On January 20th, Twilight Force’s new album, At The Heart of Wintervale, arrived via Nuclear Blast. We caught up with Blackwald (keyboards) to discuss the record.
What was the process like getting the new album, At The Heart of Wintervale, together?
We started writing the album even as far back as 2019 when Dawn of the Dragonstar was released. Basically we started right away working on it. Obviously, we didn’t work full-time or anything, so it’s been quite a long process. I guess, different or good compared to previous times, we had quite a clear idea. Basically the foundation was laid out already with Dawn of the Dragonstar because that was also the first time that we had Allyon vocals for that album. So that in and of itself, at the time, was a bit of a journey to just figure each other out. How do we work together? What are the possibilities that we have with a new singer, et cetera. But once we got that under control and we knew that Allyon needed the vocal booth, then we could just build on, it was so much easier and we could also write the songs with his voice in mind. It felt more smooth. I would say, we didn’t have to go back to square one when we started writing, At the Heart of Wintervale, but we could start somewhere halfway in terms of what we wanted, how the sound was going to be. And it was a more clear laid out path I feel like. So that was good. But other than that, it just progressed like it always has.
Another thing that we emphasized, we tried to put more focus and work into this time around with the lyrical aspect. We put a lot of effort into making the lyrics kind of a little more intelligible, a little more easy to follow. And it’s not easy when you write power metal fantasy lyrics, you’re throwing fantasy words around and you rhyme things just for the sake of it. But we spent a lot of time trying to make the lyrics easy to follow and to have an actual progression throughout each song. So it’s a beginning, middle, and an end. So it’s a story, and everything takes place within the Twilight Kingdoms, the fantasy world. So that I hope is also something that people can enjoy, hopefully read the booklets while they’re listening.
I know that it’s been three years since the beginning of this pandemic but I know a lot of bands that the pandemic has impacted or influenced their album. Has the pandemic taken an influence or did it impact the release date or anything for you guys?
Not really, no. I mean, it impacted us the way it impacted everyone else that were trying to make music and play it live. We had to, obviously, postpone our tour, I think three times at this point. But in terms of songwriting, not really, no, because we are not a band that meet up and rehearse and write songs in the rehearsal room or anything. So I had locked myself in the Twilight Force and wrote music in the studio. And we could send stuff online and share things and progress that way. So for me, I mean, it was a terrible time for humanity, but for me personally, I tried to just make the best out of it and write as much music as possible and hide away for a while. So yeah, I was okay, actually.
It’s funny how you mentioned the process, comparing it with Dawn of the Dragonstar, because I’ve noticed some sort of similarities between the two albums, so it makes sense how the writing started around then, especially with the layout of the albums. They both end with a very lengthy song. And I figured it, this has to be intentional, but how would you compare the two tracks; “The Last Crystal Bearer” and “Blade of Immortal Steel”
I mean, they’re both, we have Blade of Immortal Steel that on the Dragonstar, and one of my favorite tracks, actually, from that album, and they’re quite different, I would say, because, well, The Last Crystal Bearer that ends this album was written, as you can probably notice if you’re listening to it, was written as a symphonic piece, obviously with a power metal arrangement in mind. But it was written more so with the orchestra in mind, and more as a, I don’t know what to call it. It’s not an operatic, it’s a sort of storytelling song, more so with the different parts, and you have the narrated parts, and it’s more of a, I hate the term metal opera, but you know what I mean. It’s more of a rollercoaster of sounds and soundscapes. So it was written a little differently in a different way while Blade of Immortal Steel was more of a traditional metal type written song with clear riffing, and guitar work and stuff.
So I guess that’s the main musical difference between those two. They’re vastly different songs. We just figured that The Last Crystal Bearer is also a great way to end the album because you have towards… Well, you have first the story of Blackwald and how I was kicked out of the Arcane University and what happens around that, but then also how I discover the other crystal bearers and that constitutes Twilight Force and everyone gets their little own sound bite to introduce themselves. And so it was a good wrap up of the entire album. So the album starts out with the song Twilight Force, that’s about the band and what our purpose as the crystal bearers are. And then we wrap it up the same way to just, but you go back to the origins of how we came to be and the story of my character.
It just so happened that that was not my intention. I’m going to write a song about myself. But it was more the sound. When the song was taking shape it was very evident that this is, well, as you can tell, it’s like these little cryptic passages, and bombastic, and not, I wouldn’t say happy at all. It’s kind of a little gloomy. There is a little gloomy sheen over the entire song, a little doom and gloom in an, obviously, bombastic way. So that kind of fitted the character of Blackwald kind of perfectly.
I do hear the differences, how the new one has more story to it, and the prior effort is more just traditional metal flow. So I do hear the progression.
And Blade of Immortal Steel, I mean, that also has a very, it’s a clear story. It’s kind of a cute story also if you read the lyrics to it. But it’s just a vastly different composition and how it was written. So yeah.
Was there any songs that were challenging to write, combining the story with the music?
Ooh, every song is challenging. But I have to say, I think surprisingly enough, the most difficult song that we faced was Sunlight Knight. It doesn’t sound like it. It sounds very straightforward, it was a power metal song, but I don’t know how many iterations we created and how many different instrumentation, tempo. We changed so many things until we finally, once you get it in the pocket, so to speak. And that took a very long time, and a lot of back and forth, but came along, came out very nice and super happy with what happened. But that was probably the most challenging in terms of arranging and mixing wise. Not writing. The song was done, but it’s just, you can write a song on a piano and that’s the song, but then how do you mold that in the best possible way? And that was very hard.
