If you need music to steel your heart for the quest of life, then the album Skyworld (2012), the fourth public album by Two Steps from Hell will fulfil this need with startling effect. The results are strong with conviction, as the album peaked at number 10 in the US Billboard Classical Albums and 19 in the US Billboard Top Heatseekers in 2012 within weeks of its release. Blackheart, as part of this album, is typical of the rousing, mysterious timbres that are synonymous with Bergersen’s neo-orchestral compositions. The arrangement is the height of musical dramatism, carving mountains out of sound as the dynamics swoop from piano to forte in an epic soundtrack to rival those of Hans Zimmer and John Williams.
As soon as the low, mournful tones of the cello hum at the start of the piece, images of misty forests in days of old fill the mind, to such an extent that one can almost smell the damp leaves and feel the chill breeze on the face as the music immediately encapsulates the senses. The introduction of the strings in a rising crescendo that fills the heart, and it is clear that this piece will be an extraordinary musical experience. The fade into an almost whimsical melody on the piano again enhances the fantastical quality of the piece before once more swelling, this time with choral effects, into a dramatic explosion of strings and drums that storm effortlessly into the chorus before dropping back to a solo violin as played by Bergersen himself, with the drumbeat pushing the piece along to yet another climax as the music lilts up and down in waves of crescendos and diminuendos. The bass guitar offers a new dimension after the second chorus dies away before rising into the final chorus which is now complete with the accentuated, ethereal wailing of the vocals to lift the melody to new heights for a climax which simultaneously lifts you into the stratosphere while having ground-shaking force. The piece draws to its close, dropping away to the cavatina of the solitary piano then joined temporarily by the gentle singular tone from the cello once again before leaving the piano to trail off into the distance, leaving a mysteriously aloof feel in the heart.
It is not just the fact that this piece makes the listener feel the need to run through a forest like the wind that makes it so extraordinary. There are numerous details that show the musicians’ deep, subliminal grasp of this piece as a whole, so that the shifting waves of harmony are so subtle that the listener only registers them subconsciously.
Although Bergersen has composed for major motion pictures, namely Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight to name a few, he has really outdone himself with Blackheart and this piece, evoking images from a medieval forest to a post-apocalyptic desert land is surely a piece for all time.