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Of knaves and nincompoops. - 55%

Diamhea, October 14th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, Metal Blade Records

I totally understand most of the hate the Göbel incarnation of Falconer receives, but is the mud really being slung in the right direction here? Grime vs. Grandeur found Weinerhall's institution at perhaps their most stripped-down and elementary, but to be honest that record came off to me as the end result of the band streamlining and adjusting their primary approach to better suit Göbel himself. His departure immediately thereafter compounded by the swift return of Blad makes Grime vs. Grandeur an easy scapegoat.

That said, it still staggers me to this day how The Sceptre of Deception is given a free pass of sorts, despite being a much more tepid slog through what feels like B-sides from the debut laced in Göbel's piercing shrieks, which in turn deliver some of the lamer lyrics Weinerhall has ever penned. I appreciate the breadth and ambitious scope of the concept this time around, but to be frank it sounds interchangeable with what came both before and after it. The production values are thin and decidedly vocal-centric, and a staggering dearth of hooks mar the entire experience. To isolate some of the bigger offenders, we don't have to look any farther than the opener "The Coronation." After a relatively standard yet disconcertingly off-kilter Falconer opening, the chorus just flops over and dies in an egregious way. "Under the Sword" is mid-paced and decent enough, but then the blowhard "Night of Infamy" destroys any momentum the album had gained up to that point.

It was hard to make a final judgment regarding much of The Sceptre of Deception, as this is clearly still Falconer, and Weinerhall's distinctive style is omnipresent and saves the day at many crossroads. "Hooves over Northland" and "Pledge for Freedom" are two more deliberate, lurching numbers that signify the fact that the band was clearly better off tapping the brakes at most junctures. Both open with horn-raising riffs and largely deliver, but even the latter (which may be the best track here) simply sounds like "Lord of the Blacksmiths" without the atmosphere-breaching choral zest rounding out the appeal. It seems that many have qualms with the cheesy lyrics here, but let's be honest with ourselves, Falconer's lyrics have always been like this, it is just that Göbel's clearer delivery raises many of these flaws to the surface in a more glaring manner.

To go positive for a change, I will admit that the rhythm section of The Sceptre of Deception is relatively solid, and "Hear Me Pray" is quite the pleasant closer (disregarding the insignificant "Child of Innocence."). I just wish that the production values accentuated the riffs more, as they often whitewash into an overdriven, sloppy mess most of the time, which is just inexcusable and guts one of Falconer's best attributes. I have to close with the Grime vs. Grandeur comparison once more, as it is both expected and natural. That was a flawed record that was saved by glistening choruses like the examples on "Emotional Skies," "Jake the Knife," and "Purgatory Time." Here we get very little of what made the Göbel incarnation of the band endearing to some of us, and The Sceptre of Deception continues to underwhelm me just like it did years ago when I first heard it. Sorry guys, gotta throw you under the bus on this one.

Power/Folk with a Side of Cheese - 79%

DrOctavia, May 13th, 2007

Let me state first off, that I have none of Falconer’s other works, so I cannot really evaluate the vocalist switch that apparently happened with this album. In fact, I only recently rediscovered this album nestled in the depths of my computer’s hardrive, having completely forgotten that this band even existed. And I must say if this album is any indication, Falconer could use some more attention.

This is an interesting blend of power metal with a folksy taste, played at a somewhat restrained pace. Falconer make some great use of crunchy, start-stop rhythm guitar work, paired with those flamboyant power metal leads and some nice vocals, all topped off with a requisite layer of cheese. The drums are also competently done, though not really remarkable. The only real problem in the mix is that almost inaudible bass, listen closely in the beginning of “Pledge for Freedom” and you can almost hear it gasping for air underneath Kristoffer Gobel’s overwhelming vocals, before the gang chorus kicks it’s ass all the way back down to the inaudible depths.

The opener, “The Coronation” is actually one of the best tracks on the album. The lead guitar comes out with the opening licks, before being backed up by that tasty rhythm. The best part of the song, though, lies in the uplifting chorus, doused in that perfect amount of endearing cheesiness. Really, this song would have to be my top pick off the album, and is a blueprint for mid-paced power metal. Its follow-up, “Trail of Flames” is speedier, with some good rapid-fire drumming and some more capable vocals by Gobel, though there’s not really anything spectacular to be had here.

