'From A Dying Ember' Review: Swedish folk metal band Falconer's swansong record is epic, emotive and soaring
Much to their fans' dismay, the band revealed a couple of weeks ago that Falconer would be disbanding, thus making 'From A Dying Ember' their ninth and last studio album
The Swedish folk metal quintet Falconer will release their latest effort ‘From A Dying Ember’ on June 26 via Metal Blade Records, which marks the final chapter in their illustrious 20-year story. As the ninth and last studio album of the band’s journey, ‘From A Dying Ember’ is a record that charts new territory and fully realizes and incorporates the band’s vision of folk-infused heavy metal. In a Facebook post dated June 11, the band members Stefan Weinerhall (guitars), Mathias Blad (vocals), Karsten Larsson (drums), Jimmy Hedlund (lead guitar) and Magnus Linhardt (bass) revealed that they would be hanging up their instruments after this last musical offering, much to the dismay of their fans.
Following up on 2014’s ‘Black Moon Rising’, ‘From A Dying Ember’ is mixed and mastered by Andy LaRocque, guitarist of the seminal band King Diamond at his Sonic Train Studios. According to guitarist Stefan Weinerhall, the band wanted to bring out each element of the Falconer sound and do justice to the nuances of writing folk music. He stated, “Finally, we got the chance to incorporate some keyed fiddle and bagpipe into the music - something that has always been a wish from us, just to get that extra medieval and folky feel to it. The ballad has to be as 'ballady' as ever, the folk song sound as folky as possible...” The album incorporates additional instruments to deliver a listening experience that fans would consider a respectable adieu. As a swansong album, ‘From A Dying Ember’ features some of Falconer’s best melodic work yet and is destined to go down as a classic.
The album opener ‘Kings and Queens’ is a fast-paced song with epic folk metal vibes. Lavish melodies and harmonies are the high points of the song with some fantastic guitar soloing by Hedlund. Larsson is a beast on the drums with some extremely precise double bass drumming and is superbly supported by the equally dextrous Linhardt on bass. Blad's vocal lines are melodic, soaked in expression and emotion. ‘Desert Dreams’ follows next and this is also a fast-paced number with plenty of symphonic metal staples. Larsson’s drumming merits special mention as he absolutely tears up the kit. Featuring lyrics about being lost in the desert while fighting demons that torment on the inside and outside, Blad's storytelling via song is superbly supported by the guitar duo of Weinerhall and Hedlund.
‘Redeem and Repent’ is an up-tempo song that features plenty of melodic sections, expansive orchestration, and Mathias’s voice holding spotlight as he narrates the tale of a jester in the king’s court. Larsson once again shines with his precise and fast drumming. The guitar duo of Weinerhall and Hedlund is in top form again with some beautiful harmonizing and a blitzing solo. With tasty guitar work, plenty of sing-along moments and a memorable chorus, ‘Redeem and Repent' is a great listen.
‘Bland Sump Och Dy’ is a nod to the band’s Swedish roots. The song is an interesting listen as it blends folk elements and symphonic metal to Swedish lyrics and is probably the go-to song on the album when it comes to highlighting the inherent melodic folksiness of Falconer. The theatricality in Blad's voice is utilized to the fullest and the result is a lilting song that sits very nicely in the band's repertoire. ‘Fool’s Crusade’ is the fifth song on the album and is another example of Falconer’s unique brew of folk metal. Blad is the highlight of the song with his powerful yet soothing voice and fantastic range, and the ability to effortlessly transition from intense belted notes to crooning falsettos. The singer adds a certain charm to the delivery that makes Falconer’s music very distinct. The arrangements are lavish in terms of harmony and Larsson’s drumming is impeccable.
‘Garnets and a Gilded Rose’ comes in at number six and this is a rich instrumental piece that incorporates bagpipes and keyed fiddle. Although the band had wanted to do this for many years, it has only come to fruition now. Sitting right at the halfway mark of the album, ‘Garnets and a Gilded Rose’ takes traditional folk music motifs and expands on it using modern guitar vocabulary. The end result is an epic-sounding folk metal track that will leave fans wishing that the song was longer.
‘In Regal Attire’ follows in the path of ‘Garnets and Gilded Roses’, being unabashedly folk in power metal clothing. With guitar work that is reminiscent of bands like Manowar and their myth-obsessed ilk, ‘In Regal Attire’ gives a stomping power metal twist to medieval themes. Weinerhall and Hedlund’s playing is big and booming over the verses and crisp and tasteful during the course of their harmonization. ‘Rejoice The Adorned’ is the eighth track on the album and this is probably Falconer's best and most memorable song on 'FADE' (From A Dying Ember). A full-blown ballad, described by the band as their most intense ever, this track features only piano, strings, and keys. The star of the show is Blad and his remarkable voice that flows through every emotion and key gracefully. The minimalistic musical arrangement highlights Blad's phenomenal voice, highly reminiscent of Marko Saaresto from Poets of the Fall. Flawless falsettos and a measured delivery make this ballad a great listen.
‘Testify’ is next and immediately changes the mood of the album with the return of double bass drumming and guitar riffs. Larsson’s chops are in top form with a lot of pedal-to-the-metal drumming. Tremolo picking and big riffs by the duo of Weinerhall and Hedlund are prominent but the latter's soloing is a definite ear-grabber. Blad's singing is a lot merrier on this track and carries an epic metal vibe throughout. ‘Thrust The Dagger Deep’ is the tenth harmonious song on the album and is unique with its juxtaposition of bagpipes on top of big-riffing guitars. Add a Ray Manzarek-style organ to the mix and the result is a very interesting song about the moment of death, featuring excellent singing as usual from Blad. "Grasp the handle by all means and thrust the dagger deep!"
‘Rapture’ is the album’s final track and also its longest. Crafted originally for Weinerhall’s former band Mithotyn, ‘Rapture’ was rewritten for Falconer. With its incessant double bass drumming and looming guitar work, ‘Rapture’ has all the elements of a black metal epic and is probably Falconer’s closest tryst with the genre that has made plenty of Scandinavian bands famous. The frantic drumming of Larsson and the expansive guitar work by the twin guitarists come to the fore here, with Hedlund playing a topnotch solo on this track. Blad's vocal delivery is also strong, melodic, and poised. ‘Rapture’ closes as a standout track on the album, showcasing all members of the band at their very best. As far as Viking funerals go, this is probably the best swansong that Falconer could have asked for at the end of their sparkling 20-year journey. We wish them all the very best in their future creative endeavors, and their fans will certainly be glad they received such a rich and emotive farewell gift.