Twilight Force
At the Heart of Wintervale

Much like my porn, my tastes in power metal are very specific. And also, both usually involve cosplaying, elves, dwarves and….. dragons?… anyway I digress….

What I’m trying to say is that there are only a few power metal bands I truly enjoy, and one of them is Sweden’s Twilight Force. Heck, 2019s Dawn of the Dragonstar made my year-end list, an impressive feat indeed.

As I have said in prior reviews of these guys, this is utterly over the top, uber cheesy, synth-filled, elf-filled, dragon-filled silliness that makes bands like Rhapsody of Fire/ Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (Twilight Force vocalist Alessandro Conti used to be in the latter) look downright serious with expected songs about crystals, wizards, arcane magic, and of course dragons, and other high fantasy tropes. And I love it.

The formula is the same as every Twilight Force album, and as with the last two in particular things seem even bigger, even more choral (with Swedish Opera star Kristen Starkey heavily featured here), even more, orchestral, etc, etc, as the Twilight Warriors weave their tales of the Twilight Kingdoms from across the centuries.

Like Dawn of the Dragonstar, which started with “Dawn of the Dragonstar”, “Thundersword”, and “Long Live the King” ( arguably my favorite song by these guys) At the Heart of Wintervale comes out of the gate strong with “Twilight Force”, “At the Heart of Wintervale”, and “Dragonborn”, three super catchy, epic, energetic, galloping numbers that show what the band does best, especially some of the increased choral arrangements, and when they do songs like this, it will bring a smile to your face. Though I was a little disappointed the super commercial “Dragonborn” wasn’t the band’s take on the Skyrim song.

Two other solid tracks “Skyknights of Aldaria” and “Sunlight Knight” are equally cheesy and somehow even more, epically bombastic, with “Sunlight Knight” being particularly, enjoyably over the top, even with its weird little Jamaican/steel drum refrain.

While Dragonstar had a 12-minute closing song “Blade of Immortal Steel”, this album has two 10+ minute numbers in “Highlands of the Elder Dragon” and the dramatic closer “The Last Crystal Bearer”, and they are both a little more jumbled and seem more vested in cinematic/Broadway styled storytelling ( there are characters and spoken parts, etc), and doing a little too much.  Twilight Force‘s brand of music is just a little easier to digest in 4-6 minute chunks. That said, “Highlands of the Elder Dragon” has a fucking glorious little choral/orchestral burst about 2 minutes in and the same 6 minutes in for “The Last Crystal Bearer”.

Like Dawn of the Dragonstar, there is a bonus, gorgeous digibook version of the album. This one comes with three extra tracks: an acoustic medley covering the band’s past songs which fans will recognize and enjoy, and orchestral versions of ” Skyknights of Aldaria” and “The Last Crystal Bearer”.

When it’s all said and done, I think At the Heart of Wintervale, while entertaining as heck, is not quite as good as Dragonstar. For all its epic bombast, there are no songs like “Thundersword” or “Long Live the King”, that truly stand out and stick with you. But still, these guys are still absolutely one of the very best and most wondrously epic bands in power metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 24th, 2023

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