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Återgång till aflägsna skogen - 100%

naverhtrad, February 29th, 2012

I should probably preface this review by saying that Falconer is perhaps one of my three favourite metal bands of all time. From the first time I put on Grime vs. Grandeur and found my ears immersed in the deep, satisfying, crunchy bass riffing and the simple and accessible (if somewhat unorthodox) chord structures which are Falconer’s trademark, it felt like greeting an old friend. Though many fans of Falconer like to discount the Kris Göbel years as a needless aberrance from Falconer’s folksy, quasi-progressive style, I’ve actually felt that these basic, even conservative power-metallic conventions taken largely from classic heavy metal (which they kept mostly consistent from the self-titled album and Chapters from a Vale Forlorn through Among Beggars and Thieves) were the source of the consistent excellence of their music, and that either Blad’s vocals or Göbel’s could be made to work well with it (and indeed, we have The Sceptre of Deception to prove it!). So here in Armod, we have basically the anti-Grime: a release where Falconer is breaking away from its prior style in various ways to the point where you wonder whether it is the same band, even… but which, oddly enough, works! More than that, it should (if there is any justice in the universe) manage to elevate Falconer to a well-deserved place amongst the metal greats.

This Janus-faced album is at once folksier and more progressive, and at the same time more extreme, than anything which they’ve released prior to this (as Falconer, anyway… but I’ll get back to that). Armod has extensive acoustic, violin and flute passages which mirror very heavily Weinerhall’s self-professed Jethro Tull fandom (‘O, Tysta Ensamhet’, ‘Grimasch om Morgonen’, the intro to ‘Fru Silfver’), and then some absolutely brutal, breakneck blast beat-heavy drumming and tremolos (on ‘Griftefrid’ particularly) which smack much more of Weinerhall’s and Larsson’s previous work in Mithotyn. And then again, there are tracks which sound like nothing else so much as Unity-era Rage or their fellow Swedes Tad Morose (take a listen to Linhardt’s absolutely inspired thrashy bass riffing which opens up ‘Svarta Änkan’, for example, or the driving, grind-you-down beats of ‘Grimborg’, ‘Herr Peder och Hans Syster’ or even ‘Eklundapolskan’). The result is a deep, serious power metal album which busts several moulds wide open at once.

Oddly enough, on past albums where it was Weinerhall and Larsson who had the task of keeping things grounded for the listener, here that task falls squarely on Blad’s shoulders. ‘Griftefrid’, an incredibly ambitious track which attempts to find a synthesis between the blackened folk metal of In the Sign of the Ravens with the melodic, progressive bent of Among Beggars and Thieves, finds itself ultimately relying on the cornerstone of Mathias Blad’s masterful vocals (completely clean throughout, though aided by some effects on the choruses to give it an eerier, ‘blacker’ tinge) to keep it all together. Throwbacks to the age of Mithotyn are littered all throughout this album, actually: though a little less extreme than ‘Griftefrid’, a few of the chord progressions and drumming on ‘Vid Rosornas Grav’ and ‘Fru Silfver’ also manage to evoke King of the Distant Forest and In the Sign of the Ravens (particularly ‘Stories Carved in Stone’), and of course the backing vocals on this track (as on ‘Svarta Änkan’, ‘Dimmornas Drottning’ and ‘Herr Peder och Hans Syster’) are provided by Mathias Blad’s sister, Heléne (who was also a member of Mithotyn). Consider this album, then, the final synthesis, the logical result of the direction they took with Among Beggars and Thieves: the album signifying what Falconer should always have striven for – a return to the distant forest.

The folksier strands, prominent as they are, are worth a mention as well. Not only do the lyrical structures (all in Swedish; I had to rely on the translations) evoke a once-upon-a-time storytelling mode with a typically Scandinavian bittersweet melancholy even on the more powerful tracks, but the music manages more often than not to fit its mode, by turns mournful, wrathful, triumphant – unabashedly (as noted above) using acoustic instrumentation, fiddle and flute. Even the instrumental pieces, ‘Eklundapolskan’ and ‘Gammal Fäbodpsalm’ (pipe organ!), have an emotional, ‘narrative’ configuration in spite of not having any lyrics.

This album’s production is slightly grainier than on their previous releases (with mixing that favours the drums rather than the guitars), and I can understand why they did that. Not only does it not need to be as squeaky-clean as Chapters of a Vale Forlorn or Grime vs. Grandeur, it is actually the better served for not being so. This is not your standard power metal release, nor is it an overproduced, overdubbed At the Edge of Time. This is folk metal well near its edgiest; Falconer decided not to play it safe with this one, and we Falconer fans are absolutely the better for it!

20 / 20