Falconer’s Final Clarion Call: From A Dying Ember

I’m not sure where else to begin other than my own feelings in talking about Falconer’s newest, and seemingly last album, the appropriately titled From A Dying Ember. I’m saddened that we’re losing one of power metal’s leading lights —- scratch that, one of metal’s leading lights (and most unheralded). This is a band that I first discovered in 2001 thanks to that eternal program the Metal Meltdown on Cleveland’s WRUW hosted by my friend Dr. Metal. He was playing “Mindtraveller” of course, from their flawless debut album and I was immediately struck by how different this band sounded to the handfuls of other power metal bands that show had introduced me to. The singer wasn’t screaming full force into the microphone like a raging hellion ala Dickinson or Halford, his voice was reserved, smooth, and dare I say calm at points in it’s delivery and phrasing, very unmetal-like. I didn’t know at the time that said vocalist, Mathias Blad, was in fact a theater actor with no metal background whatsoever. His unorthodox vocal approach in conjunction with the band’s extra meaty riffs set to darker, folkier melodies, resulted in a heavier sound that hinted at influences that weren’t from the Helloween power metal family. And somehow it all just worked.

The band obviously wasn’t the same on those two mid-career records when Mathias had left and the rest of the band wanted to make a run at becoming a touring band. There were some good songs here and there (“Emotional Skies” in particular is a gem), as a songwriting talent like Stefan Weinerhall is a fount of inspiration even in less than ideal artistic circumstances. But it was clear that Blad was the key missing ingredient to make Falconer’s music so special and unique amidst the metal landscape. He returned and the band knocked out Northwind and Among Beggars and Thieves in quick succession, two albums that were to me just as magical and magnificent as the debut and Chapters From A Vale Forlorn. Then we got the unique and ultra-heavy experiment in all Swedish lyrics on Armod, an album that brought back the band’s extreme metal roots ala Mithotyn with some of the most punishingly heavy, and dare I say blackened songs ever. It was followed up with Black Moon Rising, an album that has aged far better than it’s initial impression would have suggested it would, some of its songs coming alive to when I came back to it years later. But that’s hardly surprising. Falconer’s gift was that they could be both instantaneous and yet rich in depth, some songs taking awhile to offer up their brilliance. Some people still don’t understand just how magnificent “Pale Light of A Silver Moon” is from Among Beggars, with that wordlessly joyful guitar explosion from the 1:05-1:37 mark. Some have yet to realize that Northwind contains one of the most emotionally engaging ballads in the metal genre ever in “Long Gone By”, a song so wistful and stirring that it’s hard not to be caught off guard by it every listen.

The band admirably enhances their incredible artistic legacy with the eleven songs on From A Dying Ember, which according to Weinerhall was written with an aim to be the most classic-molded Falconer album ever. He recently stated that he wanted to “…concentrate on having all Falconer elements present and really make sure that each element got full devotion. For example, the ballad should be as “ballady” as ever, and the folk song should sound as folky as possible, etc.” That meant that all the elements we loved the most about their work in the past would be amplified and stressed on this record, and it does come across that way. The opener “Kings And Queens” and “Redeem and Repent” are confident mid-tempo gems with plenty of thick slabs of chunky riffs balanced out with bright, lucid guitar melodies, reminiscent of material off the debut album. And I get shades of “Mindtraveller” in the accelerated pacing of the single “Desert Dreams”, which is at once catchy as all get out and entirely unusual in its unorthodox rhythmic structure. This is a stunning song by the way, a late career diamond that would have fit in on the debut or Chapters just fine, and its apex moment comes at the 3:35-3:50 mark when Blad drops in some overlaid vocals that add a wallop of satisfying emotion to an already brilliant chorus. I was driving around when I first listened to this song, and right around when Blad hit that extension on the end of “…the more I will looooooose”, I believe my exact exclamation was “Mathias you magnificent bastard!”. Stefan was certainly right on the money about having the folky song be as folky as possible, because “Bland Sump Och Dy” sounds like it could have been on Armod were it not for its slower, waltz-y tempo. It occurs to me that this is likely as close as we get to hearing what Blad sounds like when he’s singing at his gig with the theater company in Sweden. What’s so striking to notice here is how little difference there is in his vocal style here to the much heavier follow-up track “Fool’s Crusade”. Despite the latter’s near tremolo-sounding attack and its largely aggressive bent, Blad is smooth and in control as ever, even during the “…Crush the dream / And wake up / Ignorant One…. tension build and release sequence at the 3:07 mark.

