Falconer - _Northwind_
(Metal Blade, 2006)
by: Yiannis Stefanis (
The constant search for new musical forms of expression and a tendency towards experimentation should be integral parts of the job description of every well-respected musician. There are times, though, when such decisions do not work to the band's / artist's own benefit, leaving as the only solution a return towards well-tested musical formulae and stylistic approaches. Listening carefully to _Northwind_, I realised that the Gothenburg-based quintet Falconer has definitely had to take some of these considerations into account over these past few months.I remember that the band's previous studio effort, _Grime Vs. Grandeur_, was not what you would call an impressive release -- even though the combination of classic heavy metal riffs with '80s hard rock melodic themes was both interesting and pleasing to my ears. The band's latest offering _Northwind_is not hugely different, with the exception that the folk elements that played a predominant role in the band's first few releases are re-instated here, together with the return of the band's original vocalist Mathias Blad. Effectively, I was given the chance to re-discover Falconer and see whether the fourteen compositions that are featured in _Northwind_will manage to change my initial, somewhat neutral reaction.As far as my attitude towards the band is concerned, "I am afraid that I will have to stick to my original decision" is the phrase that comes to mind. The reason? Throughout it's fifty nine minute duration, _Northwind_managed to remain in my ears a likeable, but average release. It is true that Stefan Weinerhall (guitars) and Co have put quite a lot of effort into creating a picturesque and varied album, by bringing together fast heavy metal riffs with medieval sounding tunes (see "Catch the Shadows") and by presenting what they consider a modern / metal version of traditional Scandinavian songs, sung in their native language ("Himmel Sa Trind").Either way, _Northwind_ does not sound as "dangerous" as I personally believe it should, and this basically has to do with Mathias Blad's vocal performance. The guy is a really good vocalist, but the problem is that he was not asked to sing for an '80s hard rock outfit like Blackfoot, but for a modern epic / heavy sounding band. As a consequence, fast paced riff based compositions (such as the quite catchy "Spirit of the Hawk" and the Omen / Manilla Road-influenced "Blinded") sound quite harmless, allowing less powerful songs like the medieval "Tower of the Queen" and the soft ballad "Long Gone By" to compete for the title of the most important composition of the album.I do not wish to create a wrong impression here: I believe that the guys in Falconer are capable of creating some really good music; but I do not particularly agree with their current choices in terms of musical direction. Bands like Blind Guardian and Skyclad have managed to sound both epic and melodic without sacrificing any of their aggressiveness in the process, and I really hope that I will see a similar approach from Falconer in their future releases. As for _Northwind_, there will be moments when I will enjoy its company, but I am sure that this will not happen very often.
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