Among Beggars And Thieves
posted on 9/2008 By:
Somewhere, a Renaissance Faire is missing its minstrels.
When last MetalReview.com checked in with Falconer, it was for the 2005 release of Grime Vs. Grandeur, which saw the Swedes scrap their folky/medieval tendencies in favor of a more traditional metal sound. It was received poorly by the masses and was given a rather mixed review here. I personally cannot make it through that album without hitting the ‘stop’ button in frustration over the musical missteps. I couldn’t believe that a band with such a unique sound would decide to take a path more travelled.
Later that year, vocalist Kristoffer Gobel (whose entry into the band for 2003’s The Sceptre of Deception is considered somewhat responsible for the shift in direction) was sent packing as the band welcomed back original vocalist Mathias Blad. Guitarist/founder Stefan Weinerhall had decided to take the band back to their roots and did so in fine fashion for 2006’s Northwind, which sadly never received a US release. Thankfully, Metal Blade has seen fit to give a stateside release to Among Beggars and Thieves, a triumphant effort that gallops forth with all the glory of the first two albums (2001’s Falconer and 2002’s Chapters From a Vale Forlorn) but with twice the might and power.
The two men mentioned above are the driving forces behind the unique Falconer sound. Weinerhall, as guitarist and primary songwriter, creates that medieval feel without relying too much on the instrumentation that usually accompanies it. Meanwhile, Blad’s smooth, midrange vocal delivery has a bard-like quality to it, yet remains distinctly metal in nature. The album’s opening 1-2 punch of “Field of Sorrow” and “Man of the Hour” shows this off along with a newfound heaviness. It's also interesting to hear the vocals being used almost like a lead instrument. It’s as if the rhythms are following Blad’s vocal lines rather than him just singing over the rhythms. It’s the same thing that makes “Pale Light of Silver Moon” a late album standout as he carries the listener through the tale.
“Carnival of Disgust” is another great example of the importance of the vocal. The music is midpaced with some upbeat moments, but the track overall is more about the storytelling. I even had visions of a man addressing a crowd as he sings, “Come and see the play of wicked irony / Join the crowd of hunger / For the joy of the Carnival of Disgust.” As well as that works, it can’t even compare to album closer (at least for the US edition) “Dreams and Pyres,” which clocks in at just under eight minutes. It’s got the folk instrumentation, multiple tempo changes, a triumphant outro, and male and female guest vocalists throughout. It’s the kind of track that can define a band, and frankly is the type of thing that Rhapsody always tends to overblow.
With Among Beggars and Thieves, Falconer has produced their finest work to date. There is an excellent balance of styles, whereas previous efforts did lean a bit to one side or the other. With the recent surge in popularity of folk metal in the US, they have positioned themselves to make a significant impact here. Now we just have to see if the masses will hear the clarion call and take heed of the glorious sounds of Falconer.
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Grime vs. Grandeur
Sceptre Of Deception