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Journeying to a different sameness. - 83%

hells_unicorn, July 13th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Metal Blade Records

More often than not, bands that are actually worth their salt will take a more gradualist approach to evolving their sound, being content to maintain their overall style and be content to tinker with peripheral elements. Granted, doing this can actually result in a fairly sizable difference in presentation depending on what is being switched up on the edges. Falconer found a rather novel and not terribly subtle way of accomplishing this with their 2011 opus Armod, an album that is often praised by the band's committed fan base and noted as being a departure, though often a bit more is made of the changes made than warranted. It is an album built off of existing precedence, both within the band's own history and the broader folk metal movement, but one that's just a tad less typical than otherwise.

To dispense with the obvious, this album doesn't veer to heavily away from familiar territory, being built off the usual template of driving, aggressive power metal with a slight extreme metal edge placed here and there. What has changed, however, is the degree of folksy elements at play, resulting in an album that all but listens as a folk album with power metal elements, rather than the power metal with folk elements that tended to define their previous efforts. A greater degree of acoustic guitar usage is to be found here, along with almost enough violin use to give this album a slight Elvenking flavor, to speak nothing from the melodic structure of each song leaning heavily towards a bard singing at a campfire feel than otherwise. But more than anything else, the lyrical content being entirely Swedish gives the album a more nationalistically folksy character more in line with the band's black/folk metal roots.

While being maybe a slight bit gimmick prone at times, Armod never ceases to both reminisce of this band's unique niche and getting the job done nicely in the songwriting department. Up tempo cruisers like "Fru Silfver", "Grimborg" and "Griftefrid" definitely deliver a nice punchy mixture of Helloween oriented melodic speed and folksy twits, in fact the latter of the three manages to meld in a beautiful church-like choral section with a sea of tremolo riffs and a driving blast beat that almost shows up much of Ensiferum's signature songs. Guitar solos occur frequently as well, shredding through with a fury and technicality that rivals many of the Malmsteen fanatics on the more melodic side of the power metal world while avoiding becoming over-indulgent and making way for a few good melodic breaks as well.

It gets a bit tempting to focus on the shorter songs found on here because they tend to be the more catchy of the bunch, but in usual fashion, Falconer showcases on here yet again that they can handle breaking the 6 minute mark without dragging. "Herr Peder Och Hans Syster", the album's most ambitious number, manages to take a more grooving, down-tempo approach and relies mostly on Blad's squeaky clean vocals, which showcases an impressive degree of nimbleness without venturing into shriek territory or dipping down below baritone territory. But interestingly enough, the song that ends up stealing the show is the opener "Svarta Änkan" with it's more driving power metal feel and busier riff set. It's one of those guitar oriented, speedy songs that dispenses with deceptive ballad intros or overtures and goes right for the throat, though it wanders around a fair bit and the vocal work tends to get a bit playful and elaborate at times, even when measured against a Blind Guardian epic.

In contrast to the somewhat bemoaned fourth effort Grime vs. Grandeur, this is a different sounding album that still is inherently a Falconer one. It's a bit less overtly triumphant and mixed stylistically than its widely heralded predecessor Among Beggars And Thieves, but it's one of those albums that shouldn't be passed up by core fans of the band or folksy power metal enthusiasts of either the Elvenking or Tyr variety for that matter. Light up the bonfires and raise your voice to the starry night sky, for another grand musical tale awaits the masses of heavy metal dreamers of far and wide.