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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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

Wintersun

Rating: 90%

wintersunWintersun’s debut album was released in 2004. This was meant to be a side project that turned into a full time job by Jari Mäenpää as he was forced to leave  Ensiferum due to studio conflicts with his project and that of his band. He recorded all instruments on this album with the exception of the drum tracks which were provide by Kai “the Grinder” Hahto. The end result was an album that crosses the realms of Symphonic Melodic Death Metal. This album is a great effort put forth by Jari Mäenpää.

Musically, this album is full of raw energy. It has many great riffs and the leads are absolutely amazing. Lots of fast moving tempos centered around classic death metal that often at times enters into the realms of speed metal, power metal and folk metal. There are slower tempos on this album that really gives the listener a break. The chording of the power chords are simple. At times chords scream out loud, and then the music softens to a more folk feeling and then some classical influences begin to shine through. Aside from the guitars, the keyboards add to the atmosphere with out bogging the music down. Production is clean.

Jari not only proves himself as a talented musician, but as a decent song writer as well. His song writing center around a collection of themes such as human emotions, winter, space, dreams, death and time. Jari has a good mixture of mostly harsh vocals and some clean vocal work thrown in. There is some background spoken vocal work that Jari throws in which seems to help pull the listener in.  This is a very good album and an album that is well done.

Track listing:

1. Beyond the Dark Sun 02:38
2. Winter Madness 05:08
3. Sleeping Stars 05:41
4. Battle Against Time 07:03
5. Death and the Healing 07:13
6. Starchild 07:54
7. Beautiful Death 08:16
8. Sadness and Hate 10:16

Shadowheart: Kivimetsän Druidi

Rating: 65%

Kivimetsän_Druidi_Shadowheart.jpgSo, I felt like getting something different. So, I picked up Kivimetsän Druidi’s “Shadowheart.” This album came out in 2008 and was the band’s debut. I enjoyed Folk Metal and I enjoy the stories that are centered around Viking Metal. But when you combine Folk Metal and Symphonic Metal together, the combination works well or it lands flat. Now, I am not a big fan of the Opera which is what Symphonic Metal is. But, I wanted to give this band a try. Upon listening to it, I gave it two thumbs down, because I am not into Opera music. But, not to be biased, I kept easing myself into it.

What we have here is a lot of ideas running rapid on this record and sometimes they run all together. Some of those ideas work well such as the Classical music influences. However, the Opera portions mixed with the harsh vocals is a bit much at times. There’s a lot of tempo changes and different melodies. It has some very catchy chorus lines. Structurally, this album is tight. Lots of good lead guitar work.There’s a lot of good riffs throughout the album. Plenty of decent bass lines. The drums are OK. Production wise, it’s not bad. The horns sections on a few of the songs are a bit overdone and drowns out the band in some areas. The sound is bold and very meaty. There’s a good bit of Black Metal influxes throughout many of the songs. There are some really good keyboard work throughout this record.

Leeni-Maria Hovila, the female vocalist tries her best, but sometimes her Opera style falls short of the male vocalist and guitarist Joni Koskinen. But on other songs, Leeni-Maria Hovila can hit those notes like no other. Hitting the strings of the guitar is Antti Rinkinen, and pounding the bass is Simo Lehtonen. Rounding out on the drums is Atte Martinen and bringing up the rear of the band is keyboardist Antti Koskinen.

“Shadowheart”is a good effort by Kivimetsän Druidi. It’s not my cup of tea, but, still it’s enjoyable to listen to once in a while. Would I recommend this album? Probably not so much unless, I know that the person I am talking to is into this style of music.

Track listing:

“Northwind – Prelude” – 1:29
“Blacksmith” – 6:01 (Jenni Onishko, Joni Koskinen, Antti Koskinen, Antti Rinkinen)
“Jäässä Varttunut” (“Grown Up Within Ice”) – 5:51 (Onishko, A. Koskinen, J. Koskinen)
“Halls of Shadowheart” – 4:36 (A. Koskinen, J. Koskinen, Leeni-Maria Hovila)
“Pedon Loitsu” (“The Spell Of The Beast”) – 5:57 (A. Koskinen, J. Koskinen, Lukas Pearsall)
“Burden” – 4:31 (Onishko, J. Koskinen, Ville Ryöti)
“The Tyrant” – 5:44 (A. Koskinen, J. Koskinen, Onishko)
“Tiarnäch – Verinummi” (“Bloodmoor”) – 2:33 (Hovila, J. Koskinen, A. Koskinen)
“Verivala” (“Bloodoath”) – 4:01 (Hovila, Ryöti, J. Koskinen, A. Koskinen)
“Korpin Laulu” (“Raven’s Song”) – 5:19 (Hovila, J. Koskinen, A. Koskinen)
“Mustan Valtikan Aika” (“The Era Of The Black Scepter”) – 7:00 (Rinkinen, J. Koskinen. A. Koskinen)
“Viimeinen Peikkokuningas” (“The Last Of The Troll Kings”) – 2:22
“Leaves” – 4:42