The most ballady Falconer ballad that Stefan was referring to earlier is the showstopper “Rejoice the Adorned”, a piano and Blad affair that is extra potent in its tear-jerking capabilities due not only to the amazing vocal performance we’re treated to, but for the recognition of finality in those lyrics about loss and remembrance. I’m aware that it wasn’t written to be an epigraph on the band, but that’s how I’m internalizing it presently. It is on the same heartbreaking level as “Portals of Light”? Well, few things are, and it’s a different flavor of melancholy, but it’s a fine song for the band to bow out on as their last ballad. On the opposite end of things, there’s a pure metal jam on “Rapture”, the album’s final track (and I guess the career closer too), a visceral reminder how just how damn heavy and thundering this band can be despite their theatrical leanings. Stefan’s longtime co-founding bandmate drummer Karsten Larsson delivers a pummeling, primal performance here, a reminder of just how integral a part of the band’s sound he was all these years with powerful drumming in inventive, unrelenting fashion. I wanna take a sec to recognize bassist Magnus Linhardt, who as always is an audible and integral part of these songs, providing that rumbling foundation that cements nearly all of Falconer’s music in the heavier realm of sound. He’s been with the band since 2004, as has the wildly inimitable Jimmy Hedlund, whose lead guitarwork throughout the years I hold in as much esteem as Andrea Martongelli from Power Quest and Andre Olbrich from… well you know where. Hedlund’s style is infused with a shredder’s touch, but he incorporates it in fits and bursts into playing that is expressive, lyrical, and a complement to Stefan’s intense rhythm guitarwork.

I realize that this is probably sounding less like a review than the gushings of a fanboy, and I can admit that’s probably true. My consensus on this album is that its instantly more enjoyable than Black Moon Rising, far more “classic” Falconer than I ever expected the band could accomplish, although they’ve never really strayed far from what made them great in the first place. As a swan song, it’s everything a fan could hope for, and that its so accomplished also lends an air of gravity around the whole thing —- they’re going out on top. And when a band ends on a great record, and I do believe From A Dying Ember is a legit great Falconer record, a part of you can’t help but wonder what else they could accomplish in the future if they just stuck around a bit more. I said it at the top… I’m really saddened that the band is ending. I know that there are others who feel the same way, and I suppose on behalf of all of us, I should declare how grateful I am that we’re getting this fine of a send off. The gap between this release and the previous record is about six years, the longest between Falconer releases by a long shot. And to their credit, they saw this album through when they could have easily just talked away quietly a few years ago after they had made it clear there were going to be no more live gigs. This band has been a part of my life for nearly twenty years now, providing the soundtrack to so many days and nights, I really do feel like there’s a sense of loss I’m processing… and yes I realize that sounds overly dramatic but I’m just being honest here. I’ll blame my already stressed out emotional state for that, having been so busted to the floor already by the pandemic/lockdown and everything that came with it. This band always deserved more fans, more appreciation during their time for not only their uniqueness, but for their metal as hell resolution to do things their way, even if it meant being a studio project. I’ll just end this by expressing how grateful I am to be one of the few to have heard the clarion call. Thanks for the music Falconer.

