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Fuck it, I'm doing it. I know, I know, I know, this has a billion reviews, and people have done negatives and ripped on it for all sorts of reasons, but still, no one has done it hard enough, so here we are. People are always finding something to appreciate, something to respect, maybe it's a song, or an interlude, or a simple appreciation of effort, but that just won't do. I say no more! Time I must be held accountable for its actions and be known as the complete musical and artistic atrocity that it is! This is the musical equivalent of a barbie doll having violent diarrhea into a fairies blender, and the artistic equal to someone smuggling an impressive volume of cut methamphetamine inside their urethra, and it is without a doubt the worst album I have ever sat through.
Undoubtedly my biggest issue here is the dreaded synthphonics which fill every second of this cancerous lump. Symphonies and metal already have a strained relationship with anything even remotely resembling quality music. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, first and foremost being that most bands put literally no effort into combining the two sounds with any sort of care, meaning you end up with a bunch of strings and horns over the top of completely vapid, uninteresting chug riffs or gallops. The second reason is that many bands who do this seem to have a really low tier interest in classical music despite, you know, making their music focus entirely on it, meaning you're more likely to be getting boring film soundtrack tones rather than something intricate and carefully composed. All in all, the formula tends to be pretty bad as is, boring riffs and boring movie scores played in tandem. It's not exactly thrilling stuff, despite the odd one pulling something more compelling out of their ass.
Co-existing with the bands which use real orchestras or realistic synths to attempt to recreate an authentic sound are the ones who play up their synthiness at the same time as removing the focus from the riffs, and there is no forgiveness for them. These sort of bands have all the same issues of mixing boring metal and boring quasi-classical "stirring strings", but they lack the texture or "authenticity" of it all. Instead of paying out the arse for a real symphony, or trying tweak their keyboard effects to make it sound like it features real instruments, synthphonic bands wear their fabricated nature as a badge of honour. They proudly choose the most digitized and barely approximate midi tones and slap them right up front, not aiming for the scale of a real symphony, but instead to obtain a smaller scale form of splendor. Many of these bands deliberately opt for an overall low gloss sound, using their cheapness as a form of minimalistic authenticity of its own outside of any sort of organic validity to the impersonated instruments, like Summoning for instance. The general idea does have a following due it reminding people of mid 90's RPG music, although since that style of music that ever appalled to me, so I utterly despise it with all my being, and any band who does it is bound to be a laughable joke of pseudo-epic garbage to my ears. So, where does Wintersun's fit in to all this? Simply, Time I is by far the most synthphonic album ever made.
Knowing how synth focused the style already is, finding a way to be clearly more overdone than any of their peers is a tough ask, but Time I pulls it off with ease. Wintersun's second full length album is ridiculously committed to the cause of using blatant computerised replications of real instruments to create epic soundscapes over literally every second of the album. Fast or slow, bold or pensive, it doesn't matter, this album is drowning in superfluous computer sound. The big difference they've got in comparison to other poorly synthesized symphonic acts is how they've gone about it in a shiny, slick way instead of trying to capture some kind of goofy dungeon synth or video game retro vibe. It's disgusting. As in the very concept makes me feel sick in the guts. This is loaded to the tits with layer after layer of bad sounding digitized violins, horns, choirs, Japanese instruments, random beeps and laser sounds, and whatever else the band found in the hundred and eighty three midi packs they downloaded. Every element of the music sounds like it was played by pressing a key, even when it's a supposed to sound like a number of string instruments soaring off one another; every "instrument" here plays in tones, rather than notes or plucks or chords. This isn't aiming for some kind of retro epic, this is aiming for genuine, expressive and bold grandeur and it fails horribly based on how utterly plastic, glossy and downright fake it all sounds, as well as how badly it's all written.
Just having a terrible sound is bad enough, but the composition here is embarrassingly poor too. The melodies created by the synths are simplistic and unmoving, made even worse by their pristine smoothness since they're a tone mapped to a button, not someone actually drawing a bow along a string, which keeps any character from reverberating through a single note. The band covers for the lack of individual quality by playing about eight of them at any given time and it's just way too much. The whole album is messy clusterfuck of vaguely similar melodies being played on a wide range of phoney instruments at the same time, with nothing in particular taking centre stage or developing into anything impressive. Everything stays at the same lacking standard of being a tedious melodic power or folk metal transposition, and any sort of attempted escalation or growth within the music is handled by just throwing a different tedious melodic power or folk metal transposition over the top. Individually every part sounds like shit, but as a whole the cacophony is downright annoying and it never fucking stops. I'd complain that the complete, unwavering focus on the garish and grating keyboard crap was drowning out the metal, but the metal here is somewhere between ridiculously gay 16th note abusing Euro power, rejected Ensiferum jigs, and vapid melodeath that makes the debut look halfway decent by comparison, so the fact they've buried the garbage is one of the few positive things I could say about the album.
