Falkenbach has always resided outside of the more industry-supported or well-known folk metal circle, despite being conceived all the way back in the late 80s. The sole vision of Vratyas Vakyas (born Markus Tümmers of Germany) was among the first acts to take Quorthon’s vision to heart, and thusly has never been starkly black metal enough to appeal to the corpse-painted legions or bouncy and high-spirited enough for the recent surge of drunken Humppa rock. Instead, Tümmers chose (and chooses) a style at the crossroads of Bathory’s Viking era and the melodic side of Norwegian black metal, specifically early Emperor and Enslaved, all awash in atmosphere and bits of folk instrumentation. At times the music combines the styles, and at others they’ve been split between tracks, but Falkenbach has always maintained a strong sense of class and majesty throughout each album.
After nearly 8 years of waiting–including an excellent re-recording of the band’s unreleased debut Heralding – The Fireblade–Tümmers has finally returned with Tiurida (which naturally means “glory”). Despite being very front-heavy and having only a few truly great songs, it still warrants a herald from the small group of fans who have waited patiently for its arrival.
Once an ambient intro fades, “…Where His Raven Fly…” begins the album in typical Falkenbach fashion: with a straightforward but epic-in-intent folk metal track, channeling Twilight of the Gods to a tee. The primary melody–which could have just as easily been heard at a village celebration 800 years ago as on a metal album in 2011–is introduced with acoustic guitars, keys, and flute before being translated into a metal realm featuring understated clean singing and equally understated lead guitar lines. By contrast, the ensuing “Time Between Dog and Wolf” is a much heavier, aggressive, blackened, and dare I say battle-minded take on Viking metal. The tempo has not increased, but the tone is confrontational, the drumming has a certain melodic force and Tümmers’ harsh vocals, which have never sounded so damn vitriolic, dominate the tune. Both songs rotate around one or two main themes each, never altering their respective atmospheres and offering only slight variations for compositional development. However, it is exactly this subtle nature that renders them both chilling examples of the style and among the best tracks ever released under the Falkenbach banner.
It is at this point that Tiurida takes a turn for the, well… lesser. The remaining tracks are enjoyable and do nothing to halt the enthralling mood set up by the first two, but they also float into the background much easier, loosening the heathenish grip slightly. The strongest of these, “Runes Shall You Know,” is similar in structure to “…Where His Ravens Fly…”, only with a much more somber and haunting mood. Other tracks are largely instrumental, which is puzzling considering the strength of both Tümmers’ singing voice and the newfound might of his blackened rasps.
I’d like to reiterate that not one second of Tiurida comes within a par five of being bad, but those captivating early tracks do tend to make the latter ones feel a bit like afterthoughts. And considering that it is essentially the band’s first slab of original material in years, it has to be considered a mite lacking in depth and certainly thin in comparison to other Falkenbach full-lengths. So in other words … newcomers, dive into Heralding – The Fireblade first. Fans of the band, go for it. You’ll feel as if an old lover is teasing you, but the rendezvous will be pleasant nonetheless