Falconer Rising: The Return of Power Metal’s Best Kept Secret

If you’ve been needing something to be thankful for lately, here’s something: Stefan Weinerhall, guitarist/songwriter of power metal’s mighty Falconer is still writing and recording music. I only bring this up because it appears that this was in doubt for quite a long period of time following the release of the band’s last album, 2011’s Armod. For a short while, all we had to go on in terms of evidence that points to this was Weinerhall’s own cryptically worded message in the latest press release announcing their new album, in which he stated, “After an eight-month complete break from music on the verge of quitting it, I finally returned with a feeling of hunger, power and commitment to the songwriting.” But in a recent interview with Zach Fehl of Metal Insider, Weinerhall expanded on that slightly by making reference to the years since Armod being punctuated by personal tragedies, the pluralization there seemingly emphasizing just how much of a personal crossroads Weinerhall found himself at. But he explains that the time apart from music made the heart grow fonder, as it does, and nostalgia kicked in for him and the result was a journey back through music, resulting in the eighth and newest Falconer album, Black Moon Rising. I’m glad that Weinerhall made it back from his personal and musical abyss, because there are power metal bands by the dozens and dozens, but none of them sound anything like Falconer. They are one of power metal’s uncut emeralds amidst ordinary gems.


Some of you might remember my earlier feature on Falconer, in which I aimed to present to the reader ten select cuts from the band’s discography in an attempt to make a fan out of them. It also might have demonstrated that my love of the band has run long and deep, and that the promise of a new Falconer album is a major metal event in my world. I’ll preface my comments on Black Moon Rising by saying that I found Armod to be a satisfying listen, if not an ultimately compelling one. I think part of it was that the Swedish language vocals were somewhat inhibiting for a band that I’m normally accustomed to understanding every word and syllable (with Mathias Blad’s non-metal, theatrical approach towards singing, that vocal clarity has become something of a band trademark —- it’s “absence” was noticeable). The other factor might have been that Armod was distinctively heavier, faster, and more aggressive than any other album in the band’s discography up til that point, even at times approaching the stylistic tendencies found in black metal (blastbeats anyone?). It heralded the full realization of a musical shift that had started to develop on 2008’s Among Beggars and Thieves, on songs like the excellent “Pale Light of Silver Moon”. I wasn’t opposed to Falconer getting faster or more aggressive —- they were always a heavy band from their debut onwards, but where songs on Among Beggars and Thieves would merely dabble in a little extra ooomph, Armod went whole hog with it and the classic melodic trademarks we were all used to got pushed to the wayside.


With all the previous talk of nostalgia and a band returning from the brink of death, you’d expect Black Moon Rising to come off as a slice of classic Falconer (and if you need a discography reference point, I’m referring to the triumvirate of Falconer, Chapters of a Vale Forlorn, and Northwind), but startlingly enough this album sounds like its picking up exactly where Armod left off in terms of musical direction and overall aggressiveness. Yes I know its sung in English and that should make it different enough, and on the whole its a fairly good album, but its not a great album —- its missing so much of what makes a classic Falconer album. The last of those classics, Northwind, was a diverse collection of songs with different tempos, styles, dynamics, and ever changing song structures. A frenzied track like “Spirit of the Hawk” would be immediately followed by the slow, stomping, almost Oriental sounding “Legend and the Lore”, itself followed by the mid-tempo Celtic-tinged wistful rocker “Catch the Shadows”. On Black Moon Rising, the album passes by like a blur of frenetic tremolo riffs over blastbeat level percussion with nary a moment to pause and catch it’s breath. I am aware of the irony of a review on a metal blog decrying an album for being too fast, too aggressive, too… well, heavy, but in Falconer’s case its coming at the price of their innate melodic strengths. Its a detriment.