Although I've been saying "Wintersun" and "they" a lot so far, this is very much a case of one guy running the show. Jari wrote all the "epic" synthphonies, he wrote all the power metal melodies, basically anything which has been made audible Jari made, the rest of the band can go die in the snow as far as he cares. Jari is so arrogant that if he went the Amon Amarth route and made an action figure of himself, it'd effectively be a Mr Potato Head with his own face, except all the the detachable parts would just be smaller versions of his own face. I don't see epic landscapes when listening to this, I see a stuck up Finnish knob, sitting in a room with walls covered in self portraits, playing a keyboard. No, wait, I don't even see that. I see him in his face-room sitting on a computer, layering dozens of chintzy keyboard tracks together carelessly, crying at his own majesty. It desperately wants to be bombastic, but it comes across as something with scale of the most unadventurous bedroom bands just glossier and more expensive; as such the album is a 40 minute procession of abject failure.
Really, it's disgustingly apparent Mäenpää is the only one who is given the right to stand out against the onslaught of impudent dreck. Usually with his vocals which are quite loud in the mix, but he also gets the odd power metal melodic lick and a solitary, lonely guitar solo. His vocals are not too bad by all standards when taken alone, highly clean vocal centric, but honestly this album is far more power metal than death so that's ok; his issue is how big he's trying to sound. There's no denying he's absolutely certain in the magnitude of the music, and he puts on the absolute biggest act he can, it sounds utterly ridiculous next to the smallness of the sound.
I hate this to a point I can barely express it properly, the album infuriates me on musical and artistic levels, and I hate the sort of personality and attitude behind it. Time I is the musical equivalent of those mega-mansions Arabian Sheikh's live in, where they gold plate literally every item in their possession that is easily accessible, and drape anything that's too hard to melt ingots over in a tasteless royal blue. To Jari I'm sure this is a regal, classy thing, but to a bystander the whole product is nauseatingly tacky. I don't care that this took 8 years to make, hell I hope Jari takes a decade between every release so he dies an old man before he subjects us to much more of this shit, this isn't terrible because of hype, or wait time, it's terrible because it's obnoxious glossy droll incessantly trying to show you it's clever by demonstrating it has the skill to piss in its own mouth.
First up, I'd like to state that yeah, I know there's already 30 million reviews of this album and the last thing it really needs is another one. But when faced with spending your time constructively procrastination can be a powerful thing, so here I am, writing a review when I should be doing a summary of the Management and Discipline chapter in a book I'm reading. On with the review!
This album is a pretty cool one, kind of, sort of. Perhaps the best way of stating is that this could be that massive stone cold classic so many want it to be, but it isn't. It's like having to gorge yourself on on your favourite type of food for a week. It's like a cuban cigar that takes 24 hours to smoke through. To restate this in a really obvious manner: you can have too much of a good thing.
Jari knows how to write sweeping, grandiose melodeath/power metal riffs, he knows how to program sweeping, grandiose synths. This dude can do epic in his sleep. Unfortunately, he can't do subdued; or at least he can't slip it into a song. After eating a few mars bars, you generally tire of them. Similarly, you get tired of the midi inspired sugar kick here pretty quick. A headache starts appearing out of nowhere. Understandably, this is problematic, especially when there's about 35 minutes of it.
Skip to a random part of any song, and it sounds fantastic. The guitars are all over the place but in a supremely consonant manner, and it's pretty cool to behold. I'm not much of a melodeath dude at all but it's fun enjoying this kind of stuff that's somewhere between Iron MaIden and Dragonforce. The synths fly and buzz around like bees made of cotton candy, the drums sitting there in the background but doing a bunch of fills and actually being quite underrated. It's vaguely baroque (I'm sure jari & his fanboys namedrop Vivaldi, Paganini etc. regularly), it's well played; sure the instruments sound generic (8 years and these are the best synths they found?) but they are playing cool parts! One would assume the fanbase of Time I is nerdy as it gets, in which case I'm sure I'm not the only one who's constantly reminded of that one righteously awesome video game moment. For a catchy abstract of this review, consider the line "Time I is that super awesome video game moment for 40 odd minutes". Final boss in Golden Sun 2, by the way.
Problem is that it never ends. There is a rather brief interlude, but aside from that it's all systems go all the damn time. Everything just bleating away all the time, pounding you with this unrelenting bombast. You get numbed. You get bored. The synths and riffs stop becoming awesome and start getting really tiresome. You start to find faults, and there's a few of them; in the uncreative synth lines, in the way that the drums could be programmed and no one would have any idea whatsoever. In the fact that the album just never stops!! It really starts wearing you down, and it's not helped by the ludicrously overlong songs. Or by the production job that strips this of the few dynamics it ever had. So on and so forth.
This is not a bad album. But this problem is a big one. The best part of the album is the comedown at the end of the title track (and thus the end of the album), where we're left with a nice subdued soundtrack. It's really hard to describe just how much relief you feel when stuff drops away and it comes in. To conclude, giving this a listen won't kill you, and I'd argue that anyone who says this is actively bad is a bit of a killjoy. But dammit Jari, give us a break from time to time. Do an Opeth and drop a totally unrelated acoustic break into the sound. A field recording of you taking a shit. Anything!