“Under the Sword” has a nice heavy beat and a catchy chorus going for it, but that constant start-stop rhythm gets kind of irritating after a while, which is only exacerbated by the fact that there is nothing going on outside of that grating, simplistic rhythm. Which actually brings me to one of the main failings of this album: there is a serious lack of complexity here, especially for a power metal album. I mean, damn! This is a genre known for playing in the 2, 000 BPM range, with solos that hit every note on the fretboard, backwards and forwards! When compared to other modern power metal bands, there seems to be a severe lack of activity in Falconer’s music. This isn’t to say that I want some insipid Dragonforce clone, but this has to be some of the most restrained power metal I’ve ever heard! Some of the guitar work here sounds positively pedestrian when compared with Falconer’s contemporaries.

Still, songs like “Ravenhair” manage to somewhat remedy this sluggish feel. The song starts off with an energetic, attention-grabbing speedy riff, backed up by some good kit work. Luckily, this one manages to keep its pace fairly constant throughout, with the exception of the chorus in the middle, where we get to hear some interesting interplay between Gobel and a female vocalist. The title track also manages to expand on this formula, with a faster pace and some flashy guitar work. All in all, these elements make both of these tracks much more memorable then a lot of the others on this CD.

The album finishes up with two soothing, quiet songs. “Hear Me Pray” works well as the album’s main ballad, and once again features a female vocalist. It’s pretty well done, with a nice solo. Finally, the album ends with the brief “Child of Innocence”, which is actually surprisingly good for a minute long closer. It’s done as an interesting bard-like folk tune, and works quite well as such while featuring a lovely little falsetto note at the end.

Generally, this album is a good one, and offers up a novel blend of folk and traditional power metal. It’s all competently pulled off instrumentally, and it has some truly superb singing; it also features a good deal of that cheesiness that any long-term power metal fan will be accustomed to. But unfortunately, it gets somewhat bogged down in its own reserved tempos. Instead of jumping out, grabbing you by the balls and demanding that you listen, it casually lopes by, requiring your attention to appreciate it, but not doing much to draw it in the first place. You can feel the energy these guys put into it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why they didn’t show it more. There are far too many points on this album where I find myself expecting a sudden, bombastic solo to appear and articulate all the built-up energy in these songs, only to be disappointed when they carry on in the same consistent, but ultimately routine fashion. While this album has some truly great moments, it also has some unfortunate flaws that prevent it from fully capitalizing on its great potential. In conclusion, pick it up, but don’t spend too much.

One of the greatest albums I know of - 95%

Ancient_Minstrel, May 11th, 2006

This is Falconer’s masterpiece. Most people seem to rank this album lower than the two first releases. I do not agree with them. Falconer had lost their now returned vocalist Mathias Blad and replaced him with Kristoffer Göbel when this album was recorded. Most of those who dislike this album do it because Göbel’s vocals cannot match Blad’s. I agree with them that Mathias Blad is a better vocalist, but Göbel is not by any means bad on this album and the rest of the band do a great job.

Falconer’s style has changed a bit on this album; they are playing a more straightforward Power Metal and have left some of the folk inspiration. However the wonderful folky feeling remains, and without that, this album would not be the masterpiece it is. The guitars are great as always. I admire Weinerhall’s ability to create such wonderful melodies and riffs. The guitars play an important role and vary a lot. The difference between Falconer and many other bands is that the guitars actually try to do something extra, instead of just rock on. The drumming on this album is very fitting. The focus is not on the drumming but it melts into the song and takes them to a higher level. If you don’t listen to the drums you will not notice anything special about them, but they are fairly advanced. They just fit the songs so good that you don’t think of the instruments one by one. The bass playing is on an equal level with the rest. Göbel’s vocals are good, but I can only imagine what this album would have been with Blad as lead singer.

What makes this album one level better than its predecessors is perhaps that it is a concept album. I have always thought that concept albums keep together in a way that many albums fail to do. When the songs circle around a common theme it seems much easier to create an album which is better as a whole than song by song. This album is really the kind of CD that gains quality if you listen to it from start to end. The concept of the album is the feud between the three sons of a Swedish king. The album follows the actual historical events. If you know the story beforehand it is a great joy to discover the links between the lyrics and the story. Here, Falconer have managed to do what Blind Guardian are the unchallenged masters of: create poetic lyrics which only make sense to the initiated listener.

