Twilight Force - Dawn Of The Dragonstar - (9.5/10)
Published on August 3, 2019
With The Light Of A Thousand Wind Chimes
A friend of mine once described Twilight Force as ‘power metal by power metal’s standards’ – and that is the absolute perfect descriptor. Every contrived, hackneyed cliché that is prevalent in power metal – which so irritates hordes of disgruntled metalheads – is inflated and exaggerated to ridiculous proportions in their music. Debut album Tales Of Ancient Prophecies showed restraint (believe it or not) but could not fully mask the OTT nature of these mad Swedes. Then, 2016’s fantastically-titled Heroes Of Mighty Magic utterly exploded onto the scene with oodles of childlike enthusiasm, charming most and pissing off quite a few. It was quite simply the most over-the-top symphonic power metal album ever heard, both in terms of imagery and music. Now, after a brief line-up change, the nerds are back with another amazing record title: Dawn Of The Dragonstar. An improvement upon an already almost 10/10 formula. For me, these guys simply cannot do wrong.
Where Heroes Of Mighty Magic was like a 6-year-old who had just been unleashed into Disneyland scoffing tub after tub of candyfloss; Dawn Of The Dragonstar is an album that’s far more comfortable in its own skin. There are no more dodgy production issues due to over-cramming, the overall sound contains more clarity and power, and…they got a better vocalist. There, I said it! Christian Hedgren was indeed spectacular, especially with his ability to comfortably hit notes previously unheard of beneath our stratosphere. But this is the great Alessandro Conti we’re talking about here! He’s a seasoned pro and approaches this record with maturity and control, whilst still being able to soar among the clouds like a motherfucking angel…of steel.
Musically, this is exactly the same as the previous release, but with refined edges and tightened screws…of steel (sorry, I’ll stop now). There are none of the dumb interludes and spoken word sections that plagued the first two records (don’t get me wrong, I love that shit, but I would much rather be cringing at cheesy metal than bad acting). Here in 2019, all we get is wizards, swords, magic, rainbows, dragons, dragons and more fucking dragons! That’s more like it! The opening title-track blasts out the speakers with a thousand tons of dragonfire – galloping Euro-power rhythms, blazing shredwork, majestic choral vocals and a chorus that can melt iron. And that’s pretty much where it stays for the next 55 minutes! There is a slight dip on the oddly vague and too-long “With The Light Of A Thousand Suns” but other than that, this is an album of consistent symphonic power metal excellence. Even the obligatory 12+ minute finale “Blade Of Immortal Steel” does not waiver in quality.
It feels as if Twilight Force are tapping into a gleeful enthusiasm that every power metal band wishes they had. Their total lack of inhibitions is refreshing and rewarding: ‘Hey guys, let’s just throw absolutely everything and the fucking kitchen sink at this beast’. There is barely a moment where some random twinkly percussion instrument isn’t playing. I swear TF are mere seconds away from hiring a full-time wind chime player. Other than the millions of bells/glockenspiels/triangles, there are more orchestral layers than all 3 Wintersun albums put together. The choice to use orchestral clashed cymbals ontop of conventional crashes is an inspired idea. It’s pompous, ridiculous and totally unnecessary… and I love it. Check out the massive brass theme that permeates “Thundersword”, the delightfully jaunty main melody to “Long Live The King”, or the hilariously unsuitable ending to the otherwise dramatic “Hydra” – just three moments in an album chocked with so many.
My personal highlights are those which don’t try too hard to push any envelopes structurally. “Valley Of The Vale” is a brief-yet-mighty escapade which reaches unfathomable heights of epicness, and my favourite track “Winds Of Wisdom” is the chorus to end all other choruses on the album. I hope Twilight Force continue to not give a shit about how madly bloated and exaggerated they are. It’s a style suited only to metalheads who aren’t afraid to grin, but they have utterly mastered the style. May they continue to pioneer this sort of buggery beyond the demise of their influences, and in doing so, become a big influence themselves. All hail to the power, honour and might of the glorious Dragonstar!