As I said above though, this is still a good album, a testament to Weinerhall’s skill as a master songwriter that he’s still able to hammer out at least one classic and a few close-to’s here. The classic comes in the form of the most obviously Falconer sounding song on offer, “Halls and Chambers”, a rare moment where the tremolo riffing ceases long enough to provide sections of space and structure to a chorus that the album’s best. This could’ve been an outtake from the band’s debut or Chapters From a Vale Forlorn, its that evocative of the musical spirit of that era. Fellow guitarist Jimmy Hedlund and Weinerhall even get to indulge in a wild, unbridled classic Falconer styled guitar solo after the chorus and later on in the song, a bit of delicate acoustic guitar on a quiet bridge. Similarly, “At the Jester’s Ball” is a welcome departure from excessive aggression and speed, with its playful tempo shifts and almost waltz-like rhythmic structure within the chorus, where the always unhurried Blad delivers one of his most dexterous vocals to date in his lyrical verse to refrain transition: “I am dancing in the waltz, come join in one and all”. I love the way he leans on his inflection of the word “dancing” there… its a sleek and smooth maneuver that eases in the rest of the line like a see-saw shifting down towards one side. Speaking of Blad himself for a moment, the man is as expected on top form here, seemingly ageless it seems, a boon granted by his non-metal vocal approach —- he still has incredible range, and his delivery is all his own within the metal world, no one touches this guy.


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAURLVemHnA&w=560&h=315]


My favorite song of the moment is “In Ruins”, a moderately fast song that slows down long enough for some classic Dio era Sabbath-isms on guitar, as well as a chorus as sharp as the sword’s edge. Weinerhall knows how to conjure up some beautiful drama, as he shows on his expertly crafted opening line during the refrain, “In Ruins —- are the pillars of eden!” Following just behind are “There’s a Crow on the Barrow” and “Dawning of a Sombre Age”, the former one of Weinerhall’s ultra-speedy, tremolo laced cuts that manages to keep its melodic integrity perfectly preserved with its injection of Blad’s expansive, cinematic vocalizations during the refrain. The latter is a slow building, surging, and oddly anthemic song (given its title and lyrics), where Hedlund and Weinerhall trade off hard rock-tinged riffs and melodic twists to satisfying effect. I also have to mention how the album closer “The Priory” has been growing on me —- its an odd bird of a song but its diversity here is the key to its success, Blad sounds incredible on the refrain (can’t tell if those are vocal effects or if his voice is just that awesomely capable). What I do miss on this album is the presence of a good, old school styled Falconer ballad. They give it a shot on “Scoundrel and the Squire”, but it just sounds like a b-side grade cousin to Chapters From a Vale Forlorn’s “Lament of a Minstrel”, down to the mid-tempo pace and heavy, thudding riffs. The difference is that the latter had beautiful melodic thru lines and rock n’ roll swing and verve, while the former just plods along. That being said, even if it had worked, I would still have missed Falconer’s penchant for acoustic laden balladry… I hope those come back.


So there it is, after many many repeat listens, the most fair verdict I can lay down for a new album by a band that I’m simply relieved to have back. I’ll reiterate, its a good record, but one for existing fans only. If you’re new to the band, check out one of the three classics I mentioned earlier in the review, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Wow, this is sounding like a sales pitch… not where I usually like to go in writing but dammit, this is Falconer, a merely good album by them is considered a career misstep, so you should probably check yourself if you haven’t ingratiated yourself into their discography by now.


The Metal Pigeon Recommends – Part One: Falconer

This series will cut to the core of one of my primary sources of inspiration for this blog, the exhilarating feeling of getting someone else into music that I think is great. Its a simple concept. I’ll take one band, pick out ten cuts that I think will make a fan out of you, have YouTube clips ready for all —- plus some commentary to go along with them. Oh and this feature is for bands and artists that are distinctively out of left field that I feel don’t get the attention they really deserve, or are otherwise challenging the preconceptions of what metal fans can enjoy. Point being that I wouldn’t expect a Recommends: Metallica feature anytime soon.

First up is Falconer, an often overlooked power metal band from Mjölby, Sweden that boasts one of the most uniquely individual styles within metal as a whole. Its a direct result of a combination of two very different musicians. There’s guitarist, primary songwriter, and band founder Stefan Weinerhall and his musical background writing for black, death, and thrash metal bands, such as his own short lived, yet revered Mithotyn project. Then there’s vocalist Mathias Blad, a Swedish stage actor and singer, who came into Falconer with no prior experience in heavy metal at all. In fact, Blad’s musical background consists of years of study at both Gothenburg’s Balettakademien, and The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He is in other words, a very serious professional stage actor, a veteran of the Swedish theater, whose work keeps him tied firmly to home base.

