Falconer - Black Moon Rising 01Falconer‘s 2011 record Armod was not only my introduction to the band’s music, but to AMG as well. I don’t remember how I stumbled across our eponymous overlord’s review, but I’m glad I did: Armod, while not perfect, was a mighty fine helping of power metal with a moderate and effective folk influence. This year, Falconer released their follow-up to Armod in the form of Black Moon Rising, and I’m going to come full circle sphere by writing about it here on AMG.

Right off the bat, Black Moon Rising makes it quite clear that Falconer only had one Armod in them. This album is sung entirely in English, and much of Armod‘s folk-y bits are gone, putting the emphasis back on the metal elements in the Falconer sound, which is where the band excels. Guitarist Stefan Weinerhall has a propensity towards writing great, catchy power metal riffs, and lead guitarist Jimmy Hedlund has a seemingly endless supply of great solos to play over them. Mattias Blad’s theatrical, distinctive, and relatively deep vocals worked well with Armod‘s plentiful folk moments, but they were downright brilliant over the heavier segments, which Black Moon Rising has in spades.

Highlights are plentiful on Black Moon Rising, and although nothing here reaches the ridiculous high of Armod‘s “Fru Silfver” (although “Locust Storm” comes close), Falconer haven’t lost a step here. “In Ruins” features an amazing pre-chorus with the best riff on an album chock-full of great ones, “Wasteland” sports a chorus that could be repeated for five minutes straight and I still wouldn’t be sick of it, and “There’s a Crow on the Barrow” features some Blind Guardian worship in it’s extended bridge that holds its own alongside those Germans’ top shelf material, replete with a solo from Hedlund that made me bust out the trusty ol’ air guitar in celebration of it’s awesomeness. There are flaws, of course: “Scoundrel and the Squire” sees Blad using his higher range in a bad way which damages parts of the song, and “At the Jester’s Ball,” while still good, isn’t exactly Falconer‘s strongest material. Thankfully, the good vastly outweighs the not-as-good, and Black Moon Rising comes out a definite winner.

Falconer - Black Moon Rising 02

Regarding production, Andy LaRoque did a great job with the guitars on Black Moon Rising. Blad’s low-pitched vocals call for lower tuned guitars, and LaRocque put a nice crunch behind Weinerhall’s riffs that really emphasize the plentiful heavy moments, and while it is essentially and update of his work on Armod, the improvement is noticeable. Hedlund’s leads sound fantastic as well, with a smooth sound that lets the intricacies of his playing shine through. Unfortunately, LaRoque’s mastering job is a bit loud, and Karsston Larsson’s expertly played drums suffer a bit for it with less impactful kicks and some washed-out sounding cybmal crashes.

While it isn’t perfect, Black Moon Rising is a minor step up over the already great Armod, and if you’re looking for a refreshingly heavy and aggressive take on power metal, it’s a mandatory listen. These are great, memorable songs from a distinctive band, and this makes Black Moon Rising is one of the best albums of 2014.

Tracks to Check: “Locust Storm,” “There’s a Crow on the Barrow,” “Age of Runes,” “Wasteland”

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  • Kryopsis

    Impressive: three articles and it’s only the beginning of the month. Great way to start 2015, DiM!

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Thanks Kryopsis! I aim to please.

      • Kryopsis

        So having listened to the album a few times, I definitely agree with your assessment. ‘Locust Swarm’ is undeniably the highlight of the album and one of the best Power Metal songs I ever heard. ‘Black Moon’ Rising’ and ‘There’s a Crow on the Barrow’ are also enjoyable but not quite as remarkable as the first track.

        The rest of the album is a mixed bag. I pretty much always skip ‘Scoundrel and the Squire’ but the intro on ‘At the Jester’s Ball’ is excellent even when the rest of the song falls short. ‘Wasteland’ is surprisingly heavy and satisfying but the remaining tracks simply blur in my mind. Basically ‘Locus Swarm’ really carries the album and the rest are just pleasant additions.

        I was never really a Falconer fan and yet I find myself enjoying ‘Black Moon Rising’. There are very few Power Metal bands that do not aim to overwhelm the listener with gooey walls of processed cheese so it’s always exciting to stumble upon a ‘Black Moon Rising’ or a ‘Valkyrja’. It’s definitely a Thing I Missed in 2014 and I really appreciate your write-up, DiM.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Thanks for the kind words! I felt about how you felt about this with ‘Valkyrja’: few really good songs, couple of weak ones (that ballad with Liv Kristine was bad), and a first track that really carried the album.

          I love the cheese of power metal sometimes, but what Falconer does really did it for me. Glad I could help you and some others find something cool from what was seemingly a bad year (I disagree, but to each their own), and I appreciate comments like this that bring a lot to the discussion, so thank you! Cheers!

  • DukeJohn

    Decent album, although I think the other 4 english albums with Blad are slightly better. I never really got into Armod, for some reason.

    I don’t listen to a lot of metal with clean vocals, but when I do, this is how I like ’em.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      I’m the opposite, the only two Falconer records I really got into were this and Armod. Blad is a great vocalist for what they do (most of the time), so we can agree on that!

