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At The Heart Of Wintervale

Sweden Country of Origin: Sweden

At The Heart Of Wintervale
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: January 20th, 2023
Genre: Power, Symphonic
1. Twilight Force
2. At The Heart Of Wintervale
3. Dragonborn
4. Highlands Of The Elder Dragon
5. Skyknights Of Aldaria
6. A Familiar Memory
7. Sunlight Knight
8. The Last Crystal Bearer

Review by Michael on February 23, 2023.

Holy crap, do they sound Italian!!! That was my first thought when I heard the new Twilight Force album At The Heart Of Vintervale for the first time. Although the name told me something, I had to read up on the guys first. Well, they come from Sweden, but at least they have Allyon (aka Alessandro Conti) an Italian as a singer, who could be well known to the inclined symphonic metal fan from Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. So I was not so wrong with my first assessment.

Also regarding the album cover there are some parallels to the early works of Rhapsody to recognize, a dragon freed from chains and a lonely rider, we have already had something like that....

Musically, the sextet also goes in the same direction, but the music is much more clearly permeated by bombastic (Hollywood) melodies, which makes the album an incredibly kitschy affair. Also the use of bells and the in parts very wintry arrangements let the kitsch just drip from the snow-covered hills of Wintervale. But the whole thing is so incredibly kitschy and cheerful that even if you are in an orcish mood, you somehow have to sway along and the music still makes you smile and see little elves with red-and-white-striped hats running around everywhere.

A song like 'Dragonborn' spreads such an unbelievable positive energy and radiates pure joy of life with all the guitars and keyboard arrangements and especially the enchanting vocallines, that you can't blame the band for all this pomp. Apart from that, the song (like many others) could actually have sprung from a fantasy film. This intention becomes especially clear with the intro of the following song 'Highlands Of The Elder Dragon'. Here you are beamed directly into a fantasy movie by the melancholic piano and the spoken words. Also the rest of the piece is very epic with the string instruments and the piano and by the many twists also quite very surprising and entertaining. 'Sunlight Knight' is perhaps the piece that comes closest to old Rhapsody albums, since here equally bombastic choirs and similar guitar sounds are used. Just a bit more bombastic. With 'The Last Crystal Bearer' the guys have saved quite a chunk for the end. The 10-minute song is built very opera-like, with spoken word passages and dramatic vocal lines. Also the instruments create a great arc of tension, which makes the piece one of the highlights on the album and here and there "Lord of the Rings' ' reminiscences flash.

Even if the album is, as already said, incredibly cheesy, At The Heart Of Vintervale is an early highlight in the field of symphonic metal that sets the bar pretty high for upcoming albums in this area.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 elves