The Forest Seasons: Wintersun

Rating: 85%

WintersunForestSeasonsFive years after the last album was released, “The Forest Seasons” was released in 2017. And since it’s release in July, there has been many voicing some strong opinions whether they like this album or not. Many say that the songs are way too long, while others are attacking it because the band had to start a Crowdfunding Campaign in order to pay for the recording sessions due to Nuclar Blast’s not giving out enough studio time. Whether or not that was a scam, I don’t know. Either way, we now have a third album by Wintersun, with others that may soon to follow, depending on the funding.

So, we have the very talented song writer and instrumentalist Jari Mäenpää who plays most of the lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizers. He also is credited with writing the orchestrations. So, I get it, Jari Mäenpää is and can be a one man band in the studio. That is what makes him so fucking talented and imaginative. You also have Teemu Mäntysaari and Jukka Koskinen on backing vocals.

Musically, this album fuses several genres of Heavy Metal with Orchestra along with Classical elements thrown in. This is what makes Symphonic Black Metal sound good. To others it makes the sound watered down. It does have a very Epic Metal feeling to it along with a small dash of Power Metal and Folk Metal thrown into it. It’s almost to the point where the Black Metal is washed away. But, that doesn’t really take away from the over all sound which to me is very powerful, but polished. The music itself is very clean, full, rich, and meaty. The melodies are very interesting, but can be at times, shapeless and plain. There seems to be lack of outstanding riffs, but the leads are very good. I do like the drumming and the bass seems to be well in front. The lyrical themes seem to center around the forest and the four seasons that it experiences. With regards to that, the song writing is inspiring, deep, and meaningful. 

The musicianship is outstanding. The instrumentation is very engaging. It’s like you don’t know whats around the corner until you are there. It’s well balanced between the Heavy Metal sections with the Orchestra and keyboards. To me, this is where the term “Epic” needs to come in. The instrumentation along with the music is exciting at times and atmospheric. But the long song lengths may take away from this to make the music plain and boring in parts. the vocals between the harsh and clean are about what you expect. The choirs are very big and beefy.  

Depending on what you like, you may dig this concept album. But keep in mind that there are as many that hate it, as there are who love it. Me, I like it.

Track listing:

1. “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”
Part I: “The Dark Slumber”
Part II: “The Awakening” 14:40
2. “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)” 12:18
3. “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)”
Part I: “Haunting Darkness”
Part II: “The Call of the Dark Dream”
Part III: “Beyond the Infinite Universe”
Part IV: “Death” 14:08
4. “Loneliness (Winter)” 12:54

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Burning Insight: Frantic Amber

Rating: 90%

456368.jpgSwedish Death Metal band Frantic Amber released their 2015 debut “Burning Insight.” For the most part, this all female band minus the drummer dude hits the head of the nail. Think of a female version of Dethklok. Frantic Amber is made up of bassist Sandra Stensen, drummer Erik Röjås, lead guitarist Mio Jäger, guitarist Mary Säfstrand, and vocalist Elizabeth Andrews.

This album is truly a piece of art. It’s got a lot of great parts musically to it. Listening to it, there is a good bit of harmony to certain sections of music. The melody is very strong. Mix this in with very gritty riffs of the guitars and bass, and the madness of the drums, plus the harsh vocals, and you have a good Melodic Death Metal album. Each note is precis and prefect. The leads and the fill ins are one thing that sticks out. Another piece of instrumentation that is well done, it the bass. It’s always good to hear the bass in Heavy Metal that is creative. There seems to be a lot of very complex drumming that sets the tempos. The harsh vocals feature a certain degree of growls, shrills, and screams. I have not been able to locate a dull moment on this album. It’s an epic masterpiece. It’s got a certain degree of some eerie and creepiness on the slower tempo music. One thing is for sure, it’s not boring and the flow of the music is very exciting. Everyone seems to be comparing this to Arch Enemy, but, this band to me, is a hell of a lot better.

