Awhile ago, I wrote this review of Falkenbach's Heralding The Fireblade, which is a really great Viking metal album though not as good as Korpiklaani's ass-rapingly great Tales Along This Road, which I just got the other week. In the interval, though, The Wire changed reviews editors - David Stubbs left, and was replaced by Nick Cain, who used to edit the online zine Opprobrium (was there ever a print version? I think there might have been). Anyway, he chose not to run the Falkenbach review. So here 'tis.
Heralding The Fireblade
Falkenbach is essentially a one-man show; vocalist Vratyas Vakyas recruits instrumentalists as necessary to realize his vision of a Metal-rooted music that will offer fitting tribute to Viking culture and values. Four of the eight tracks have English-language titles (“Heathen Foray,” “Of Forests Unknown,” “Roman Land” and “Heralder”), and all have an epic sweep. Over the course of the three releases preceding this one, Falkenbach’s sound has changed substantially, from an initial Black Metal primitivism to a more folk- and classical-tinged sound with stirring keyboard fanfares and even some choruses with which one could quite happily hoist a horn of mead and chant along. It’s still very much Metal, of course; the guitars are heavy and the drums thunder like they’re meant to inspire banks of rowers to ever-greater feats of exertion. Tempos occasionally get up to Death Metal speed, but for the most part Vakyas is more interested in grandiosity than wild headbanging. For similar reasons, clean vocals are dominant – Black Metal screeches don’t make an appearance until the fourth track, “Roman Land.” There’s also a dramatic appearance by a woman (!) at the climax of “Skirnir” that nearly makes the album worth owning all by itself. Viking Metal cannily avoids overt embrace of the fascism Black Metal frequently fetishizes, choosing to celebrate manly paganism instead. Where white-faced Black Metallers lurk in caves and forests, sword-swinging Viking Metal bands stride forth in sunlight, as bearded heroes. Falkenbach’s music, like the best of the genre, is proudly extroverted, fist-pumping stuff.