Review by Richard Henry for MPM
Album number four from the Swedish symphonic power metal band, let’s take a journey and see where we go with this album!
Track 1 – Twilight Force
Well, that’s straight in with the double bass and the keyboard line, then we hit in with the higher vocals, it’s a full-on assault, when we get to the chorus it straight away reminds me of like an old school Stratovarius song, helium level vocals are a plenty, the level of playing is fantastic, the solo on this is full on shred mode, with sweeping and shredding all over the place, oh and blast beats as well, wasn’t expecting that, it really is a fantastical opening to the album and really lush orchestration, I would absolutely recommend listening to this with headphones so you can actually hear everything as there is a lot going on!
Track 2 – At the Heart of Wintervale
Well, we go in with a cold chilly intro before we launch into familiar power metal territory with a singing guitar melody coming in, the double kicks let up for the verse and it’s a nice break before we then pick up again coming into the chorus, its epic stuff, listen to the harmony vocals but also in the background you have the orchestration and church bells ringing, it’s easy to miss but it’s all the little touches that make up the whole track, this sounds like something could be on a Disney soundtrack in the chorus, a vibe that carries on to the middle section, ridiculous guitar playing in that section, again just epic!
Track 3 – Dragonborn
Baroque music with metal, it’s very happy, almost like you would expect people to be dancing to the start of this, this song in particularly is very major and happy sounding, massive chorus and again with the really high vocals, this again reminds me of like a Disney or some sort of cartoon theme, the guitar player is without doubt the absolute highlight of this one as he has been on all the tracks so far, what a solo, this one for me is maybe a bit too sweet sounding
Track 4 – Highlights of the Elder Dragon
Lovely piano intro, really delicate sounding and then adding the orchestration in behind it, subtle but very well done, the way it builds and then with the spoken word adding to it as well before the band actually comes in, fantastic orchestration and arranging, we then kick into a more tradition power metal territory, the drummer yet again is getting a workout on this one, with full on double kicks and drum rolls all over the place on this one, then we breakdown again into a piano section with added orchestra, there are so many parts and ideas in this song, again the guitar playing is superb in this, really an epic song in true terms of even progressive metal never mind power metal!
Track 5 – Skyknights of Aldaria
Another Lord of the Ringsesque intro to this one, the gallop is one, Maiden tempo and then into a chorus complete with gang vocals and epic orchestration, I was not expecting blast beats in that, and it took me by surprise but to be fair it really worked well, some of this orchestration really reminded me of a band called Bal Sagoth, the solo is as expected, full of technical virtuosity, much like everything preceding it, this track is just massively epic, speaking of the pervious band, that low, spoken vocal is something they did a lot as well, and then back into that massive chorus again!
Track 6 – A Familiar Memory
The sound of a forest with a lovely acoustic guitar and then we get a bit of a flute melody playing and just like that we are in the shire, it’s almost like a Celtic folk style with bodhran and a hummed melody being played, lovely interlude and it does what I assume it intended and splits up the intensity of the five tracks before it and gives the listener a break, really nicely pacing the album up.
Track 7 – Sunlight Knight
Almost Japanese sounding melody at the start of this one, before we go into a tradition verse, full of harmony vocals and they just keep getting higher, working into the pre chorus we have a pickup in pace before we get the full-on double kicks for the chorus, little break for a piano section then into a variation on verse two before we go into a weird spoken vocal section, then into that full on chorus again, we appear to have hit Jamaica in the middle of this song, was not expecting that, fantastic playing again
Track 8 – The Last Crystal Bearer
So, the orchestra is a bit more prominent on this than being carried by the guitar despite the tempo, then it breaks into a low vocal carried with the orchestral parts, very Phantom of the Opera in a way, it’s different than the way most of the other tracks have started, but, as expected it doesn’t last and we go into a familiar territory in the chorus, I think where the song goes into just orchestra it really stands out and you want it to last longer rather than defaulting to the power metal traditions, the middle section is excellent between the solos and the orchestration, full on spoken word movie score part near the end of this really makes you feel like you should be watching a film rather than listening to an album!
Track 9 – The Sapphire Dragon of Arcane Might
Bubbling streams and the acoustic guitars are back, this is a definite finger in the ear folk song, with a digeridoo as well as bodhran coming in, Planxty, Fairport Convention this is the realm you’re in for this one, again it’s a nice departure from the full on onslaught you’re getting with the other tracks and serves as a nice way to close the album!
Track 10 – Skylights of Aldaria (orchestral version)
Track 5, only without any guitar, drums, just the full-on orchestral treatment, it is really impressive when you hear how much work there actually is and how many different layers there are in the main track that might be hard to separate until you hear a version like this!
Track 11 – The Last Crystal Bearer (orchestral version)
As with the last track this is a stripped version of all band instruments and just the orchestral version of the song.
8 out of 10
It’s a good album, lots of great playing and fantastic layers of sound, the only thing I think it could maybe have done with is a bit more variation as a lot of it is very much the same idea, and one song from the other a lot of it could be from another track, or maybe another acoustic interlude earlier in the album to split it up a bit more, but really well played and produced power metal!
TWILIGHT FORCE are:
Allyon | lead and backing vocals
Lynd | lead and rhythm guitars
Born | bass
Blackwald | keyboards and narration
De’Azsh | drums guitars
Purchase At the Heart of Wintervale on various formats and stream the album now here: https://twilightforce.bfan.link/at-the-heart-of-wintervale.a01