I’m not sure what things were like in Sweden in medieval times, but I’m pretty sure Falconer has a good idea. Their Armod, a powerhouse of Viking folk metal, sounds like the type of music played at the tables of kings and queens in darker, crueller times.
The record is a challenge for a number of reasons, but it’s a challenge well worth taking on full-steam.
Armod, which means “poverty” in Swedish, is a journey of an album. Vocalist Mathias Blad sings in Swedish and, while that may throw people off a little, I found it to be an intoxicating element. Despite not really understanding a word, the sentiments and emotion were powerful. Blad is a hell of a vocalist and his range, from crisp open notes to squealing high ones, is among the most unique I’ve come across in metal.
Seven of the 11 tracks on Armod are compositions by guitarist Stefan Weinerhall. Three are reworkings of traditional folk songs. And one comes from Cornelis Vreeswijk, the renowned Swedish troubadour.
The record opens with traditional metal, of course. “Svarta Änkan” is a chugging, down-tuned piece of work that scatters when Blad ventures in. He’s theatrical and the backing vocals are kind of corny, but it adds to the mysterious Middle Ages feel of the record. Its high drama rides on the back of charged, climbing guitars.
Things tone down on “Dimmornas Drottning.” The number is, again, highly theatrical and dramatic, but there’s a slower pace and a fiddle streaks through.
“Griftefrid,” with its tremolo picking, is more along the blistering metal path, although choral vocals at the outset give a false sense of peace. And “Grimborg,” with its twin-guitar attack, is a head-nodding surge of a song.
Magnus Linhardt’s bass opens “Herr Peder Och Hans Syster,” a sinister-sounding cut that finds Blad singing terrifying lullaby to a very terrified child. Then there’s “Eklundapolskan” and an almost strident fiddle intro that, when drawn into the larger clunk of metal music, screams for a repeat spin or two.
Armod won’t be everyone’s cup of mead, but it damn sure makes for an interesting listen. Falconer’s journey into the dark mists of Scandinavian folk metal is unique and invigorating. The choices don’t always work and some portions may come off tacky, but overall this is very neat stuff.