The style on this album is medium hard Power Metal in which you can still hear the folk roots of their earlier work, and Mithotyn’s. It is much more melodious than most Power Metal without losing the heaviness and becoming Rhapsody. Some probably consider this album cheesy and maybe it is true to some extent, but I assure you, it never becomes silly. The songs are catchy and have beautiful lyrics, which are easy to sing along to. The best song is “Under the Sword”, it is very folky and medieval and different from all other Metal I have ever heard. “The Coronation”, “The Sceptre of Deception” and “Hear Me Pray” are also great songs, but as I mentioned earlier, the album is better as a whole.

This album qualifies to my all-time top five of albums. “Under the Sword” is among the ten best songs I have ever heard. So I really recommend this release! Let us see if “Northwind” can match this. Mathias Blad is back, the folky sound is back and my expectations are vast!

Awesome - 90%

ThySentinel, July 27th, 2004

I was ready to hate this album and blast it to smithereens. Not that I have heard bad things about the music, but, as everybody knows, Mattias Blad is one of my all-time favorite vocalists, and I seriously doubted anybody could fill his shoes. Also, more often than not, a frontman change usually accompanies a change in musical direction, usually for the worse. And I was so happy with Blad-fronted Falconer from every standpoint imaginable, that I was ready to hate the new album. Well, guess what: three weeks into this album, I cannot get enough of it. No, Kristofer Gobel, the new vocalist, who looks like the King of Elves from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is not in the same league with Blad. He is, however, decent and does not make many mistakes (the only moment that makes me cringe is the first time he goes high in “The Coronation”).

But it is the music and especially the vocal melodies that blow me away and propel this album into the year’s Top 3. The album does not sound like either of the previous Falconer albums. In fact, it does not really sound like anything. The distinctive attributes of the music here are the jerky stop-and-go rhythm, almost resembling Conception and heavy-sounding folk melodies that sound a lot more sincere and natural than overblown folk opuses of Rhapsody et al. Take “We Sold Our Homesteads” from “CftVF,” make it heavier, then stuff it with not one but several excellent vocal lines, and you have the majority of the “SoD.” There is still speed, like on “Trail Of Flames,” but the main focus is on the heavy folky mid-tempo numbers. Virtually every tune boasts a beautiful chorus with lavish melodies, catchy to the point of absurdity: “The Coronation,” “Trail Of Flames,” “Under The Sword,” “Hooves Over Northland,” “Pledge Of Freedom,” title track, “Ravenhair” -- all of them -- and I was scrambling hard to come up with the three songs for the “best songs” list. One cannot help but wonder: how did Stephen Weinerhall come up with three albums full of insanely delicious melodies in the day and age when nobody could squirt out a spoonful! Two of my favorites, “Under The Sword” and “Hooves Over Northland,” are both pretty similar to “We Sold Our Homesteads,” only they are heavier and have amazingly interesting melodies. And Gobel sings these melodies well, so that makes him at least adequate.

I only have two problems with this album. The lineup now features five musicians, but they still sound like three. The Johansson people on second guitar and bass are practically not heard. It is possible that Anders Johansson is playing some of these wonderful riffs and melodies, I don’t know, but there is no “ensemble-ness” to speak of; maybe it will improve in the future. And the second problem, which is also a reason why I did not give this album an immediate 100 rating and an “instant classic” label is that I simply hate to think what would it sound like with Blad handling all vocal duties, instead of just showing up on three tracks. For the sake of fairness, it must be noted that on these three tracks he sounds whiny and not at all up to his usual (tremendously high) standards. Maybe it was done intentionally by LaRocque and Weinerhall, just to sugarcoat the pill of Blad’s stepdown. But when I imagine the Blad of the debut and “CtfVF” singing “from early morning until the night” (“Hooves Over Northland”), my heart rises to my throat, and the tear ducts start their shameful work. But everything else is nearly impeccable. The story (it's a rock opera) is somewhat confusing (mostly due to the small print and Swedish names), but it is not trivial and is definitely of interest to the fans of medieval epic tales. To make the (enormously) long story short: this album rules and exceeds every expectation I was ever biased enough to have for it. Give it a chance.

