Review Summary: RNR returns from sputnik retirement to trash the bland and colorless album that ruined his afternoon.
Falconer is a band of great interest. They hail from Sweden, play power metal with balls-to-the-wall guitar riffing, classically-flavored shredding, fast drumming, charming and operatic metal vocals, subtle use of keyboards, and they occasionally break out the acoustic guitars for some delightful minstrelsy. They probably have a bassist (don't quote me on that but I'm almost certain). This is ostensibly a formula that normally would have me drooling if done thoughtfully and passionately, but on Grime vs. Grandeur we discover a power metal band comprised of talented members meandering aimlessly through a dry and lifeless album; lost in the caverns of despair and tedium without a return to town scroll.
The album opens with a simple chugging guitar riff and progresses into a basic heavy metal riff that shows the guitarist is at least competent in his technique, but the whole approach fails to enthrall the listener and falls pitifully short of the expected smack about the chops characteristic of a power metal album opening. This is not exactly the way to earn fans. The singer comes in and belts out some basic hard rock melodies and everything meanders along calmly and nicely until the chorus which is a cringe-worthy and sappy power metal melody with some irritating lady chiming in with "The dreams will come alive!" Don't get me wrong, I love the fluffy, cheesy power metal choruses but the delivery on this one is so weak I can't help but giggle; this is all too soft and unconvincing. The guitar solo turns out to be pretty sick and this theme continues for the duration of the album. Amid the uninspired and weak songwriting doing a poor imitation of 80s speed metal greats, the only redeeming quality is the guitar riffing which is expectantly deft, although lacking the power-folk fury of other Falconer albums and conforming to more of a lazy and tired heavy metal sound. Even the superb axemanship of Falconer sounds neutered. Songs like Power and Jack The Knife deliver bland and achingly trite metal hooks.
The shred is still above average; the drumming is competent and the singer is powerful, albeit mediocre. The medieval and folk themes present on later albums and the ferocity of earlier albums is lacking, instead replaced by a dull and generic 80s speed metal sound with the occasional sappy chorus. This music is confusing and without any clear direction or grand themes that might vindicate it. To make matters worse, the recording and mixing quality is simply not up to snuff for a high-intensity sound. Not that this album is exceptionally intense or powerful. I'm inclined to blame this on the departure of former vocalist Mathias Blad. Although on the albums prior to GVG his vocals weren't exactly stunning (he improved greatly after his return to Falconer), he carried with him an air of sophistication and charisma that prompted the other members to greater heights of songwriting and a generally more colorful and unique sound that is absent on GVG. This reminds me of when Iron Maiden lost Bruce Dickinson and replaced him with Blaise Bailey. The band members' talent begot some good ideas and there were moments of inspiration but the sound as a whole was weak and destitute. To his credit, this singer sounds better than Mathias Blad did prior to GVG but no amount of technical competency can redeem this album.
I'm glad Falconer didn't call it quits after GVG but considering its quality I wouldn't have been surprised if they did. The world doesn't need any more music that sounds like Iron Maiden minus the songwriting. This kind of music isn't fit to be anything more than drunken bar metal. It sounds like talented guitarists noodling in a basement with a drummer to keep time and an average metal vocalist belting dry melodies amid the unfocused and melodically flat chaos. The few great moments are not enough to make amends for an album that leaves memorability and songwriting at the door and eschews creativity and uniqueness for that which has been done to death. RIP