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Falkenbach > Asa > Reviews
Falkenbach - Asa

Thule in view - 85%

Felix 1666, February 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2013, 2CD, Prophecy Productions (Limited edition, Digibook)

Three letters stand for the rebirth of the "true" Falkenbach. "Asa". After some pretty mellow outputs, I thought that Markus Tümmers would not be able anymore to return to a harsher approach, but he surprised me in a very pleasant way. This does not mean that this album with its perfect artwork, another great picture of Albert Bierstadt, does not house silent tones. Nonetheless, they do not prevail, even though one of the absolute highlights of this work belongs to the most meditative tracks the dude from Düsseldorf has ever written. The more or less spiritual "Eweroun" is like a long and silent river, but its immaculate melody makes it to something great and the calming yet powerful vocals deliver the cherry on the top. All these cautious tracks from the last three albums suddenly make sense if we understand them as a necessary exercise in order to create finally this mantra-like masterpiece which is the perfect invitation to sit down and relax. Just listen, enjoy the flawless production of "Asa" and let your thoughts flow freely.

A handful of tracks reflect the predatory side of Falkenbach. "Wulfarweijd", "Bronzen Embrace" or "I Nattens Stilta" make clear that Tümmers has rediscovered his will to shatter the silence every now and then. Not to mention the furious "Stikke Wound" which presses the artist's rage in a hefty eruption of less than three minutes. These songs illustrate that there is still a fiery core in Falkenbach, while I had been in fear that he just stores the ashes instead of keeping the fire burning. Needless to say that there are also some very typical songs which combine excessive melody lines with clear, announcing vocals. These tunes show up like the mighty mountains on the artwork which appear out of the mist. No doubt, the lone wolf combines his tried and tested trademarks with stormy outbursts and the result is absolutely convincing. A mostly solemn yet occasionally nearly cruel atmosphere dominates the sound and it feels good that the modern skald is willing to offer his complete portfolio again after some years of voluntary self-limitation. He never released a really weak album, but it is simply great to hear his cocktail of robust guitar chords, almost mystical keyboard lines and raw vocals. The mix is what matters and unlike its predecessors, "Asa" finds the right balance.

Maybe (or certainly?) I am a picky old geezer, but I will never understand the way of thinking of some people. Why wasn't it possible to press the thirteen tracks of the 2CD-version on one disc? Who felt the need to seduce the fans to buy a luxury version? Of course, we all know the stale "excuse" of the industry: nobody is forced to buy an album, we just make an offer. But come on, that's ridiculous in view of the well known mindset of a loyal metalhead. Be that as it may, the four tracks of the second disc achieve the same quality level as the regular tracks and they also do not follow another stylish approach. Okay, don't be fooled by the title of "Return to Ultima Thule". It is not part two of "Ultima Thule" from the debut, but a strong alternative version of this track. The recycled composition shows once again the glory of the early days of the band due to its strict and compelling pattern. Yet the remaining material of the second disc is completely new and with that said, it goes without saying that the second disc enriches the entire output sustainably. This even applies to the calm closer, an instrumental which reminds me of the rather peaceful songs of In Extremo (but without bolshy bagpipes). In a nutshell, this edition of "Asa" delivers the soundtrack for the next midsummer festival in Thule. Enjoy the very strong hour of pagan / black metal while avoiding any kind of fillers. Hopefully, Tümmers returns soon with an equally strong successor.

Finally another great Falkenbach album - 90%

mjollnir, March 21st, 2014

I've been a huge fan of Falkenbach since first hearing their 2003 opus, Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty when it was released. To me, that album was an album that defined a genre, being heavy but seriously melodic I instantly became a fan. I immediately acquired the remainder of what was their discography up to that time. I have since picked up all subsequent releases as well. Heralding - The Fireblade was good but not as good as their previous releases and Tiurida slipped even more. They were not bad albums in any way as I believe that Vratyas Vakyas in incapable of releasing anything that's truly bad. These albums just did not live up to the band's former glory.

In April of 2013 we were given a teaser of the new album in the single titled "Eweroun". I knew at that point we were in for something special from Vratyas Vakyas and his hired guns. On November 1, 2013 Asa was unleashed upon the world (a day before my birthday so happy birthday to me!) and to my wondrous ears it appeared that the Falkenbach I knew and loved were back. All was right with the world. The album kicks off with "Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan" which is your typical Falkenbach song with flowing melodies and acoustic and electric guitars playing together. This album already reminded me of Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty in the way it sounded. The song had Vratyas singing his hypnotic clean vocals in a language that I'm not quite sure of but appears to be an extinct Germanic language. There's even some lead guitar there adding melody and atmosphere to the song.

Then to my surprise the second track, "Wulfarweijd", kicks in and this is an ass kicker from start to finish. It's speedy with double bass and Vratyas doing harsh vocals throughout taking me even further back into this band's discography. This was a welcoming sign because I thought that maybe Vratyas was running out of new ideas. However, this album seemed like he had finally found his niche and was able to combine the aggressiveness of his earlier releases with the melodies of Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty. I was right because this album is the combination of everything that is Falkenbach...aggression, melody and his odes to the Gods of old! Songs like "Mijn Laezt Wourd", "Eweroun", and "Ufirstanan Folk" are your melodic Falkenbach songs with the acoustic guitars just slightly back in the mix over the electrics and Vratyas' clean vocals singing just making beautiful music.

