Sure to please long-time fans of the band, Swedish folk power metallers Falconer return with their eight album and an embracing of the sound which bred their earliest presence. It is not as clear cut as it sounds though because the quintet also craft a compelling web of modern metal tenacity and at times hostility to create a varied, often unpredictable, and constantly rewarding proposition. Falconer has always been a band which either clicked with or missed our preferences up to this point but despite still elements which fall on our stony ground, Black Moon Rising surpasses all that came before and has little trouble leaving rich satisfaction in its wake to temper our difficult demands.
Formed in 1999 as a solo project by guitarist Stefan Weinerhall (ex-Mithotyn) with Mathias Blad stepping in as session vocalist, Falconer soon become a full band with the addition of drummer Karsten Larsson. From their self-titled debut album in 2001, the band had attention and passions falling over themselves as well as a wealth of acclaim. Its successor Chapters From A Vale Forlorn a year later marked another step forward for the band, though the year also saw Blad leave the band. With Kristoffer Göbel enlisted as the new singer, third album Sceptre of Deception in 2003 was unveiled to again strong reception whilst a year later another line-up change saw guitarist Jimmy Hedlund and bassist Magnus Linhardt joining Weinerhall, Larsson, and Göbel. A twist in style accompanied the next album before a more recognisable, and arguably wanted by fans, flavour returned as the next trio of albums lit up an ever increasing fanbase starting with Grime vs. Grandeur which marked the return of Blad. Recorded with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios, Black Moon Rising follows the entirely sung in Swedish Armod of 2011, taking those earlier ventures and sounds of the band on a brand new and rigorously captivating emprise.
Riffs and attention seeking rhythms open up first track Locust Swarm, which in turn awakens attention and an early appetite through the following energetic rabidity and deeply rooting hooks across a blazing sonic canvas. Soon settling into steady stroll as the narrative and Blad unveil their expressive tales, the song is swarming around and within the imagination whilst rhythms buffet ears. The song is a mix bag, the ravenous and predatory aspects of the track exhilarating and the mellower passages around the vocals slightly underwhelming in comparison. Nevertheless with the individual skills and combined enterprise, the track is a more than solid entrance into the emerging power metal landscape, setting up the listener nicely for the following Halls and Chambers. The haunting whispers within a cavernous hall is a great portentous introduction but not exploited fully as the song goes on a similar charge as in its predecessor. What emerges to take it another step forward though is an indefinable but open familiarity to the chorus and melodic tempting which flows as courageously as the breath and anthemic riffery through the track. Again it is not a song to lose full ardour to but with the delicious sculpting of guitar and a nagging persuasion it is an encounter to immerse in often, especially its great hard rock/folk metal finale, the beauty of melodies and vocals hand in hand with the beast of the bass.
The album truly erupts with the title track next, the song a muscular warrior of rapacious rhythms and eagerly roving grooves carrying the colours of infectious melodies and riveting imagination. By the first round of its anthemic chorus the track easily outweighs and outstrips its predecessors, enslaving thoughts and passions with a continually shifting aural scenery but never straying from the potent core which stole the plaudits within its opening breaths. Larsson impresses from first swiping jab to the last whilst the guitar ingenuity of Weinerhall perfectly assisted by Hedlund, bewitch and ignite a greater greedy appetite for the album.
The enchanting coaxing of folk stroll Scoundrel and the Squire has the misfortune of following such an epic but from its gentle initial caress builds a persistently expanding and tempting landscape of unpredictable beats and fiery guitar wrapped in poetic and melodic hues. Like its music its success and appeal grows and enriches ears the further it explores its premise before making way for the scintillating Wasteland, a track which attacks ears with a scourge mentality from the off before, and without losing its agile intimidation, grabbing its sonic steeds and galloping magnetically across the senses with rhythmic nostrils flaring and antagonistic riffs baring teeth. It is another major pinnacle within the album, feet and neck muscles as soon devoted to its suasion as ears and emotions.
Both In Ruins and At the Jester’s Ball keep things boiling nicely, even if they miss the lip of the previous plateau cast. The first borders on rock pop even within a tirade of blasting beats and exhaustive riffing, the song forging a great and enthralling mix of vivacious invention and raucous intensity, whilst its successor is a satisfying romp suiting the artistic revelry imagined by its title. Neither leaves thoughts awe struck but undeniably both add to the pleasure and fun being devoured by this point of the album before being shown the way by There’s a Crow on the Barrow, another insatiable gallop with melodic flanks over thunderous hoofs of rhythmic intent and heavily enticing riffs.
Dawning of a Sombre Age despite is open invention and masterful presentation leaves established heights alone though sculpting its own definitely pleasing level before the album concludes with the voracious and fascinating Age of Runes and the jubilant dance of The Priory. Each song brings the album to an impressive end, the first an absorbing proposition which never leaves expectations anything to truly feast upon whilst the last is just Falconer and their distinctive sound at their creative best.
Black Moon Rising has moments of brilliance and others where it merely pleases without much more but makes for an exciting and enthralling encounter overall proving Falconer have plenty left in their fire keep on setting power and folk metal new adventures to eagerly anticipate.
Black Moon Rising is available via Metal Blade Records now!
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