FALCONER
"Grime vs. Grandeur"

(Metal Blade)

01. Emotional Skies
02. Purgatory Time
03. I Refuse
04. Humanity Overdose
05. The Assailant
06. Power
07. No Tears for Strangers
08. The Return
09. Jack the Knife
10. Child of the Wild

RATING: 8.5/10

The folk-inflected power metal mastery of FALCONER on "The Sceptre of Deception" was one of the more satisfying discoveries of 2003 for me. As someone who doesn't often enjoy the more epic end of power metal, Stefan Weinerhall (main man and guitarist) and FALCONER impressed me with a blend of folk styles, driving metal, soaring melodies, and intelligent lyrical concept. As such, I eagerly anticipated the band's fourth album, "Grime vs. Grandeur". I was not disappointed.

The songwriting has been taken up several notches, as so many of these tunes feature choruses that become instantaneously etched in the brain. Perhaps this has something to do with superb vocalist Kristoffer Göbel writing a fourth of the music this time around. Whatever it is, the result is a more memorable style of writing, a tighter delivery, and a ferocious metal attack. Even at a fairly lengthy 53 minutes (10 tracks), not a second is wasted. Most of the album features that distinctive FALCONER folk feeling, one that always adds grace and beauty, yet it's only pronounced on a few songs such as "Child of the Wild", as well as sections of certain tracks (the elegant ending to "Humanity Overdose", for example).

Rather than sounding cheesy or annoying, the hundred-voice brothers-in-arms sing-along on a standout track like "Emotional Skies" is endearing. It's one of two songs (the other "Humanity Overdose") that I kept playing over and over again, something I rarely have time to do these days. "No Tears for Strangers" comes in a close third, this time featuring a simple catchy chorus without the backing vocals of a small city's population. The two tracks that aren't quite on par with the remainder of the album, due in a large part to choruses that are a little hokey ("Power" and "Jack the Knife"), still get the hooks in you after a few listens. There are no duds.

Perhaps best of all is that Weinerhall and Göbel have written songs that hit hard from a purely metallic standpoint while retaining the folk vibe and brilliant sense of melody. The axe swinging of Weinerhall and new guy Jimmy Hedlund just plain kills. Karsten Larsson's drumming is powerful as well, the speedy double-bass work making songs like "Purgatory Time" that much mightier. (Snowy Shaw plays drums on "I Refuse"). The engineering work of Andy LaRocque and Weinerhall gives the guitars a fierce bite and the album a full sound (the production was done in partnership with Weinerhall and Göbel).

Stefan Weinerhall has taken his band to new heights and can now rightfully claim it to be one of the genre's best. Wonderful songwriting injected with FALCONER's creative twists and a keen appreciation for the "heavy" part of heavy metal makes "Grime vs. Grandeur" a power metal home run.

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