Falkenbach_AsaThere’s music meant for a summer drive with the top down (old Van Halen), hitting the weights hard (Slayer, Pantera) and a night of hard-drinking in sketchy beer mills (Fireball Ministry, Orange Goblin). Likewise, the new slice of folksy Viking metal from Falkenbach proves perfect for chopping wood in the brisk Fall air. While I recognize “wood chopping” or “lumberjack” metal is an under-served medium [Possibly for… reasons. – AMG], I feel confident saying this is the finest chopper metal I’ve heard all year.

As a long time fan of Markus Tummers (AKA Vratyas Vakyas) and his one-man project, I consider output like …En Their Medh Riki Fara and …Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri to be essential moments in the history of the Viking/folk genre. I was however, underwhelmed by the re-recorded demo material on Heralding — the Fireblade and let down by 2011’s Tirurida (which felt rushed and incomplete, despite a few quality moments). Thankfully, wise old Vakyas made a course correction and Asa is a triumphant return to the pyre dancing, Wotan humping days of yore. Channeling the Hammerheart era of Bathory, the folksy atmospherics of Ulver and SIG:AR:TYR and the majestic power of Moonsorrow, Asa gives the people exactly what they want in their Viking metal: epic flavored power and loads of festive (but not too festive) folk. Catchy and full of stoic ambience, this is the stuff that put Falkenbach on the map in the first place.

Asa is a very well structured album and offers several variants of the Falkenbach sound. You get moody folk numbers like “Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan,” “Mijn Laezt Wourd” and “Eweround,” all of which channel classic Ulver, while “Mijn Laezt Wourd” also co-opts the larger-than-life vibe of Moonsorrow, including all the requisite background chanting and clean sung folk melodies you’d expect. All of these traditional folk numbers work well by creating a somber, edgy vibe that makes them seem heavier than they really are (most are entirely clean-sung with nary a croak or bark). When the music gets harder and more blackened on “I Nattens Stilta,” “Stikke Wound” and “Wulfarweijd,” things remain oddly catchy, with “Wulfarweijd” almost qualifying as the J-Pop version of Viking metal. They also provide light and buoyant fare on “Bluot Fuer Bluot” replete with hop-along flute lines, and some uplifting and hopeful strains on “Ufirstanan Folk.”

Falkenbach_2013The mixture of these different ingredients keeps Asa flowing and the shifting moods and tempos easily hold the listener’s attention. None of the songs achieve skull-busting heaviness, but that was never where Falkenbach‘s strengths resided anyway. Tummers has always been adept at manipulating the feeling within his songs and whether heavy or simply folkish, he wrings all the emotion from his compositions and weaves a mesmerizing spell. At times his music almost has an improvisational feel to it, as if you were hearing the spontaneous creations of bards around a campfire, and this leads to a warm, organic sensibility which enhances the overall experience and increases the hypnotic quality.

Tummers does everything himself and turns in an impressive performance all around. His clean folk singing (in old Icelandic and Germanic tongues) is very good, especially his dramatic baritone on “Eweround” and his vocal patterns on “Mijn Laezt Wourd.” His emotional delivery is sincere, but never overblown. His blackened croak is also convincing, though a bit under-utilized. His acoustic guitar work is always a pleasure and he manages to keep it engaging, though at times the layered harmonies can overpower. I’m unsure if Tummers laid down the drum tracks or if they were programmed, but they sound legit and I’m willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

My issues with Tiurida were the overall lack of power, the less-than-compelling writing and how it felt like background music. Asa corrects all these problems and every song is engaging, memorable and enchanting in its own way. I wish it was a bit heavier and featured more of the blackened edge of olde, but those days may be gone for good. Asa is still addicting and gets better with every spin and it’s really good to have Falkenbach… back! It just didn’t feel right swinging the axe without em.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: facebook.com/falkenbach
Release Dates: EU: 2013.11.01  |  NA: 11.05.2013

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  • Harley

    Good review. Good album as well. I gave it 7/10. Definitely a solid effort.

  • Really happy to see a positive review. I wasn’t able to get into Tiurida either, but will be looking forward to checking out Asa!

    • OzanCan

      Where His Ravens Fly song from Tiurida is, IMO, absolutely great

      • I’ll give it a listen!

    • Tiurida had some good stuff, but also some flat stuff.

  • Antoine Roth

    Well, this made me want to check it out, and also revisit their back catalog, thanks :)! Btw, I actually really enjoyed Heralding (which is I think the only album he recorded with a full band), but I might find it less good after listening to his prior output.

  • Juular

    THis looks like a blast.

  • OzanCan

    FINALLY!!!! The joyous hymns to my ears, ohh the grand celebrations for Midgard…

  • Christofer

    Must check this one out if its better than Tiurida which I really like.

  • Nice! I will be getting this, It’ll be refreshing. I love to play this type of folk metal in the winter time, it goes well with a cold day. I have some quality memories of taking the train home from work in the snow and listening to stuff like Jordpuls.

  • RU63

    I don’t swing an axe at work, but this is great technical writing music!

    • Son, get yourself an axe!

