpected by Falconer fans. While others shunned the group, Grime Vs. Grandeur, made me like the band even more considering the change they endured.
As for the music, it ranges from heavy, to power, with some folkish parts, but nowhere near as heavy as previous releases.
Some select songs are Humanity Overdose, Power, and Child of the Wild.
Humanity Overdose is quite catchy track. A falsetto choir composed of a women’s voice, and what I hear as a couple of men. Its one of the longer tracks on the album, and is what Id consider to be the single off the album. This is one of the few songs that harkens back to the older days of Falconer.
Power. You will hate this track at first. I did. But then it grows on you. And when it does grow on you it will become one of your favorite, if not favorite tracks. It’s a little standard in terms of song structure. But they add a bridge after the second chorus, and a solo after the 4th. It will grow on you, anticipating the next part, and on. This is another long song that clocks in around 6, so be prepared for a listen.
Child of the Wild is the most unique Falconer track Vie heard. This is what I hoped the band would sound like on Northwind, their latest album, and since I’ve heard that recently I can say with conviction, it does not. Child of the Wild offers up the best vocal performance by Karl Kristoffer Göbel. As much as I’m glad to see Mathias Blad back, this song is what I really hoped would carry on to Northwind. The Mithoytn style guitars. Pounding double bass. Soaring vocals. Folk choirs. Hell even some 80's style vocal attacks, are just a few reasons this song is a great closer and one of Falconers best
Check this album out if you’ve never heard them. And if you have heard them listen to it anyways, cause its still rocking power metal.
Ah well, here it is, the new Falconer. To be honest, I wasn't really anticipating this album. All I had heard before was "Tales From A Vale Forlorn", and the only song I liked on it was "The Clarion Call", and most of the songs dounded like the same, after all. I really couldn't tell why, if it was the tone, or just because the riffs were all the same, but the whole album didn't impress me as a whole. Well, their fourth album, Grime Vs. Grandeur, isn't amazing, and it still gives you that this-is-all-the-same" feeling. I already knew what to expect after the ending of "Emotional Skies", a song which sadly gets the prize for cheesiest song of the year so far, if not of the new millenium.
The riffs Falconer provide aren't bad at all, they just sound the same. All of them. This is basically what they do when they find a "new" riff: 1: Play the riff
twice. 2: Add faster drums and add harmonized guitars. 3 (Optional): Add a melody. Very cheesy melodies, sadly. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing happy music, but this sounds like Hard Rock at times. The vocals are still as sappy as ever, and I giggle every time he takes his "evil" voice. As for the drums... they're exactly like the riffs. They don't compliment the music nor do they insult it, but some originality would greatly be appreciated, especially since they play beats that have been played hundreds of times already.
This album might be enjoyed by those who like melodic/hard rock or those who want the sappiest "Metal" in existence, but for everyone else who wants originality in their metal, and want to hear stuff that hasn't been played a bunch of times before..by the same band. Better stay away from this album, folks.