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Frantic Amber. Blabbermouth.com

Track Listing:

1. Intro 01:08 instrumental
2. Burning Insight 04:27
3. Bleeding Sanity 04:18
4. Soar 05:29
5. Drained 05:39
6. Awakening 03:51
7. Entwined 04:35
8. Wrath of Judgement 05:01
9. Unbreakable 05:23
10. Destruction 05:31
11. Ghost 05:52

Pitch Black Brigade: Vreid

Rating: 85%

105296.jpgIn 2006, Vreid released “Pitch Black Brigade. The band consisted of vocalist & guitarist Sture, guitarist Ese, bassist Hvàll, and drummer Steingrim.

One thing that I liked about this band is their version of Black Metal. Musically, it’s very melodic. But there are also elements of some Thrash Metal and some roots of Punk music thrown into the song structures at times. Fast riffs, great tempos, and even some weird timing shifts. The sound itself is very raw, at the same time, there is a certain epic feel to the music.

The musicianship is pretty good. The growls and shrills of the vocals are more along Death Metal and the shrieks of Black Metal. There’s plenty of brutal guitar riffs. Many of the riffs are heavily rooted into thrash. While some of the other riffs and effects are borderline punk. The album is missing a bit of the lead guitar solos. The bass for the most part plays more along side of the guitars, but it is clearly heard in the finished product. There are some bass riffs here that sound very good. The drums are fantastic. I love hearing the double tap of the bass drums.

Track listing:

“Då Draumen Rakna” (“When the Dream Shattered”) – 5:16
“Left to Hate” – 4:38
“Pitch Black” – 4:20
“The Red Smell” – 4:42
“Hengebjørki” (“The Silver Birch”) – 9:21
“Our Battle” – 3:35
“Hang ‘Em All” – 3:33
“Eit Kapitell For Seg Sjølv”(“A Story of its Own”) – 6:54

Time I: Wintersun

Rating: 80%

WintersunTimeI.jpgI absolutely enjoyed Wintersun’s first album, so when I caught wind of “Time I” being released, I quickly ran out to the record store and purchased it. This is a hard album to rate, because for one, it took several years for it to be recorded and released. The blame laid within the recording sessions itself.

Two, the styles of music contained here is much more than roast beef. It’s more like salad thrown into a bowl. For example, the album’s opening track, the listener will notice some experimentation with Japanese-style melodies incorporated with traditional Folk elements.

The musicianship of vocalist, guitarist, computer and keyboardist Jari Mäenpää, along with drummer Kai Hahto, bassist Jukka Koskinen and guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari seems to be good. The downfall with having two guitarist, is there is only one guitar solo contained on this album. It appears on the title track “Time.” The drums and bass seem to be keeping a decent pace for the music. Jari Mäenpää is what one would expect and he does a good job of mixing his range. The synths and keyboards do a good job of keeping the music flowing without bogging down the album. Although, at times, they do seem to take over musically, covering up the guitars and drums.

The structure of the music itself contains a lot of balance and good melodies. It also contains some good fast tempo structures and yet, the slower parts seem to be along the realms of classical influences as well as some Asian influences as well. This album’s backbone is surrounded by a heavy symphonic sound upon a big orchestra structure with some progressive parts. The album does contain big epics when looking at the song lengths themselves. The music contains some really beautiful aspects with all of the melodies. This album has a very unique sound, and big sagas. The sorrowfulness and atmospheric themes are sung in a positive light with vocal styles being mixed between harsh style vocals to the cleaner style. All and all, this album may not be a metalheads cup of tea, but it is a decent album that requires a certain taste, like wine. You’ll have to sip it before gulping it.

Track Listing:

1. “When Time Fades Away” 4:08
2. “Sons of Winter and Stars”
I. “Rain of Stars”
II. “Surrounded by Darkness”
III. “Journey Inside a Dream”
IV. “Sons of Winter and Stars” 13:31
3. “Land of Snow and Sorrow” 8:22
4. “Darkness and Frost” 2:24
5. “Time” 11:45
6. “Sons of Winter and Stars” (Acapella – Hidden track) 3:50