      • Noobhammer

        You should really give their earlier work another chance man! I remember discovering them by chance while going through my station’s CD library and getting hooked the moment I played “Decades of Decadence” off of Chapters.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          I think my extremely positive opinion on Armod soured me on those albums when I went on a Falconer binge way back in 2011. I’ll have to check their back catalog out again, as Blad’s vocals and great riffs is always a welcome combination. Apparently he’s in musical theater as well, would definitely like to see the guy onstage in that context.

  • Mikko Ojanen

    I loved Falconer on their first two albums, and then they kinda fell off my radar for a time. I mean I was glad to hear Blad had returned and I really liked Northwind, and gave Among Beggars and Thieves its share of listens too, but I never got REALLY back into them.

    That is, until I got Black Moon Rising and suddenly realised I’d barely been listening to anything else for a few days. Such a bloody fantastic album. The riffs are awesome and the new crunchier guitar sound works perfectly. There’s such new energy to this album, the like they haven’t had in ages, or ever even.

    Absolutely one of the top albums of 2014, and possibly the couple previous years too.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      It definitely has that effect. Seems pretty good at first, and then before you know it you’re listening to the whole thing over again. It scratched an itch I never even knew I had.

    • Jono_M

      I’m with you. I wasn’t too big on Falconer for a few years, then I started up Locust Swarm and knew I had to get the album.

  • Wilhelm

    I had no idea Blad returned. I love their first two albums, but after he left they kind of fell into the generic power metal category (for me at least). this sounds pretty awesome!

  • Wilhelm

    I’m so old, I remember when they were Mithotyn.

    • Arsath

      Mithotyn is so kvlt its not even funny. King of the Distant Forest made me fall in love with them.

  • Noobhammer

    I love Falconer!! Chapters from a Vale Forlorn is one of my favorite albums. It’s catchy, cheesy, and rifftastic. The holy trifecta of power metal.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I had thought 2014 was a great year for lovers of Death Metal and Blackened Metal but not such a great year for Power metal fans…Though I had completely missed this, will give it a good go thanks for the tip.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Glad I could help! And I thought 2014 was a pretty great year, honestly. I spent much of the year being wowed by stuff I’d never heard of or didn’t expect to reach the heights it did though, so there’s that.

      • Kryopsis

        Take Alestorm, for instance… (Just kidding, I actually own the album and listened to it several times this week.)

        I completely agree with Carlos, I do not think 2014 had many good Powermetal albums so I’m both excited and apprehensive about the upcoming Blind Guardian album. It’s probably going to be terrible though.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Alestorm will be for me what Jorn is for Druhm, I can see it now. It’s a great album though, still gets regular spins from me, and that acoustic EP that came with it is fantastic too. And the new Blind Guardian song is awesome, haven’t heard the full thing yet, but with how good At the Edge of Time was and the strength of the single (plus, it’s Hansi!), I’m pretty excited for it.

  • Antoine Roth

    I enjoyed this album quite a bit, even though it’s definitely not as good as Armod and has a few week tracks. Still really good overall, and The Locust Swarm is one of the best songs of the year alright. Black Moon Rising and Crow on the Barrow are great too.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      “Locust Swarm” gets stuck in my head for about a week each time I hear it. While Armod was more conceptually rich and varied, I found this one to be full of killer riffs and hooks, and I prefer Blad’s vocals over the heavier segments. It’s great to see such varied opinions on Falconer of all bands though, just goes to show the quality of their music.

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    Not my cup of tea, but Power Metal fans will no doubt enjoy this album.

  • OzanCan

    Another hit for me! Now awaiting a review for new Eluveitie album from AMG m/

  • “Once beloved by AMG Himself, is Falconer still the adorable moppet it once was?”

    I need to say, btw, that while I loved Armod, I definitely thought it was a fluke and desired them to move in a more folky direction (and to continue singing in Swedish). I’ve never been convinced by any of their English language stuff, even if I do really love the music at times.

  • Brian Kelly

    falconer is one of the top all-time bands, every cd is great with only ‘the sceptre of deception’ being a little weaker. of course that was with the other singer too. nothing else really needs to be said about them, i just expect every cd from them to be great & they always are.

    regarding this review, i think scoundrel & the squire is one of the best songs on the cd, extremely catchy, and the fact that its pretty short makes you wanna listen to it multiple times. it may have been cool on that one to have a minute long solo or two thrown in to make it longer, and then come back to the chorus at the end. & its not like the vocals are really high-pitched or anything. they kind of contrast against the lower/heavier riffs in that song.

  • Eryops

    Back when Napster first took off, it really opened the genre for me (growing up in isolated Northern Ontario). One day I went to sort what I had downloaded, and there were all these songs from three bands I had never heard of, and had no recollection of downloading – Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, and Falconer (their first self-titled album). Needless to say I was blown away and never looked back (and have since legally procured many of their albums (except for Iced Earth, which never really took root in my fields of metal)).