Review Summary: Falconer's most focused album to date, with lyrics entirely in Swedish. The result is a stronger folk and poetic sound with all the Swedish styled melodic and furious riffing of past albums. It's a culmination of all things Swedish, minus an ABBA cover!
This is the album I've been waiting for since 2001, when Falconer released their self-titled debut. Mathias Blad was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air at that time, when most power metal singers yelled a lot more than they sang, but when I heard the bonus track, Per Tyrssons Döttrar i Vänge, I knew right away Falconer's music was meant to be sung in Swedish, not English.
Don't get me wrong. I love Falconer's English songs, but Blad's deep, soothing, bard-like voice seems to transform when he sings in Swedish, and the songs themselves sound much more elegant and beautiful. (Indeed, if there were one man who could make Swedish a romance language, it would be Blad!) Partly, I suppose, this can be explained by maturation of the band and the clarifying vision of Weinerhall, which is what we get with Armod, an album rich in melodies, aggression, and folk-inspired riffs that seem to move to Blad's voice, not vice versa like in Falconer's previous albums.
Even in their last album, Among Beggars and Thieves, I felt that Blad wasn't necessarily commanding each song the way Weinherhall was (e.g. Mountain Men, Pale Light of Sliver Moon). On Armod, however, Blad virtually assumes the role of an instrument, seeming to outshine Weinerhall's excellent songwriting (which is quite a feat in itself), but upon further listens, one realizes the two in fact are inseparable and work in unison like two actors in a play, which makes sense given Blad's background as a theater actor.
Although power metal isn't typically associated with aggression, Falconer has never come off as typical, straddling the borders of several genres, particularly melodic death (Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom) but always finding a way to maintain a folk-like vibe. Armod continues down this path and improves upon everything from Among..., particularly the folk department and just about everything that kicked so much butt in the songs, Man of the Hour and Vargaskall. Armod is diverse, heavy, and always conscious of its melodies in the presence of Blad's voice so that one senses more fluidity in the overall album.
Indeed, Weinerhall explicitly made clear he sought to emphasize and elaborate on the folk elements of Falconer, and the Swedish lyrics are truly the mediating force that makes this possible, as something is decidedly lost in English phonetics and subsequent translations. I've always thought that bands should work in their native languages to stay as true to their inspiration as possible, and Armod is resounding evidence of this. (Vintersorg comes to mind as well.) The direct connection to Swedish folk tales, mythologies, and historical events is indeed much stronger on this album even though non-Swedes may not directly understand what's going on, yet for reasons I can't explain, it certainly feels like one could understand just by listening, which to me, is what makes music so special and unique from the written word.
How, then, could Falconer possibly top this giant of an album? It certainly seems a tall order, but I was proven wrong before and I want to be proven wrong again. Even during Weinerhall and Larsson’s Mithotyn days I asked myself this very question until one day Falconer materialized out of Mithotyn’s dissolution. Indeed, the pair certainly does have a knack for surprises, as does the rest of Falconer for that matter, and I’m sure the next album will be just as well crafted as this one.