January 23, 2023
Photo: Stefan Altzar

OK, it’s time to get out your tallest ladder as once again we venture into the mysterious realms of power metal and are going over the top which is, of course, the very raison d’être of all things symphonic and power metal!

At The Heart Of Wintervale is the Swedish band’s fourth album since forming in 2011 and again the album cover is an amazing fantasy work complete with a magnificent dragon adopting the usual striking pose as seen on all previous Twilight Force releases but now with a snowy winter landscape as the backdrop. If you didn’t know what to expect from the record then simply check out the artwork, band name and song titles and it screams power metal so you certainly know what you are about to buy into. Buckle your seat belt and get prepared for the storming, bombastic ride of your life at the band unveils a ferocious metal attack that batters you into submission as your senses are forced into complete overload. The band specialises in epic tales of fantasy set in the mythic land known as “The Twilight Kingdoms” and, typically, the group uses outfits and props to help expand upon their heroic tales that borders on the theatrical and I’ve said this previously (as have many others too) but this is very much the role-playing game Dungeons And Dragons set to music.

The line-up remains the same as for 2019’s Dawn Of The Dragonstar except that drummer Daniel Sjögren (De’Azsh) has now been replaced by Isak Olsson and it seems that he has also taken on Sjögren’s band moniker of De’Azsh. The leaves the rest of the team as Philip Lindh (Lynd) on lead guitar, Jocke Leandro Johansson (Aerendir) on rhythm guitar, Dunder Björn Lundqvist (Born) on bass, Daniel Beckman (Blackwald) on keyboards with vocals courtesy of the impressive Alessandro Conti (Allyon) whom some of you may know from his other band Trick or Treat and formerly Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. If you have heard Twilight Force before then this is very much a case of what has gone before as it is the usual frantic, frenetic and orchestrated metal mayhem with a myriad of styles and musical influences crammed into 45-minutes of breath-taking orchestral metal insanity. As expected, the drums and bass are pounding and relentless with screaming guitars and swathes of luscious keyboards plus great metal vocals from Conti. Symphonic and orchestral themes abound with touches of Handel and Holst to be found within plus Celtic influences and even a brief passage of Calypso.

With Twilight Force you generally know what you are going to get but they can still spring the unexpected on the unwary listener! The terms that always come to mind are epic and anthemic and these perfectly sum up a group that deliberately goes over the top in search of pushing the boundaries of orchestral power metal to the limits. There is also a limited digibook edition which also features an additional three bonus tracks for another 18-minutes of metal madness being orchestral versions of Skyknights of Aldaria and The Last Crystal Bearer which are interesting but not essential and a real treasure in the wonderfully titled The Sapphire Dragon of Arcane Might is Back Again which is an intriguing coming together of some of the themes previously heard in some of the band’s earlier works. You simply must check out the lengthy The Last Crystal Bearer which is a gloriously piece of craziness in which the Twilight Kingdoms meet Middle Earth and is as mad as a hatters tea party but so much fun.

If power metal is your music of choice then you have to have this album and it will surely surprise a very high number of traditional metal fans too.

At The Heart Of Wintervale

  1. Twilight Force (4:11)
  2. At the Heart of Wintervale (4:50)
  3. Dragonborn (4:00)
  4. Highlands of the Elder Dragon (10:32)
  5. Skyknights of Aldaria (5:13)
  6. A Familiar Memory (1:18)
  7. Sunlight Knight (4:28)
  8. The Last Crystal Bearer (10:20)
  9. The Sapphire Dragon of Arcane Might is Back Again (3:35)
  10. Skyknights of Aldaria (orchestral version) (5:14)
  11. The Last Crystal Bearer (orchestral version) (10:20)

At The Heart Of Wintervale is out now on Nuclear Blast Records