His inability to tour led to a brief departure from Falconer after their first two studio albums, when Weinerhall and the rest of the band attempted to launch Falconer as a live entity. The intermittent two albums recorded with vocalist Kristoffer Göbel were shaky at best, Falconer’s style being diluted as a result of having to adjust their sound to fit Göbel’s voice. The band has since written those non-Blad fronted albums off, Weinerhall even going as far as calling them “really bad”. They brought Blad back into the fold despite his heavy duty theater workload, picked up where they left off with him musically speaking, and happily accepted their future as a studio project —- as Weinerhall states: “That’s his [Blad’s] job and we have to respect that. We’d rather have him in the band and not tour than not have him at all. It’s a price I’m very willing to pay.”

The Clarion Call (from Chapters From a Vale Forlorn, 2002)

The centerpiece of Falconer’s sophomore album, “The Clarion Call” is a standout example of Weinerhall’s seemingly effortless ability to create epic, stirring power metal with unconventional songwriting. A wildly melodic intro ushers in well spaced staccato riffing over loudly rumbling bass lines, forming the bed for Blad to carry out the tune through his effortless vocal melodies. And when I say effortless, listen to this track and really think about how much this guy differs from your typical clean metal vocalist. Blad’s theater background has him trained to use his instrument as smoothly as possible, with space for dramatic flexing and emoting. He never extends or strains his voice even when going to higher registers as a regular metal vocalist would. The beauty of this approach is that Weinerhall understands this going in as a songwriter and guitarist, and compensates for the lack of aggression in Blad’s vocals by amping up the heavy in his riffs, and particularly in the band’s rhythm section.

Blad’s vocals aren’t “air-raid siren” like to be sure, but they’re crystal clear, capable of ranging from baritone lows to soaring tenor highs, all while maintaining perfect enunciation. His ability to inflect emotion at will is on full display during the song’s namesake moment, when all instrumentation subsides and Blad is left to sing a cappella —- his own clarion call so to speak. I’ve probably listened to this song hundreds of times now, but I’ll always get chills at that part. Weinerhall is an interesting, oft-inspired lyricist, who draws upon history and dark fantasy in seemingly equal amounts, but no matter the inspiration he always finds an interesting perspective to frame his lyrics from or in regard to. Here is a song that could apply within the pages of the dark, medieval fantasy novel you’re reading, or to our modern political climate as well.

Upon the Grave of Guilt (from Falconer, 2001)

The lead off track from Falconer’s debut, this is a rollicking, fast paced riff monster that pits Weinerhall’s furious attack against Blad’s understated calm, a juxtaposition that is jarring at first but soon sounds second nature. I laugh when I see people write off Falconer as typical “flower metal” —- they’re clearly not listening well or at all, this stuff is sonically heavier than a lot of black metal out there. People who get hung up on Blad’s vocals are failing themselves in not seeing what else he’s bringing to the table. Take for instance just how important it is in this track to hear with perfect enunciation the powerful lyric, “My past is darkening my future / As my present dies / Every morning is a step towards / The edge of my soul’s demise”. This is a song about having deep, repressed guilt at the end of one’s life, and Blad’s sombre reading of the lyrics and knack for dramatic flair is chilling when he rounds off the final refrain of the chorus at the 4:17 mark (all capped off with some really excellent acoustic guitar work). Also, you gotta love that middle bridge section at 3:06 where Blad’s multi-tracked vocals are layered together for an awesome ear candy explosion. The riff storm right after is so sledgehammer that I can practically envision Weinerhall on stage leaning forward as the onslaught begins. What an awesome headbanging moment.

