Falconer‘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.
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”