Sometime back, I purchased a Falconer album titled `Grime vs Grandeur' and was not too enamoured by the music as there are countless Swedish bands that have adopted the same `production line' style, which has been repeated countless times before. In light of this, I filed the album away in my music collection under the belief that I would sell it off at a later date, time permitting of course. I have since re-visited the album, but am still left with the same feelings, as before, realising the music within somehow did not capture my imagination or attention. Whilst surfing the net searching for new music, I subsequently discovered that a reasonable amount of positive focus had been placed on the latest offering from Falconer titled `Northwind'. Always willing to give a band a second chance, I took the unprecedented step and purchased a copy of the said album. Wow, money well spent; as I am totally smitten, with how fast this band has progressed since the deplorable `Grime vs Grandeur' release. I think they have sat back and seriously taken stock of their song-writing prowess and the general direction of the band.
The most notable change is in the vocal department, with original vocalist, Mathias Blad, returning to the fold and this is exactly what Falconer needed after a few jaded releases with ex-vocalist Kristoffer Göbel. Ironically, Göbel was Blad's replacement a few years previously. An Iron Maiden scenario going on here with the Dickinson/ Bayley saga! As I have never had any exposure to the vocals of Blad before, he has a uniquely different voice, almost silky in places, well controlled and his annunciation is immeasurable without a trace of an accent. I am left of the opinion that he has received vocal training (dare I say opera - maybe I am wrong there!) at some point in his career, as his talent is abundantly clear. To best appreciate the beauty of Blad's voice, the semi-ballad `Waltz with the Dead' demonstrates just how controlled he is vocally, by using such great pitch and tone and singing with such heartfelt emotion. What about the music then on `Northwind'? This is melodic mid-paced power metal, with folky melodies interwoven over each track, huge choruses and the lyrics have a slight medieval feel to the proceedings - not in the same vein as Rhapsody though. From a lyrical standpoint, they need examining far closer as they delve headfirst into the reality side of things.
For instance, `Perjury And Sanctity' talks about the sins of what I assume is the Catholic Church, `Delusion' deals with war and religion, `Home Of The Knave' is a combination of history, the crusades and how the current United States administration is a player on the world stage. Guitarist Stefan Weinerhall is the main lyricist and he writes from a very interesting perspective. The lyrics have almost a hidden or double message that is clearly open to interpretation for the attentive listener or reader - very clever! The guitar relationship between Stefan Weinerhall and Jimmy Hedlund is equally striking, with some rather outstanding leads and solo work. Unfortunately, if listening to heavy-laden riffs is your forte, then look elsewhere as there are none on this album as the guitar work wanders toward the melodic/harmonious side.
The robust rhythm section of drummer Karsten Larsson and bassist Magnus Linhardt is great and they are rock solid in their playing. Upon listening to this album on several occasions, I am left with the feeling that extra emphasis has been put into the song writing as these songs are well constructed and there is no joker in this pack. Each song on `Northwind' is immense in its own right, some easier to absorb and appreciate than others on first listen, but with time the whole album crystallizes perfectly together. In concluding, this is a beautiful piece of musical art, from the stunning vocals of Mathias Blad who has impressed me to no end, the collective musicianship of all band members, the razor-sharp production and the superior song writing. Like me, fans that have not been too impressed with the work of Falconer in the past, should give this band a second chance as this is a decent slab of melodic power metal. Fellow Swedes, Mind's Eye, have just released an absolute opus titled; `A Gentleman's Hurricane' and I believe `Northwind' has the same redeeming qualities as this album for those of you that have had the pleasure of hearing it.