Svarta Ankan (from Armod, 2011)

The lead off track from their most recent album, Armod, which the band had recorded entirely in Swedish (with a few English versions as bonus tracks), “Svarta Ankan” is disarmingly heavy. Listen to that introductory assault, that could practically be the start of a black or death metal song, and that element of pure, unbridled aggression that Falconer has at their disposal is one of their greatest assets. Forget the usual power metal tropes and sonic redundancies, Falconer know how to tear down the walls if they want to and they often do. Their use of double kick in an extreme metal pattern is a calling card that few other power metal bands would even attempt (in fact there’s even black metal styled tremolo riffing over blast beats to be found on the Mithotyn-esque “Griftefrid”, another great track on this album). The extreme metal tendencies of “Svarta Ankan” aren’t even its best feature, for that I’ll direct you to 2:46, where there is a sudden, swooping mid-song drop into an enchanting acoustic bridge featuring duet vocals between Mathias and his sister Heléne. Of course, Hedlund and Weinerhall get in on the epicness with their excellent outro solos, both melancholic and uplifting at the same time —- as all the best Falconer solos are.

Portals of Light (from Chapters From a Vale Forlorn, 2002)

There are many Falconer fans who would easily nominate this as perhaps the band’s finest moment, an emotionally resonant lament set as a character perspective of a person who has just lost their “gentle rose of mine”. The lyrics are poignant, spare and touching, and the decision to forgo guitars for the intro in favor of a solitary piano makes the opening lines even more gripping. Blad is at his most delicate, tender best here, and when the chorus kicks in, his slowly soaring vocals are only matched by the beautiful combination of sustained guitar notes and sweeping strings. This is a fine set of lyrics, and with Blad as the interpreter I don’t know if I’ve heard as much emotion squeezed out of two lines anywhere else as I do here when he sings in the chorus “I feel so astray inside / As I know you’re far away”. His pacing, delivery, and inflection are masterful, and the multi-tracked vocal layering during the final run of the chorus is plain goosebump inducing, I know there are people out there who have some sort of aversion to slow, soft, or ballady songs within metal. I don’t know whether its because they mask their insecurities with aggressive music and find their presence threatening, or that they’re afraid of what others will think if they catch them listening to one. Don’t be one of those people.

Catch the Shadows (from Northwind, 2006)

The charm of this Celtic-tinged, odd ball track is in its sheer variety of songwriting shifts, first from jaunty, mandolin fueled harmonies to speedy, hyper riffing passages overlain with Blad’s chanting choral vocals. Weinerhall has been quoted as saying that Jethro Tull is his favorite band, and primary influence for Falconer, and it really shows here. I love the comparative “lightness” of this track in relation to most of the Falconer catalog —- there’s almost a classic rock feel at work here. The middle drops at 2:26 and 3:19 of piano and vocals are those ear candied moments that Weinerhall is so skilled at penning, And he and Hedlund seem to be able to load up every ounce of their playing with micro hooks left and right, even their tailing off guitar melodies is inventive and interesting. Blad, as ever is on fine form throughout, and we get to see a rare glimpse of him having to surge forward his singing to his head voice during the chorus. Ian Anderson would be proud.

Pale Light of Silver Moon (from Among Beggars and Thieves, 2008)

One of the band’s speedier tracks (right out of the gate in fact), “Pale Light of Silver Moon” features in my opinion the best Falconer guitar solo to date, and you don’t have to wait that long for it. At the 1:05 mark second guitarist Jimmy Hedlund and Weinerhall trade off in a spectacularly written dual harmonized guitar solo that is richly melodic. It comes without any warning, and without any context, it’s just, “Hey! Here’s a mind melting awesome solo barely one minute into the song!” I love unexpected surprises like that, and we’re treated to an encore performance just over a minute later at 2:29, which is almost the inverse of the previous solo —- but still wildly melodic and fun. I also enjoy their usage of near tremolo riffing for the instrumental verse sections of the song, which in combined effect with thundering kick drums create a frenzied pace throughout. This is one of Falconer’s far more complex arrangements in terms of abrupt shifts, halts, and twists, yet it all works towards a highly memorable effect.

