Falconer - From a Dying Ember

Falconer From a Dying Ember cover
From a Dying Ember
Metal Blade Records
Well, Falconer begun as a successor to Viking band Mythotin. Multi-instrumentalist Stefan Weinerhall took along drummer Karsten Larsson from his former band and decided to try and do something similar, but with clean vocals, so lo and behold Falconer were born. They’ve been a rather stable band with the only exception of some early lineup changes and the attempt to actually work with a vocalist – after “Chapters From A Vale Forlorn”, which didn’t exactly work out, with keyboardist Mathias Blad, actually returning as the sole vocalist afterwards and Weinerhall assuming keyboard duties as well. With the band having been a studio project for a while, probably due to the diminishing returns and actually disbanding, upon the completion of this album, I suppose the story is over… I mean, in all honesty, while the band wasn’t certainly the worst, but to my ears they always sounded like a nobler Tyr, or Blind Guardian, devoid of the passion, as Blad’s measured delivery might not be at fault, but it feels rather detached from what’s going on.
“Kings and Queens” makes for a unlikely opener, as its driver, celebratory mid-tempo, feels more akin to a closing number rather than an opener. Its chorus is fine, but the maidenesque leads feel rather misplaced, where they are.
“Desert Dreams” begins in a promising way, with quite a nice build, but Blad’s tame vocals barely keep up with the sharp riffing and the shanty like chorus, which is quite nice, could have done with either a more stentorian or balls out delivery.
“Redeem and Repent” has some bard like medieval verses, which sound quite flowery and it’s guitar riffs sound a little too heavy among the frilly power metal... the aforementioned, neutered Blind… Rhapsody syndrome is in full effect here. Sure there’s talent, but a lot of it is misdirected. Which is a shame – as the production job, courtesy of Andy LaRocque, is pretty damn good.
“Bland Sump Ooh Dy” had me thinking WTF? But it’s Swedish… something about Swamps and mud… oh well, it’s nice folklore and here the vocals feel freer, not having to maintain an accent, but it still feels rather tame.
“Fool’s Crusade” intro suffers from being too frilly, only for the track – when it actually begins to be rather heavy, but with vocal that don’t always feel appropriate. Blad tries to sound more commanding, but knowing his limits he shows restraint and that results in a love it or leave it delivery with the takers being as numerous if not fewer than the rest.
“Garnets and a Gilded Rose” is an instrumental that feels like medieval/renaissance fair type of music, like a metal version of Blackmore’s Night… only there’s no vocals on here, which might actually be a blessing n disguise.
“In Regal Attire” has more of the tin whistle melodies and folklore elements on its intro, but quickly abandons them for some riffy out and out metal on which Blad doesn’t actually sound that bad, but he seems to reach the top of his range, thus making the songs’ chorus, end short of having a big, dramatic climax. Close, but no cigar, “Royal Attire”, but no crown.
In fact Blad feels best suited for tunes like “Rejoice the Adorned”, which is a piano ballad, upon which he switches smoothly between real and falsetto voices, for a greatly theatrical effect. But there’s no volume, no passion, no extravagance, things that are paramount in rock and metal.
“Testify” is the exact opposite, a double bass drum power metal number, missing the top end of a singers impressive range to make the “difference” that would elevate it from mediocre to good… well I suppose that and its chorus is not exactly a million dollars either.
“Thrust the Dagger Deep” has some nice eastern melodies, strewn into its fabric – even some moog like keys and due to being more controlled allows for Blad to manage a decent if not completely appropriate delivery.
Actually, it’s the final track, at least on the normal edition “Rapture” with its more restrained pace and prog build that allows the band’s style to actually flourish. They even go into brief spell of black metal like blast beats that are quickly subdued for the band to return to its epic/folk mid-tempo. Here I guess it’s the perfect pacing for Blad’s voice to sound limber enough and in tune with the atmosphere the music is creating…
All in all, an album that doesn’t have a lot to feel jealous about compared to the band’s discography, but then that’s aiming not too high, since the band never managed to really elevate itself to the echelon of power metal, not for lack of inspiration, but probably because they never managed to get to the next level. I suppose, given all the problems that plague musicians in the past couple of decades (rampart piracy/declining sales/buy on tours and now covid-19), it’s only logical they decided to throw in the towel, after twenty or so years of relative stagnation. While you never know, I imagine only fans will be surprised or would have had more appreciation for what’s coming from a dying ember.