Falconer - Armrod (Metal Blade/Riot)

Long-running Swedes finally hit the target by returning to their native tongue
Release Date: 
7 Jun 2011 (All day)

For me, Swedish act Falconer have always seemed like well-meaning no-hopers, also rans in a race they couldn’t hope to win when lined up against the real heavyweights of the power metal genre. Sure, they’ve had their moments – I still crack out the odd track from their self-titled 2001 debut or from the sometimes excellent Chapters from a Vale Forlorn (2002), but really, when you have the likes of Stratovarius or Blind Guardian pumping out high quality stuff in a similar vein and limited funds to make purchases with, why would you bother?

But credit to the band, they’ve kept going, and in 2011 the patience and stoicism has proved to be worthwhile as in Armod the band has released it’s best album yet. The main reason for this seems to me to be the fact that vocalist Mathias Blad is singing in his native tongue – this really does make all the difference as Blad always came over as a bit clumsy when singing in English. Here, with no time to chortle about his dodgy pronunciation (or indeed the dodgy lyrics he was having to sing), you have merely to concentrate on the music at hand – all of which is great.

Never the heaviest band of its ilk, Falconer does however know when to ease back or, more importantly, when to put the collective feet to the floor, which gives this album some most welcome light and shade. Armrod has been touted as the band’s ‘folk metal album’, though aside from a few Kansas-sounding violins and the odd bit of flute action (heard to best effect on Vid Rosornas Grav or the instrumental jig that is Eklundspolskan) the only real nod to the band’s cultural heritage is the lingo in which everything’s being sung. The excellent Grimborg, for example, has a real seventies progressive rock feel to it, bringing to mind a less bombastic Uriah Heep. The album’s centrepiece is the excellent Herr Peder Och Hans Syster, which begins with what sounds like a nursery rhyme before morphing into a strident piece of trad metal that’ll have your speakers rattling in most excellent fashion should you choose to crank up the stereo.

A really good album, then, though it’s difficult to see really who it will appeal to outside of the band’s native land; if, however, the power of metal is enough for you not to worry about what’s being sung, you’ll find a lot to enjoy on Armrod.