Lord of the Blacksmiths (from Falconer, 2001)

First of all, listen to that monster intro riff —- how someone from Fox Sports has not heard that and appropriated it for usage on NFL Sundays is beyond me. Secondly anyone who’s toiled at the forge in Skyrim while sorting through an overloaded inventory for various ores and ingots to turn into their mighty weapons of war —- this song’s for you. The rhythm section is on full attack here, a bruising and battering frenzy of heavy bottom end, while Weinerhall’s (who by the way played bass as well on this first album) guitars alternate between traditional metal pacing and thrashy staccato runs. Blad’s vocals are purely outstanding on the chorus, his normally calm reserve breaking for a moment as he goes higher and higher in registers as he yells about alloys of metal (Haha! Yes!). You’ll forgive the lyric about “power belts and magic rings” when 3:34 kicks in and the band throws in sounds approximating —- well, what else, a hammer hitting a freaking anvil! To the Skyforge!

Legend and the Lore (from Northwind, 2006)

Blad’s comeback album, Northwind, was laden with gems throughout and might rightfully be called the best Falconer album front to back. This track was perhaps the most overlooked highlight of a superb collection of songs. A dazzling display of flexible songwriting prowess, Weinerhall sets medieval instrumentation against the backdrop of what is essentially the rhythm of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, interspersed by Blad’s narrative vocals over guitar riffs that mimic the underlying thundering percussion boom. The chorus isn’t even vocal, the song’s refrain forming purely from the waltzy harpsichord led melody line —- a ballsy and inventive move. There’s a totally gorgeous, epic outro dual guitar solo at 2:40, where Weinerhall and Hedlund harmonize with a flute (well…keyboard flute). I know I’ve said it already, but I love Weinerhall’s natural gift at finding the most ultra melodic way of saying something, be it in a melody line for a song, the lead-in to a bridge, or in his guitar solos. He’s a meticulous craftsman who doesn’t often indulge in meaningless flurries of notes —– his preferred method is to plot out everything note for note, where even solos can squeeze out magnitudes of emotion.

Mindtraveller (from Falconer, 2001)

If Falconer were more well known, the solo guitar intro here would their iconic moment, an ominous ten second harbinger that is supplemented by thundering kick and toms before finally exploding in wonderful racketing symphony of crunchy guitar riffs and Blad bellowing some wild lyrics about “Crossing great rivers / In search of the knowledge of the Gods”. I’ll tell you straightaway that I have no idea what he’s on about when he says “I am the Mindtraveller”, but I’ve become accustomed to imagining some detached giant triangular head with spiraling eyes and an inconvenient floaty flight path. Don’t get me wrong, I love this song and its utterly bizarre lyrics, but I chalk this one up to a ‘make of them what you will’ type situation. Like sometimes when I’m at work, I wish I could just drop everything and turn into the Mindtraveller to float on out over the Houston streets towards said “deep valleys and forests” —- but I digress. This is simply a really fun song with some surprising tempo changes such as in the chorus, where everything speeds up, vocals included. This is harried as you’ll ever hear Blad singing, and his clarity and control are freaking awesome to behold.

Long Gone By (from Northwind, 2006)

Another great Falconer ballad —– and there are many more that I’m not including on this list (in fact, I could probably fill this list with ten other great Falconer tracks and still fulfill the aim of this feature, they’re that deep with awesome songs). What I love about this ballad in contrast to the overwhelming emotional rawness of “Portals of Light” is its laid back feel, and almost effortless musical approach. An old school Gn’R-esque sustained guitar figure opens up the track and acoustic guitars chime in over orchestral swells while Blad sings the memorable opening lines “We dwell in a time, of neither night nor day”. I love that imagery in particular, because it conjures up to me the idea of a sunset and when lyrics can paint pictures in suggestive ways as opposed to spelling everything out, I find that they resonate with me that much more. Blad’s gentle delivery throughout the song is peaceful, endearing, almost lullabye-like in its sheer effortlessness. The spectacular guitar solo at 2:17 is one of the band’s most nostalgia inducing moments, its placement and style harken to a classic Scorpions vibe, and it certainly complements the overall wistful lyrical themes going on. There’s some thoughtful songwriting at work here.

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