|Review: Winterlong - Valley Of The Lost|
|Valley Of The Lost|
Label: Lion Music
Year released: 2001
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: November 16, 2010
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:Valley Of The Lost
Rated 4.75/5 (95%) (8 Votes)
There are some weird and wonderful albums in the Power Metal sphere, and the debut from Sweden's Winterlong is certainly one of them. A record I've listened to an awful lot since I got it (a number of years ago now), Valley Of The Lost is chock full of cool riffs, memorable refrains, and sparkling musicianship, but it's also quite unusual, and if you like your Power Metal with a dash of ingenuity, this is a recording you need to experience.
Through an icy production, Valley Of The Lost throws you onto cold, frost-bitten mountain peaks; but this is no Immortal album; guitarist Thorbjorn Englund and his merry troubadours sound more like early Blind Guardian, with plenty of Gamma Ray riffs and melodies in there, as well as some Stratovarius mid sections and Virgin Steele-esque orchestration. This is not a particularly epic album, but it pulses with atmosphere, and while the songs themselves are very much in the 90s Power Metal mould, there is an old school and even true metal feel here. Englund went on to create a few poor records with a revolving door policy, but here Winterlong sound like a real band, commanding their material with real authorial strength. The voice of frontman/rhythm guitarist Hussni Morsare is gruffer than most, but he can still hold a tune (and all of these tracks are very melodic, vocally), but rather than hamper the album, this aspect sets it apart from many of its clones, and puts Winterlong in the same category as Persuader and The Storyteller, without them being as heavy.
Of course, being produced by Lars Eric Mattsson, there is a neo-classical panache here, but the music for the most part is speedy Power Metal, full of fist-pumping choruses and fantasy-driven lyrics. All songs are great, none of them disappointing, and there is much movement between the tracks, progressing with a whole bucket of instrumental segments that surprises at every turn. Opener "From Heaven To Hell" is a catchy rush of guitar harmonies, "Nosferatu" is a fun, double-kicked metal anthem, and even the reflective "Mystery Of Life" gives a chorus you won't soon forget. Highlights are hard to find, as everything is more or less perfect the way it is, but "Written In Blood" deserves special mention for its kick-ass opening riff, and the excellent "Sky Travellers" is just a superb track all round, especially due to that cool refrain.
If you feel you've heard everything the scene has to offer, I suggest you purchase Valley Of The Lost and get transported to the arctic depths from which it was forged. Those into the more expansive side of the genre will like it, too; it's one of my favorite records, in fact. Make it one of yours.
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