Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wintersun: Time I

Wintersun's long-awaited follow-up to their highly acclaimed self-titled release is probably the most hyped album of the year.  Every year for the last few years there have been rumors that it was finally going to be released.  There have even been release dates set in the past when Wintersun's new album was going to be out.  And each year there has been nothing.  Well no longer.  Wintersun has finally released Time I, eight years after the self-titled album.

With that much time and hype could the album possibly live up to its expectations?  Well sadly, no.  The album definitely is a victim of its own lofty expectations.  That is not to suggest that the album is really bad in any way, in fact it is a very good release in its own right.  But all of the build-up over the years had fans of the band frothing at the mouth for the Finnish band to finally release this album that it could not possibly succeed.

Well enough of all of that.  Wintersun is the project of Jari Mäenpää who created the band originally as a side project while he was still in folk metal stalwarts Ensiferum.  He chose to leave Ensiferum while working on the first album because the schedules clashed.  Wintersun is Mäenpää's project.  He recorded most of the instruments on the debut album.  He has since brought in other musicians but still retains much of the creative control.

This is a fairly short album, made up of only five tracks, but the songs are epic in both length and sound.  Wintersun's music is difficult to categorize.  Elements of melodic death metal, black metal, folk metal, symphonic metal, and a variety of other styles all mix together. Mäenpää himself describes it as "Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal", which seems as apt a description as anything else really.

The songs flow well together.  The compositions are seemless.  There are faster-paced parts which are offset by serene and tranquil segments.  The vocals run the gamut from soulful crooning to harsher rasping shrieks.  There is a lot of influence from folk music from other countries, most notably Japan.  The use of symphonic and orchestral elements fits in well with the more aggressive metallic approach.  As stated, the songs flow together remarkably well.  The prior album was a collection of individual songs, while this album is a much more complete and cohesive piece of music.

All of this suggests that this album is a well-crafted and impressive release.  And it certainly is.  Unfortunately it is somewhat anti-climactic.  There is not a lot here that was not present on Wintersun's prior album.  There are some experimentations with other cultural folk music but there is nothing here that is mind-blowingly original.  With as much time as has passed between albums, there was some hope that the new album would be incredible.  It is very good, just not as good as it should have been.

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