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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