      • OzanCan

        FOR ASGARD!!!!!
        (a mindless scream from a bloodthirsty Einherjar)

  • euthanatos

    Interesting review, although I’m not sure I fully agree with it, because I enjoyed Tiurida a lot, thought it was really inspired. And, quite the opposite as you wrote, I thought Asa seemed a bit forced. Probably a matter of taste. But great read, though.

    • I didn’t think Tiurida was bad per se, just not up to the standards of the prior works. Thanks for the kind words!!

  • Feytalist

    Wow, I totally didn’t know about Falkenbach’s newest. Once again AMG puts me on the right track.
    I was a bit disappointed with Tiurida (not that there wasn’t one or two great songs on there), but …Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri… is still one of my favourite albums ever.
    Shame that Vratyas Vakyas doesn’t do more screams these days. I always thought he had a great expressive voice.
    Anyway, thanks for the review! I’m getting the album right the hell now.

  • TminusEight

    Love it. And thanks for the great review, as always Steel Druhm!

  • MeatWolf

    The album is a bit controversial if you listen to the standard piece and is very very good if you listen to the whole piece with 4 bonus songs added. I absolutely adore the viking/folk part of it save for maybe Ufirstanan Folk and Bluot Fuër Bluot, but the things like Eweroun, Mijn Laezt Wourd or En Lintinbluitin Faran… are absolutely magical. The viking/black part is a bit more tought for me and I definitely don’t like I Nattens Stilta and Stikke Wound, although the other things are still mostly pleasing. The sound quality is absolutely flawless, I enjoyed some crystal clear moments of clarity along the way.

    As for the line-up, ever since Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty Falkenbach is actually a 4-piece band with Tyrann doing the screams (and there are a lot of screams on this one) Hagalaz doing the additional guitar parts and Boltthorn doind the drums (no they are not programmed). You can check the real names on MetalArchives. So Vratyas is the sole mastermind but not the sole player which is a good thing.

    I think Tiurida could have been better if the 2nd half was a bit more well-thought. This album actually follows the same path but there you have 4 salvational songs to make it up for. Still, Tiurida had Runes Shall You Know which is almost as perfect as Eweroun (which you called EwerounD :P). …Where His Ravens Fly…, Time Between Dog and Wolf and Tanfana were quite great too but then after Runes Shall You Know there’s a letdown.

    I ultimately gave this album 3.5 but I am still thinking of 4 as well.

    • Matus Dust

      Actually, metal archives states “Vratyas Vakyas – All instruments, Vocals”. The screams are pretty familiar and to me sound exactly the same as on previous albums (even pre Heralding), so it would be surprising, if it was done by someone else. Aren’t they just session/live musicians?

      • MeatWolf

        Asa booklet reads as follows:

        Vratyas Vakyas

        Nikos Mavridis

        They are more than session musicians already. The guys have been around since ~2003, I guess. And Vratyas himself says in an interview that they are long-time friends.

        Also Falkenbach never played live, the first gig might be scheduled for next year but still nothing is certain yet.

      • MeatWolf

        Here’s a quote from an interview:

        “Chad Bowar: Did you use the same session musicians on Heralding – The Fireblade as you did on the last album?
        Vratyas Vakyas: Yes, again Boltthorn (drums), Hagalaz (acoustic guitars) and Tyrann (screams) helped Falkenbach out for the recordings of the last album.”

        Back in 2003 Vratyas said these guys are just session musicians as he wants to hold direct control over every songwriting part and he’s fine with them being just that. In some post-Tiurida interview he said Hagalaz came up with a riff for Sunnavend and Tyrann wrote lyrics for one song (‘Time Between Dog and Wolf’).

        Also here’s an excerpt from another interview dd. 2013:

        “That’s correct, except for the production, as I entered a regular studio back then, too. In the time between the 2nd and the 3rd album, I got to know Bolthorn, Hagalaz and Tyrann, as well as I decided to move to another studio, where Hagalaz worked. First of all, I just wanted to remove the drum-computer, something I was looking for all the years since the very beginning, and that’s how Bolthorn became part of a Falkenbach recording for the first time. Tyrann, being a real friend of mine (as well as Bolthorn and Hagalaz) comes up with the best screams I know, and as the 3rd album just had one song with screams, it’s been a short way to ask him about it. Hagalaz, working at the studio, and producing the whole album anyway, became automatically part of the recordings, adding a small solo guitar here, acoustic guitar there, etc. Since those days their presence in the songs increased, they have been part of every Falkenbach song recorded, and even contributed a riff here and then (Hagalaz for Sunnavend) or the lyrics for “Time between Dog & Wolf” (Tyrann). I hope this won’t change in the future, as they’re an inherent part of Falkenbach, not just for studio recordings, but also for playing live, and for sure people I use to call my friends.”

    • Amy

      “I absolutely adore the viking/folk part of it save for maybe Ufirstanan Folk”

      I can’t believe this, Ufirstanan Folk was my absolute favorite on the album.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    A great review, and a perfect album to listen to in Autumn/Winter. Falkenbach never fail to deliver!