Grime vs. Grandeur
posted on 6/2005 By:
Here’s a rarity—a power metal band growing away from its idiosyncrasies rather than deeper into them. Falconer has long been a divisive force in the metal world. In their early years, they produced an atmosphere-heavy Medieval brand of power metal that drove many away with its overwhelming Limburger stench but still clicked with enough listeners to build a sizeable and dedicated fan base. 2003’s Scepter of Deception saw Falconer tone down its proclivity for prancing minstrel-isms slightly in favor of a more traditionalist heavy metal sound, thus further dividing their listenership but certainly rendering the band more appealing to the casual fan. Those who have followed Falconer’s career through their previous three albums shouldn’t be surprised by the fourth; Grime Vs. Grandeur continues the progression evident on Scepter, and there are only traces of the band’s formerly folky sound left amongst the classical power metal riffing. And how are the results? Well, they're mixed. Falconer are ultimately better off for having shed their formerly cheese-crusted veneer, but have yet to truly master their newly chosen style of eighties Brit-metal worship.
This said, Falconer is a force to be reckoned with when firing on all cylinders. Power metal’s intrinsic corniness aside, Grime Vs. Grandeur contains enough impressive moments to satisfy most of their fans. Opener “Emotional Skies” and “Humanity Overdose” both contain rousing gang-vocal choruses that will undoubtedly inspire much pumping of fists and hefting of horns amongst those who appreciate a good epic vocal line, while the King Diamond-inspire riffing of “The Return” lends a measure of grittiness that is missing from much of the album’s squeaky-clean, upbeat proceedings. Along the same lines, “Purgatory Time” is essentially straight-up Maiden worship, and its galloping verses, soaring chorus and harmonized solo will please the many metal fans weaned on Killers and Number of the Beast.
Unfortunately, Falconer cannot maintain the level of quality throughout the album. While guitarists Stefan Weinerhall and Jimmy Hedlund are clearly skilled axmen, they seem to be afraid of overwhelming Kristoffer Göbel’s vocals with their technique, instead limiting themselves to simple power chord progressions during the band’s non-instrumental passages. In fact, the band seems to struggle a little with many of these segments; almost all of the verses on the album seem to be little more than setup filler for the choruses, which is not terribly unusual for a power metal album but is still disappointing with such a clearly talented band. Furthermore, the album’s high points are counterbalanced by some ugly songwriting gaffes. Particularly offensive is the atrocious chugging verse of “I Refuse,” which reminds more of Spinal Tap than, say, Judas Priest. Kristoffer Göbel’s lyrics on the track build on the similarity: “I can not stand your lovin'/I got to go/go and find myself some peace/Go bitch on someone else/I'll take no more/no more frustration to the core!” Hearts are breaking, I’m sure. Göbel, in his defense, actually possesses a very strong voice when he sticks to his lower registers. It is fortunate that he does so for the majority of the album, as his forays into falsetto can be somewhat wince-inducing, as evidenced by the grating chorus in “Jack the Knife.”
While Grime Vs. Grandeur is Falconer’s strongest work to date, it is difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. The band has cut away much of their extraneous musical flab and is certainly tight and technically proficient, but the songwriting still comes off as slightly amateurish. Falconer has shown great potential and a willingness to evolve, and their next album could conceivably be a power metal classic, but for the time being Grime Vs. Grandeur’s success as an album hinges upon the listener’s ability to wade through mediocrity for the sake of scattered pockets of excellence.
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