Then you have songs like "Bronzen Embrace" (the only song sung in English), and "I Nattens Stilta" being your more aggressive songs. The songs are catchy and melodic even though they are faster and Vratyas uses only his harsh vocals on these songs. His harsh vocals are really good too as not to overpower the music or sound like he's trying to hard to be grim. Once again, the musicianship on these songs is really good and the songs are catchy as well. There's even "Bluot Fuër Bluot" that combines the two styles that takes me back to ...En Their Medh Riki Fara...

This album takes everything that makes Falkenbach what it is and molds it together to make this the best release from Falkenbach in over a decade. I thoroughly enjoy this album and gets played regularly. I do love this type of folk metal and no one does it better than this band. If you were a fan of this band but were not impressed with their last two releases then get won't be disappointed.

Asa - 50%

Buarainech, January 31st, 2014

In spite of being able to lay claim to being a well distinguished and unique act in the world of Metal the career trajectory of Falkenbach's Vratyas Vakyas is a pretty well trodden one. Having begun recording music in 1989 as a solo Folk act, Falkenbach appeared as the dawn of the second wave of Black Metal began to creep over the horizon and delivered their pioneering debut in 1996 when the experimental end of the genre really broke, being one of the first to colour the genre with Folk elements. ...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri... followed 2 years later with Black Metal side of the coin now taking a back seat to the Folk whimsy and the epic Bathory-style compositions, before that process was further and refined on Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty 5 years later.

Then at a crossroads Falkenbach took the interesting decision with 2005's Heralding- The Fireblade to release a “back to the roots album” based around reworked versions of tracks written before the debut, a choice that bought time for Vakyas to either find a way to expand beyond the style he pioneered or to better those early efforts. Even with the benefit of a 6 year gap he failed to do either on 2011's Tiurida, but being in much the same position that the very stylistically similar Summoning are this year he largely got a by from his fans by virtue of how long they had been waiting for new material. Now in 2013 though he has run out of “get out of jail free”cards. It is put up or shut up time for Falkenbach's maestro to either prove himself worthy of the musical genius acclaim he attracts, or to prove himself as a one trick pony.

Before we can even talk about the music though that fantastic cover artwork needs to be mentioned as not only is it easily the best that has ever graced a Falkenbach sleeve, but also comparing the CD booklet and LP versions side by side they seem to be paintings of the same mountain lake from opposite sides. It's a genius little touch- typically Falkenbach, but going that little bit extra to create something special. On to the music though and it too is typically Falkenbach, though often painfully so. It is a worrying start that the previous album called most to mind by opener “Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan” is Heralding- The Fireblade due to how disinterested Vakyas seems to be with his clean vocals, ruining what could have been a decent mournful vibe on “Mijn Laezt Wourd” in the process. There is little better to be said about most of the more up-tempo tracks either as what both “Wulfarweijd” and “I Nattens Stilta” have in common is a structural simplicity that borders on the mind-numbing- Repeat main riff and drum pattern for 32 bars, vary slightly for 8 bars, repeat several times, 5-10 second quiet interlude, repeat until end. The only think to shake up this songwriting autopilot is “Bluot Fuër Bluot” where an attempt is at least made to bring together the whimsical Folk Rock and icy Melodic Black Metal styles that are bounced between here, but once again the same songwriting snoozefest prevails.

It is not like this is new for Falkenbach as in spite of their epic stature and leanings it has always been a project typified by short albums and mostly short songs. The fact is though that now 15 years on from when Falkenbach's style is far from being novel and so many of the bands were born from that influence have surpassed the teacher in every songwriting and album construction facet possible that this level of simplicity and naivety from a veteran band is almost intolerable. It is a sad fact that when more than ever Vakyas needed to pull out something special and monumental after the disappointment that was Tiurida the response seems to be to make something with even shorter and more basic songs and performed with even less passion and fire.

It is not all terrible though and around the middle of this album it even threatens to make a glorious comeback. “Brozen Embrace” is the first blast of icy Black Metal on this album and to be frank, Falkenbach have perhaps never done it better than this. Aside from the drum sound which lacks that savage, cavernous feel the riffs on this track could easily have come from albums like Satyricon's Dark Medieval Times or Gehenna's First Spell. It is followed up with a Fejd/Stille Volk-style masterclass in dainty pastoral Folk Rock with a strong Pop sensibility, but if the centre of the album leads the charge for the best moments, the worst is truly saved for last with the turgid double-whammy of the boring Melo-Deth filler “Stikke Wound” and the sleep-inducing acoustic finish “Ufirstanan Folk.” Over the years Falkenbach's meteoric decline has been partly due to worsening albums, and partly due to what made them stand out in the first place become more and more passé. With both of those processes now so advanced this album feels like it may be the final nail in the coffin for the Falkenbach myth and legacy. [5/10]

From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine-