It was the year 2001...on the cusp of the 21st century and from the ashes of Mithotyn...Falconer arose. A Power metal band with hints of Swedish folk influence and a healthy dose of waltz grooves. At the first listen, one is a little skeptical of this great band due to the heavy riffing mixed with slow and swinging vocals. But once a little more analysis is granted...Falconer becomes a very clever and refreshing monument of musical creativity in which the listener falls in love with. "Black Moon Rising" takes Falconer a bit away from its traditional Waltz/Power fusion metal and brings towards a more driving Power metal with heavy Rock/Heavy Metal inspiration.
On a personal level I didn't overly enjoy this rendition of Falconer because I really enjoyed the renaissance sound they brought to the metal table and was looking forward to more ballroom grooves! That being said...Our job here at EMTV is not to bring you a fans preferential view of this album buta mighty unbiased one!
One thing I have always loved about Falconer is that whenever you listen to a new song you are always caught off guard. You can always identify a Falconer song by the vocals but almost every song composition wise is different. When you listen to Stefan Weinerhalls riffs you think that you can predict where the riff will go but then he surprises us by going in a completely different direction. This gives us a very progressive feel. In any case, this was not the situation with the composition on Black Moon Rising. Right from the get go, the listener (who is expecting the old-fashioned intuitive feel of Falconer) is assaulted with non stop rock n' roller/old school heavy metal riffs. Now I am not saying this is a bad thing by any means. But when You have stayed true to a certain sound for as long as this Swedish Quintet has and you come out with an album that goes in a different direction you will always have mixed reviews from long time fans (I call this St. Anger Syndrome).
As far as the actual composition goes...Riffs! Ungodly amounts of Riffs! Stefan Weinerhalls proficiency at axe-fare has only grown stronger since his first album in 1997. The riffs are fast paced and variate every few bars with interesting little lead harmonies that Falconer is famous for. The guitar solos are masterful and very soulful. They actually perpetuate the mood the song is trying to purvey in perfect harmony (pun intended!). But where this album falls gravely is its flow and overall movement. The songs are so similar in stature, tone, and style that its hard to detect any shifts in pace or attitude...save for the obvious acoustic works of "The Scoundrel and the Squire".
The riffs in each song where technical and promising but majority of them were so similar that it is hard to enjoy each song individually and equally. Vocally speaking... more could have been done. The same melodies are used for verses across the first few songs. This did get annoying after awhile but Falconer pulled through the monotonously overdone vocal melodies of Mathias Blad was the epic chorus'. This has always been a strong point of the band and I am convinced that it always be. "Halls of Chambers" and "Wasteland" are two perfect examples of epic chorus melodies...now only if they worked on their verse melodies! The lyrics themselves make up for all of the above. Stefan Weinerhall is the driving force behind Falconer. But what a lot of people don't know is that he actually writes all of the lyrics as well, in which the band receives full points for delivering beautiful scenery and epic poetry to us!
This album was brought to you by the folks at Sonic Train Studios. The production on this album was of definite professional quality. But I still found myself scoffing at a few minor mistakes that were made...Take the song "Black Moon Rising" for instance. The rhythm section is nice and clear, the vocals are soaring over top of the mix, and the drums accentuate all of the lower end notes. But the volume level of the guitar solo swelled in and out so that you actually find yourself straining to hear the glory of Jimmy Hedlunds leads. That aside, the music was actually mixed wonderfully. Other than the occasional volume swell I heard the only other thing they could have improved was making the vocals a wee bit louder during the verses and bridges.
Black Moon Rising was probably one of the toughest albums I have had the pleasure of reviewing. I had to bring myself out of my Falconer fanboydom and rationalize my thoughts. After doing this I have come to the realization that this is an decent album! It may not necessarily be what I expected and it may not be absolutely perfect...but I will definitely listen to it again and many times to come. Moral of this story? Try to look at the big picture instead of acting on your own emotion and feelings right away. Black Moon rising will rock your socks off after a few listens. After this has been accomplished, go pick up a copy of "Armod" and "Falconer" to touch base with Falconers roots and see where they came from!
I rate this album a 78% based on composition, originality, production, and lyricism.
"Gaze up high into the open sky
from these halls and chambers.
To the moon and to the winds I cry"
-Falconer - Hall of Chambers
- Ireheart Bergin