And then we had, I don’t know, the rest of the songs . It felt very, I wouldn’t say very easy, it’s always a challenge, but we knew what we wanted and there weren’t that many questions on how do we proceed with this? How do we make this? We had quite clear ideas of how everything was going to turn out, and so that felt good. Another one of those eye-opening wow moments that we weren’t really planning for was when we wrote Skyknights of Aldaria, for example, because we couldn’t really find the proper arrangement with the drums and stuff. But then suddenly De’Azsh contributed the blast beats. It was more of a joke almost, but we just looked at each other and realized, this is perfect now. There is no going back from here. This is what it’s got to be, even though it’s a little out of the ordinary for the genre. But whatever works. And for us, that was the perfect way to get that soaring sense of swiftly flying on the back of eagles. So that worked out. So that was super cool.
I was actually going to ask you about Sunlight Knight because the pixel art video just really just took me back to Final Fantasy VII or Zelda. What was that like for you guys getting that video made?
It was just an idea we had, with the help of an online acquaintance from Japan, and she was super hyped about the idea of making that. And we had seen some other stuff she’d made, and we knew that she could really pull it off. So it was just a… And it fitted the song very well also, because we have that part where there’s leveling up and there’s this Caribbean soundtrack, and we just felt that it was a perfect visual theme for that song. It could have gone either way if you had a pixel, or if you had just a cartoony style or whatever. But the pixels, also us being avid gamers now and in the past, it just felt right to do that. So I’m super happy that we managed to do that. And this is something a little bit out of our maybe comfort zones in terms of how to visualize Twilight Force, so that was, I don’t know, it is just one of those things. It just happened, and the cards were there on the table, and we played the cards we were dealt, and it turned out great.
Video games have definitely changed over the years, but what is your personal favorite gaming console?
I grew up playing, well, first the original Game Boy, but I wouldn’t consider that as close to my heart. I would say probably the Sega Genesis maybe, which is called, in Europe it was called Mega Drive. So I played Sega Mega, but Genesis, I guess, is my console that has shaped me the most when I was a kid. But yeah, I would say so, because that’s the first console that I owned and it was important to my childhood. But then as Nintendo 64 came out, that was a big, mind boggling graphic step up in terms of graphics and stuff. I remember, I didn’t own it myself, my friend went out and bought it on the day of release, and the first time I saw MarioKart 64 load up, my jaw just dropped to the floor. I’m like, how is this? It’s like everything we ever dreamed of. And so those two have a little special place in my heart, even though it took me a while before I had a Nintendo 64 myself. But yeah, Sega Genesis has to be my pick, I think.
Nice, and I hear you on Mario Kart 64. Those graphics were amazing at that time. Do you guys have any plans this year that you can share with us?
Well, the first plans that, I guess, for the new year starts tomorrow with when we’re shooting a music video. So that’ll be a lot of fun. But then we’re going on tour in a couple of weeks, so actually the first show of the tour will be the release day of the album. So January 20th. So we’ll kick it off in Copenhagen. So that will be an extra celebration. First of all, a tour that’s been postponed three times, finally getting that on the road, and then having the album out on the same day. So that calls for celebration.
And so we’re doing that. And then we have a, going to Japan also, sometime this Spring, and we have a bunch of summer shows. I don’t know about the US yet. We’ve had a few questions about that, and we would love to come. It was a while ago we played, all other bands would play either 70K or ProgPower. But we’ll see what happens now. I think it is probably, it’s high time for a return to the US I feel like. But it’s all written in the book of time, so we’ll see what that has in store for us.
It would be great to see you guys tour with Sabaton or something, and yeah, I was hoping that you guys would be on 70K.
Yeah, well this, unfortunately, we have our own tour this year, so that’s unfortunately not going to happen. But we’ll see. There are other options. It’s hard. I mean, going to the US is a lot of work and a lot of money, so because of visas, work visas and stuff that needs to be taken care of, so.
Oh yeah. They keep making it more impossible for artists.
That too. But I mean, fingers crossed, it’s inevitable. It will happen. It’s only a matter of time and when, but we’ll figure it out. We would love to come back, obviously.
Is there anything else that you want to say to your fans about the new album?
Ooh. Well, I hope that people will listen to it and also read the lyrics. That is a little bit of a recommendation because there’s actually stories that you can follow and connect to the Twilight Kingdoms in the world building that we are doing. And we also have some great plans coming this year on that world building aspect. So we’ll try to extend and improve and make a little more, because so far it’s mostly been loosely based stories, and story lines, and characters, and places and whatnot, but I’m trying to bring everything together and expand quite a bit on that. So if you listen to the album, listen and read the lyrics and get a little feel for the mood it just brings a little extra dimension, I think, to the songs. And also, look out for our bonus track with Aerendir on vocals, which is kind of amazing actually, if I may say so myself. He has a very pleasant voice that you might not think or suspect.
Awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me, and I hope you guys will come to the US soon enough.
I hope so too. It will absolutely happen eventually. Thank you so much.
Tags: Blackwald, Twilight Force
Categorised in: Interviews