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Falconer - "Among Beggars And Thieves" (CD)

Falconer - "Among Beggars And Thieves" CD cover image

"Among Beggars And Thieves" track listing:

1. Field Of Sorrow (5:36)
2. Man Of The Hour (3:57)
3. A Beggar Hero (2:08)
4. Vargaskall (4:20)
5. Carnival Of Disgust (4:05)
6. Mountain Men (4:39)
7. Viddernas Man (3:44)
8. Pale Light Of Silver Moon (4:06)
9. Boiling Led (4:58)
10. Skula, Skorpa, Skalk (3:51)
11. Dreams And Pyres (7:46)

Reviewed by on March 23, 2009

"There’s still the focus on bards and beggars, but the instrumentals are fiercer, and an interest in castes and legends is no longer a prerequisite."

In 2005, Falconer suffered a whirlwind of backlash after they ditched lead singer Mathias Blad and released "Grime vs. Grandeur." The Swedish band known for its medieval themes and folk/power metal tunes that cater to Lord of the Rings and Live Action Role Playing crowds, decided that perhaps they made a mistake by installing Kristoffer Gobel on vocals, who brought with him a gruff, more traditional metal sound.

Fortunately, Falconer reinstated original vocalist Mathias Blad, and has finally decided to mend fences with American audiences with their first U.S. release since 2005, "Among Beggars And Thieves."

Most Falconer fans still believe that their debut album was their strongest, but "Among Beggars And Thieves" is probably Falconer’s best effort overall, in that it has appeal for more mainstream power and speed metal fans as well. Sure, there’s still the focus on bards and beggars, but the instrumentals are fiercer, and an interest in castes and legends is no longer a prerequisite.

Though the opening track, "Field Of Sorrow," begins with a hushed Celtic flute, just as you reach to turn up the dial, you’re bombarded by power drums pummeled at turbo speed. This track, as well as "Man Of The Hour," show off Falconer’s ability to transition between folk, power, and melodic warrior metal, while rarely missing a beat.

And while usually I’m the first to complain about synthesizers, they actually complement the tracks on this album, and do an especially good job of taking over the pagan innuendo in "Man Of The Hour."

"Vargaskall," which as near as I can figure, translates "wolf hunt," adds a touch of symphonic metal similar to Kamelot, which slowly leads into an instrumentally focused power cadence. This is also a good tune for fans of warrior themed music.

The return of Mathias on lead vocals helps return Falconer to the glory days of their first album. His melodic, mid-range vocals are especially good on the a capella folk ballad "Carnival Of Disgust," as are his duets on "A Beggar Hero" and the incredible final track, "Dreams And Pyres."

Though the ending is all that nay sayers of the genre hate, "Dreams And Pyres" is a great closing track. With its cinematic scope, listeners can actually feel the rise of the waves and preparations for the lighting of the funeral pyre. The classic piano epic lulls you into happy complacency before an unexpected mach speed power metal interruption that leaves the listener on a high as the album comes to a close.

So while fans may have had to suffer a down period during Gobel’s reign, one thing his presence did was help Falconer earn a spot in the world of respectable power metal bands. By adding a tad of his earthy, deep vocal style on tracks like "Mountain Men," and a heavier sound overall, Falconer has managed to keep the good from a not so good period, and combine it with the best that prodigal son Mathias Blad can offer, which is pretty excellent.

Highs: Folk-infused synth complements tunes without drowning them out, and the return of Blad makes for a happy reunion.

Lows: One or two minor missteps as the tempo changes from folk to full-throttle power.

Bottom line: A great game changer for a band that had been chalked up to minstrel cheese by some.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)