Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. For this, the 53rd edition of this series, we don our soft leathers and mount our steeds – for we journey into the green-covered glade of folky, earthy atmosphere that Falconer created with their power-metal self-titled release.
Release Date: May 2001
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
I'll fall on my brandished, shining sword while defending power metal – the sub-genre whose presence in the musical compendiums of typical American metal lovers is ever-waning. I'm not quite sure why American tastes seem to shy away from the unapologetic soaring vocals, lofty imagery, and underlying current of positivity hallmarked by the genre. I, for one, find pockets of power metal refreshing (if not at least a good palette cleanse). But like any music, kitsch and gimmicks are not enough for me to invest my time in a band over and over again beyond enjoying them as a mere novelty. Falconer is a power metal group whose freshman release, Falconer, marked the beginning of a journey for a band whose contributions to the genre have kept power metal aloft world-wide.
This Swedish-based group got a start in 1999 with founding member Stefan Weinerhall (ex-MITHOTYN). Mathias Blad was brought in for session vocals and upon adding another ex-MITHOTYN member on bass, Karsten Larsson, the trio gelled into the first line-up for Falconer. Blad has sang for the group for a large majority of the band's 19-year tenure and his vocals are the element of Falconer that gripped me immediately. They are simply stunning, offering a range of clean baritone to rich tenor and a controlled vibrato that commands and convicts. Check out opening track "Upon the Grave of Guilt":
I think this is a great opening to a first album. The riffs are catchy with an inviting tone and the drums carry plenty of trademark power metal energy. The clean vocals are almost a surprise to the uninitiated. Blad's solid vocal performance carries the whole album and sets Falconer aside as something special during the turn-of-the-century metal revival. I find it brave of Falconer to be a mid-paced folk-leaning power band during an era of metal that is marked by symphonic, prog/post-dabbling, melo-death, experimental, black metal revival, and genre-blending acts. Check out track "Wings of Serenity":
I really appreciate that Falconer does not feel like a lazy record. There is a thoughtfulness and a humility to the album that underlies each track (even on songs with "wings" in the title). In a 2014 interview with Metal Wani, Weinerhall states, "We're quite a shy band. I don't think we've really felt anything of a stardom or fame." For a first record, I think it's impressive that not a single 'stone' seems un-turned. Falconer offers a higher production value, thoughtful lyricism with an emphasis on the poetic working with the timing, and attention to balancing vocals with other pieces of the mix. Check out the most popular song off of the album "Mindtraveller":
Again, I feel that Falconer are song-writing with a focus on cohesiveness. Even though "Mindtraveller" is their most popular song, I can't say that the music breaks around the third minute are pulled off with great success. However, the synergy between the attention-grabbing vocal performance and guitars that makes me feel like the two aren't competing or making awkward transitions for one another to have their 'moment'.
Like many albums here on TBT, I feel that Falconer is largely under-appreciated. The album is approachable and the melodies are interesting but easy to listen to. Lots of power bands have a medieval/fantasy 'tinge' to them, but Falconer pulls it off with an air of dignity and masculinity. With just enough power metal 'cheese' to scare the lactose intolerant, Falconer's self-titled work is one worth visiting if you're looking to get in to bands who bring the power in a less dramatic way.