Saturday, July 29, 2017

Wintersun - The Forest Seasons (2017)

Wherever Wintersun goes, controversy will follow, that is one of the main laws of metal, standing besides other well known laws as "With long hair comes great responsibility" and "Thou shall always help someone who falls in a mosh pit". No matter how big or small the news of the band is, the controversy is always there, and it comes in shapes that we cannot even comprehend even. The delay of their albums is one thing (it is actually expected nowadays), but then we have such weird stories like they did a crowdfunding campaign to build a freaking sauna to their recording studio. I know that Finns love their saunas, but this is ridiculous.

And now that the band has finally released its third record, there is even more controversy to it. Because this is not "Time II" the long awaited follow up to the infamous "Time I" (or the melodic death metal version of "Chinese Democracy"). Instead, we get a 4 song album about the seasons called "The Forest Seasons". I honestly do not know if Jari and the rest of the band are A grade procrastinators, or if they are one of the biggest trolls in the metal universe, doing everything to stir the pot into a wild tornado.

All right, let's get into the album. "The Forest Seasons" is split into 4 tracks, obviously representing spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Each track is at least 12 minutes long, clocking together in at around 54 minutes, so you still get a lot of music for your money, even if the setlist looks to be in EP size. I honestly expected more for the wait, and the fact that the bonuses the funders get are various instrumental versions of this album and previous Wintersun albums does not really make it better, but I do think it is admirable that the band focused fully around the music, and not adding unnecessary shit, like a couple of covers or a few live songs.

The music is what could be expected from the band, very progressive and technical melodic death metal. It is extremely impressive when it comes to the pure technical work, all instruments cooperating in almost perfect harmony to create some luscious piece of art. Jari has always been great at arranging all of the different pieces that makes a band, completing a sound picture that is grand and epic. While the mixing is not entirely perfect (I would love to hear more of the guitars), it does its job, and with this kind of talent, it still shines brightly.

Talent can only take you so far though, as the music must be at the same level too, and quite frankly, it is the most disappointing part of this record. Not only do we only get four songs, I would actually say that only two of them are really memorable. Both "Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)" and "The Forest That Weeps (Summer)" are fine tracks, but they are not cohesive throughout their individual playing times, creating more confusion than necessary. The other two songs however, are perhaps some of Wintersun's finest work to date.

"Eternal Darkness (Autumn)" describes itself pretty good actually, being the most horror themed song of the bunch, with more blast beats and more black metal influences. It certainly is a spectacle that tells its hauntingly beautiful story really well. Still, it pales in comparison to the final track, "Loneliness (Winter)", a truly epic finisher with some of the finest vocal performances from Jari, both clean and harsh. Man, the emotions that the band produces here are just tremendous, and the goose bumps are inescapable when the epic nature reaches its maximum height. Simply put, this is how to end a grand epic of an album.

So in the end, what are my true feelings of this album? Now, I am a little disappointed that this is not "Time II", but new music is new music, so I can take it (besides, other bands has taken way longer to get to their second part, like Vintersorg who recently released "Till Fjälls Del II", 19 years after the first part). I am however more disappointed that the funders did not get more out of their money. A four piece album that has two fantastic songs and two unfocused ones is not really enough. Does this make "The Forest Seasons" a bad album though? Absolutely not, it is a nice album for what it tries to accomplish, and I respect the work that has been put into it, but Wintersun has gotten such a reputation around themselves that every release is expected to be a master piece, a larger than life effort that will be talked for decades, something they might never match, no matter how good albums they will put out. It is unfair to them, yes, but it is unfortunately a reputation the band has built themselves over the years. Therefore, it is hard to look at a new Wintersun release without the backlash, and I tried my best to do so. My final opinion is that this is a good album with flaws and a contender for song of the year.

Enjoy the sauna guys, may it bring you lots of inspiration so that "Time II" will finally be a reality.

Songs worthy of recognition: Loneliness (Winter), Eternal Darkness (Autumn)

Rating: 7/10 Weeping Forests

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