For obvious reasons, any review is going to have some kind of bias. Mine is that I adore Falkenbach, have for a long time, and consider them to be in a special category where they will reside in Valhöll alongside the likes of Windir and Bathory. The only wrong Falkenbach could ever do is not put out an album, and last time I checked, they made this mistake for far too many years, so I shall gladly celebrate yet another triumphant release from Vratyas Vakyas here.
With any new release comes a number of complaints, and I feel it is my duty to speak of some of these. Some may feel this album is too slow. Obviously, whoever says this has never heard Bronzen Embrace, a tune that screams Berzerker (not the band) like no other. Others exclaim that it sounds like, believe it or not, Falkenbach, as if Asa can only succeed if it is a dramatic departure from other albums. Of course, people are just as likely to complain if a band changes their sound, so we can accept some individuals will never be satisfied no matter what. The thing is, yes, it sounds just like you would expect a Falkenbach album to sound like; in other words, amazing, majestic, powerful folk-tinged madness.
Asa encompasses all of the things that Falkenbach fans have come to know and expect. I do understand the complaints that none of this is surprising in terms of a completely different approach for the band, yet I feel if this were to be done it would lose its magic. After all, if it isn’t broke…
Asa is best described as victorious, be it in battle or through a personal journey. It contains the feeling of conquering, and not necessarily in the sense of battles, but within the idea of victory itself. Think Wunjo, for those whom study the Runes, a symbol which means both joy and victory. It is the joy of a victory when you finally break through to understanding a concept, work through emotional problems with someone, or simply successfully to fix your car. Without a doubt, a Falkenbach review would not be complete without using the term epic. Asa is the very definition of this word, and for that reason other bands and journalists should have to pay royalties for using the word epic from now on. To not use this word would be to not fully describe the power of the mighty Falkenbach, whom are the sole proprietors of this often overly and misused term. It sounds like you just went through a battle with the Fomorians and are sitting around a camp fire, using your enemies skull as a seat while the ravens drop an eyeball in your mead. The songs, sung in a foreign tongue for many, demand to be sung along with holding a pint in your raised hand. There are the visions and emotions that Falkenbach that have always evoked, and continue to do so with Asa.
Another point of interest is how knowledgeable the composer is on the subject matter. Many bands try to create a mysterious aura around them that does not match up with the actual persona. While Falkenbach is fairly straight-forward symphonic-based folk metal, its subject matter is austere enough to be insulted by a term like Viking, and features more than enough clean vocals and acoustic aspects to merit the Folk label. So, while the idea of a Pagan Folk Metal band may bore you, and in your ignorance you have dismissed this band as yet another party viking band, keep in mind that Falkenbach was doing this before all the rest, and are completely sincere in their approach and subject matter. While Asa certainly evokes images of fjords and Viking ships, in truth these lyrics go much deeper down the well, centered around themes such as Yggdrasil and Wotan, as well as other aspects of Norse mythology. In particular, the subject of wolves returns again and again, and of course a healthy dose of historical and Pagan subject matter, which discusses how our tribes were destroyed as well and the bloody wars which are to be mourned, not celebrated like some childish individuals choose to do so.
This is one of those bands that would profit from actually being a full band, and not just a one-man thing, for hearing this music live would be incredible. The songs demand recognition, instantly providing a strong clean vocal with an accent that is as pure as it can get. The flute fits perfectly, lacking any pretense, and the guitars are all excellent. When the music moves into an uptempo pace, the riffs become strong, demanding the speed and distinctiveness that fans of this style rely on. The composer has the perfect sense of knowing which riff demands to be focused on, and which supports vocals. As far as I know, he has never performed live, and this is quite the shame for few acts, if any, would receive such a reception if they were to do so.
Falkenbach is the Allfather of a style of metal that has gone by various terms, and if in the next twenty years they make an album that is sub-par, it will still be Falkenbach. Odin may have hundreds of names, but he will always be Odin. Viking metal, folk metal, black metal, even Cascadian metal and so on, all of these styles have been influenced in one way or another by this one band, and besides the other names mentioned earlier, I cannot think of any other band that has consistently put out music for this long which combines all these various elements. This is a legend, and deserves to be treated as such. It has the same sensibilities as reading the Eddas does, the same nostalgia and recognition that this is art beyond words and worlds.
I’m sure some would say that this is tongue in cheek, but Vratyas is extremely serious in what he does. This is an individual who knows the Runes, has traveled up and down Yggdrasil, and speaks in ancient tongues. He is a master of his craft, a testament to one man’s travels in both the physical and spiritual realms. Falkenbach will be carried with me throughout my journey as well, for this speaks a similar ancient tongue, one that is of old Gods and the natural spirits that have been forgotten by so many. As a bonus, it is simply an amazing adrenaline booster the way that any great metal band is, and it exists with Mjollnir firmly in its grasp.
01) Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan
03) Mijn Laezt Wourd
04) Bronzen Embrace
06) I Nattens Stilta
07) Bluot Fuër Bluot
08) Stikke Wound
09) Ufirstanan Folk