HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Falconer - Grime Vs. Grandeur
(Metal Blade)

I feel no need to defend firing off two 10/10 reviews in such close succession, Candlemass doing one thing exquisitely right, and Falconer doing a wholly different thing magically. Power metal is their game, man, and Grime Vs. Grandeur shakes the bountiful tree until the clichˇs fall away, or, if they are still there, they are so over the top, we're all in the Viking boat together, glugging mead, playing those Viking games. The central moment of the record is Purgatory's "Cry, cry, cry your eyes out", Falconer galloping forth with aggression and fearless part profusion, until you can't help thinking new, improved, 40% more. The riffs keep coming, mercilessly like a flood, at all speeds, while Kristoffer Gobel fires off a shamelessly emoting vocal performance filled with dimension. Er, and that's all in one song. 'I Refuse' does it all over again, only this time slower, Gobel's emoting notes pure hooky heaven. The Assailant is an anthem to end all anthems. Just that snare and opening riff is metal dementia, and then the verse... Gobel picks an entirely new tone and twang, while those twin guitars continue to dish out sterling pure metal riff after riff. Damn, this thing is just so filled with stunning metal events, a dozen per track, that you'd almost have to call what Falconer do prog metal, only they're too cool for that - this is just excellent playing, serving a sea of headbanging, no pretensions, just an embarrassing wealth of good ideas thrown into the first few rows. Another highlight - the mark of a great album is this desire to want to tell people about it - is No Tears For Strangers where the band, probably for the seventh time on the record, show an inherent understanding of what made the NWOBHM so magic - you gotta hear this masterpiece of a chorus. Quite simply, I can't stop playing this album... it's turning me into a guy who's favourite new music is power metal, but only 1% of it, if that makes any sense.
Rating 10

Robert Plant And The Strange Sensation - Mighty Rearranger

Very cool hearing Robert writing again, after a hoary covers record, after a rarities and hits pack, after two Page Plant albums yielded one and a (no) quarter records of new music. I'd rather Plant didn't pull a Blackmore and vampirically keep slaking fresh blood (bring back Blunt and Jezz!), but there you go. The results ain't half bad, Plant creating a bouquet of flowers mere minutes away from needing water, but colourful nonetheless. In his uneasy Dorian Gray-esque desire to stay young and hip, Plant goes for bits of de rigueur lo-fi and electronica, but thankfully also deals in Zeppelin, both charged and acoustic, both bluesy and Moroccan. And as is Plant's wont (on song) since Unledded, the vibe is vital, lively, spontaneous, disdainful of work, something which transfers to his vocals as well, although Percy's singing here is not so loony as on the wonderful Walking Into Clarksdale record, the guy's best since at least Fate Of Nations, maybe even Principle Of Moments. Plant's nagging self-importance is also in supply, the record coming off like the work of a sanctimonious, idealistic hippy. But it's also the work of a musicologist, and, whether by will or by accident, all the above divergent samplings miraculously coalesce in the end to become a record evocative of a style I just wildly dig lately - eccentric, bluesy, electric progressive English folk from the early '70s, that crush between blues explosion, folk explosion and psych that yielded artists like Vashti Bunyan, Trader Horne, The Alan Bown, The Ghost and much of the early Vertigo catalogue.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 3