Falconer - _Falconer_
(Metal Blade, 2001)
by: Alvin Wee (
For the benefit of readers with short attention spans: BUY THIS!!!!! I haven't been this excited about a new power metal release since Freedom Call's debut, and even then the potential this new outfit shows puts the majority of recent German endeavors to shame! Ex-Mithotyn Viking-warrior Stefan Weinerhall drops his black metal ethic here in favor of a pure folk-based power metal direction not unlike Blind Guardian, producing as close to a perfect album as I dare to imagine. A few seconds into the opening track is all it takes to convince this stunned reviewer of the miraculous powers these guys possess: such a combination of astounding musicianship and divinely-inspired songwriting has seldom been attained in the history of melodic metal. Drawing together the best of the band's Mithotyn-folk past and traditional Maiden-inspired heavy metal, the mesmerizing beauty and infectious energy of metal-hymns like "Wings of Serenity" scale infinitely epic heights while never succumbing to the overblown cheese of Freedom Call or At Vance, retaining its freshness and appeal even after countless replays. Olde English-style ballad "A Quest For the Crown" sweeps many of Blind Guardian's similarly-themed tracks under the carpet for the moment, conjuring up the days of minstrels and bards with its insidiously catchy, authentic-sounding refrain. Traditional seabound rockers like "Royal Galley" put the band on dangerous par with benchmark-setting pirates Running Wild, yet maintaining a distinctly unique sound of their own: something one can only describe as Mithotyn-ian. Lead minstrel Mathias Blad issues a spirited challenge to the ranks of famed metal vocalists like Jeff Scott Soto or Rob Rock, drawing on his unique experience as a full-time stage-musical singer (this I gathered after hearing a radio interview with Stefan), bringing a whole new vocal dimension -- exciting and vibrant -- into a tired genre. Stefan's inimitable songwriting shines through with the impeccable Los Angered Studios production, and even on the twentieth listen, I still marvel at the melodies of the characteristically florid leads on "Substitutional World" and the opening track. Attempting to describe this unbelievable sound in mere words is futile: you have to hear it to understand it. The limited first edition also comes with a bonus track: a purely traditional folk song (reminiscent of Storm's old material), and absolutely worth the extra effort obtaining. All I can say is: beg, steal or borrow; this album is worth dying for, stunning cover-art and all! Blows away all of Mithotyn's back catalogue (not an easy thing to do by any standard), proving the change of direction a worthy one. Without a doubt slated to be this year's top power metal release, and definitely one of the most important releases in the history of the genre!
(article published 5/13/2001)
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