Good stuff, but not for everyone - 88%

eViLbOrIs, June 6th, 2004

Okay. First off, this is the only Falconer album I own, so although I've heard some of Mathias Blad's vocals on a couple of songs from Chapters from a Vale Forlorn, I cannot make any comparisons between him and Kristofer Gobel. All I can say is that Kristofer Gobel is one of the best power metal vocalists I have ever heard, and that the vocals are one of the many strong points on this fine album.
And a fine album it is. I am not a big power metal person, but every once in awhile a band like Falconer comes along and grabs my attention away from the Orphaned Land's and Opeth's of the world. What is so special about Falconer that it rises above the bazillions of other generic power metal bands out there? Well, it just might be the way these guys compose their music and tell stories through their instruments. Yes, the material is quite cheesy, but the way Gobel sings with such earnestness, and the entire band backs him up with Arthurian folk-metal tunes just makes it so charming and appealing, that once you submit yourself to it all you cannot help but get lost in the atmosphere. These guys are also all clearly masters of their instruments, which makes it all the more impressive that they are willing to sacrifice individual technicality for the sake of song writing. Still, there are plenty enough amazing solos and original riffs to keep the shredders among ye happy. But the one thing that shines brightest for me here is the drumming. It's not really that the Karsten Larasson is particularly fast or unique -it's just that he knows what he's doing and what he's supposed to be doing and he does it all perfectly. He is the glue that holds all of the amazing guitar melodies together. Without him, the transitions from melody to chorus to solo to melody would just be...non-existant.
Still with all the nigh-godly musicianship in the world, this album will seem ridiculous to those who can't allow themselves to succumb to the swords-and-sorcery world of Falconer. And those people are a sorry bunch, for they are missing out on what is truly an amazing piece of classical power metal music.

Falconer w/ cheese - 85%

KantQontrolMyself, March 14th, 2004

Okay, after hearing Mathias got kicked out, I was real pissed that Falconer's career would probably end. Actually, I was quite wrong. The new vocalist, Kristoffer Gobel, actually has a longer range and more high pitched voice then Blad. Personally, I liked Blad WAY better, but Gobel fits well with the new music. Now, instrument-wise, it's just like you're old Falconer. Melodic guitar riffs that're catchy as hell with nothing-special drumming and other nice ambient instruments. Overall, the instrumental catergory is just great and keeps some of the good ol' spirit of Falconer intact. Now, since I haven't heard every single song yet, the ones I have heard.

The opener, The Coronation, is freaking awesome! Great riffage and very nice vocal performance by Gobel. He actually has really nice vocals that fit the song well, and the guitars just totally rip in his wake. Great album opener. Lyrics have a lil' cheese on 'em though.

Trail of Flames kicks off with a some nice riffs and vocals, but the lyric's cheesiness is still a present. However, the chorus is really catchy, with it's awesome quickness and drumming, plus, there's a lot of melody to be found. And, is that...Mathias? Pretty sure it is, before the solo and during the chorus. Wonder why he's on backing vox now? Oh well. It's still cool though. One of the best off the album.

Under the Sword goes a lil' slower, but still has some nice riffage. It's also the shortest actual song on the album. Wasn't the best, or most melodic, and the cheesiness is more noticeable, which is a minus. Though there is some nice riffage and solos here, it's still a little meh compared to the rest of the album.

Okay, I haven't gotten the next three tracks yet, so moving on to Ravenhair. Now this song is ALMOST the best song on the album. Great-as-hell riffage, drumming, pace, solo, vocals, and even that one girl that sings a lil' later sounds great (who the hell is she though?). The only real thing that brings this song down is the chorus. GOOD GOD THAT CHORUS IS CHEESY AS CHEESY CHEESE! I hate that opera back-up, and Gobel + the riff doesn't help much either. The lyrics aren't as cheesy, but god that chorus nearly ruins the whole song. Luckily the rest of the song fucking rules! So it'd be the best one on the album without that hideous chorus.

Now the title track has some really good things going for it. Some pretty nice riffs all over the place, and more Mathias + Gobel action, which totally rules. The fast pace and drumming is also nice. The chorus is also quite enjoyable too. The cheesiness is present in the lyrics though, plus that singing during around 2:40-about 3:00 is kinda crappy. Also, it lasts quite a while (almost 8 minutes). But GOD Mathias rules in this song. The solo is also pretty well done.

And that's all of the songs I've heard so far. In conclusion, this album is very nicely done and all, but Gobel didn't have to put all the cheese on it, with the operatics and Viking king storyline. Hopefully, the next album with Gobel will bring Mathias, the awesome riffage, and the fast pace with it. I recommend that you listen to the first two and 7-8. It would be nicer if Mathias did lead on at least SOME of the songs, since he's still apparently there. Overall, this album is a pretty fun riff ride, but with a bad story behind it. Give it a listen if you like catchy riffs and rangy vocals. Fans of Rhapsody and Hammerfall might actually get a nice kick out of this. Casual listeners or big fans of Blad might not like it as much, but it still has some awesome hidden under it's cheesy exo-skeleton.