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Winterlong – Valley of the Lost (Reissue)

Winterlong
Valley of the Lost
by Santiago Puyol at 08 August 2019, 9:38 PM

"Valley of the Lost" might be a slice Power Metal from Sweden in the early 2000s, but WINTERLONG sounds straight out of the eighties, in the best possible way. Combining the vocabulary of classic Metal with Neoclassical and Progressive Metal, this quartet wastes no time in delivering a musical odyssey packed with tight musicianship and catchy melodies. It may not be the most original sound of all, but WINTERLONG does what it does simply well.

"From Heaven to Hell" opens the album with force, being one of the most epic and progressive songs. Theatrical vocals, shredding solos, groovy bass lines and dramatic synthesizers envelop its almost six minutes in length. Some Progressive Folk influences sneak in, vaguely evoking JETHRO TULL. "Sky Travellers" goes next, with a steady rhythm, sustaining the energy and the anthemic vibe of the album.

The third track of the album, "Winterlong", perfectly encapsulates the sound and potential of the band. During its five and a half minutes length, the song goes through different sections and moments. After a flanger-heavy intro, the song oscillates between rocking verses and melodramatic choruses with staccato use of synthesized choruses. Thorbjörn Englund's (ex-SABATON) excellent guitar solos borrow compositional sensitivities from Vivaldi, while the final coda seems clearly inspired by the more exuberant side of Beethoven.

The title track chooses the path of crescendoing, building tension along the first two thirds of its duration, unleashing it in an epic solo at the end. The folk and acoustic sonorities return, anchored in the presence of Erik Tornberg's bass. "The Water Spirit" comes closer to the late sixties, particularly with its nostalgic sound and DEEP PURPLE-inspired riffing.

"Nosferatu" follows the Power Metal short song format, with the epic nature of IRON MAIDEN in "Powerslave" echoing in the main riff. Bach seems to be among the reference points for some guitar patterns here. With a Hard Rock sound, and a bittersweet melody that never becomes either sad or happy, "Mystery of Life" follows. The beautiful synthesizer arrangements seem to come from a movie or video game soundtrack.

"Victory" serves as a brief, almost romantic interlude, before the penultimate song and last epic of the album, "Written in Blood". Toni Erkkilä provides his proggiest work behind the drum kit on this track, standing as a distinctive rhythm support alongside Tornberg's bass. The main melody here sounds vaguely similar to Koji Kondo’s main theme for The Legend of Zelda.

The album closes with the lovely ballad "Written in Blood", a short, sweet end to a remarkable album. The vocal layering here is outstanding and the synth orchestrations embellish the simple but effective songwriting.

"Valley of the Lost" is an excellent album, particularly remarkable considering it was Winterlong's debut in 2001. This reissue sounds splendid, with a production in which little should be changed even if it does have its mistakes. Hussni Mörsare's voice is quite typical of this genre, but he is gritty and intense enough to add to the experience.

One has to wonder how this would have sounded with actual orchestral instruments instead of synthesizers though. It’s a pity the band broke up.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. From Heaven to Hell
2. Sky Travelers
3. Winterlong
4. Valley of the Lost
5. The Water Spirit
6. Nosferatu
7. Mystery of Life
8. Victory
9. Written in Blood
10. Drive by Insanity
Lineup:
Hussni Mörsare – Vocals
Thorbjörn Englund – Guitar
Erik Tornberg – Bass
Toni Erkkilä – Drums
Record Label: Lion Music
     


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