With an 8-year wait between this record from the band's previous album, fans truly were in for a surprise for what Wintersun had in store for them. The wait, while a long one, was seemingly worth it. It seems like Wintersun are the Necrophagist of symphonic metal by doing up with this extremely long gap between this and their previous full-length. Basically everything that Wintersun garnered fans with before are bigger and better up front here. The guitarists don't provide much to the music in some areas, but while the group save themselves with symphonic passages, the amazing power metal-esque vocals basically take up all the music and bring the listener to a dreamland rollercoaster.
The songs are very long - heck there's only 5 of them with a 40 minute total runtime. But the interesting thing regarding even as far as that goes is that they still lead into each other like the album is one big song. Basically what Between the Buried and Me did with their Colors album is the same case here with track ordnance and construction. The mass of the band obviously desired to base the listener about with a cinematic audial presentation deemed great enough to the ears to please fans who have suffocated all these years for a new LP from their favorite group.
Now I'll get back to the guitar work, while in some songs it's too slow or in a gothic metal/folk-metal esque radiance that only plays slow or completely non technical notes, they somewhat remain heavy as they are in this and the other genres I spoke of usually, but a downside to it all is that they're mastered really low in the mix while the orchestra elements and drums tend to want to take up all the lead. Kind of a shame for those expecting as much guitarwork as the band held on their previous LP. Now about the vocals, they're great and I mean really good. Jari Mäenpää's voice when singing baritone is elegant as it is epic and the melodic death metal-style screams he also does in select moments are just about as amazing.
The whole center of this album seems to be led by symphonic passages and the vocals of the head of the band himself. While not a bad move, I can see why the record isn't for everybody according to the very mixed reviews it has received. Time I is a decent effort and does not disappoint (at least didn't disappoint me). Let's just hope Time II isn't another 8 years away.
It's not everyday I give an album a PERFECT rating on my blog and for Wintersun it's definitely a big return.
After 8 years of waiting and endlessly searching on the net for articles about Wintersun's next record, it has finally been released and, my god, what a return!
This album is certainly a trip through space and time and many unique elements of Japanese music influences and speed metal added into one. This album had a lot to make up to Wintersun's self-titled debut and with dedication and 8 years, it surprisingly did. You can listen to this album from the beginning to end without a doubt with each song having its own form of element ranging from folk metal to melodic death metal to the crushing power metal that Wintersun has never failed to deliver to us. It honestly is a slap in the face due to its short track listing of only 5 songs and 40 minutes running time, which honestly feels like about 20 minutes. Its magical feel and atmosphere it provides to the listener who gives it a genuine chance will not be disappointed by its magical, fantastic guitar sound and its drums ,which honestly is probably the only minor flaw of the album. Sometimes you find that most of the other music covers up the drums, but it makes up for its uniquely clean vocals and harmonic 'orchestra' sound.
If I told somebody about Wintersun, I'd honestly choose this album to introduce them to the band, however it's not for everybody. It's not for those who look for 'brutal folk metal' or those looking for deep-themed Viking lyrics in their music. It's for those looking for something unique, yet sticking to Wintersun's signature sound, WHICH AT THE SAME TIME expands into different influences.
I give this album 100% for its deep effort, amazing production, unique sound, and themes. Without a doubt, I couldn't give this album any lower than a 100% and I really, REALLY look forward to Time II due to Time I giving the listener a 'cliffhanger' to some extent at the end of the album. As you work, listen, or do any other activity and the last track has finally finished, you really do expect another one to come on, but those 40 minutes were just a WHOOOSH through a time tunnel of inconsistent adventure.
Wintersun is back and if I were Ensiferum, Eluveitie, or Moonsorrow, I'd be shitting myself.
Obviously this album is huge news, after waiting 8 years we finally have Jari Mäenpää's latest addition to the metal world and the question on everyone's mind is: does it live up the the expectations? My answer is yes, everything about this album speaks of its carefully crafted nature, the layers of sound; orchestration, guitars and everything else so subtly built on top of one another to really give it a complex, layered and dense feel. These are some of the best orchestrations I have ever heard; with a lot of folk elements to them they instantly recall bands such as Ensiferum and Equilibrium. The real differences though arise in the composition of the metal parts.
"When Time Fades Away" the opening instrumental is a bit long at four and a half minutes, especially when the album itself is only 40 minutes; it's still good though, it manages to stay interesting throughout the four minutes with a very haunting and melancholic yet epic atmosphere. The same could be said of the rest of the album, the intro builds right into "Sons of Winter and Stars"; this is an incredible song. It begins softly continuing on from the opening track and then explodes into a dense thicket of crushing guitars, bass and drums. This has become one of my favorite songs and definitely the best song of 2012; the constant change in dynamics and the switch between harsh vocals and clean is very well done. There are moments when it manages to be some of the heaviest, harshest metal you have heard and at other times it's as emotional as any ballad. The pinnacle of this thirteen minute epic comes towards the end, right after the soft emotional part it builds into one of the greatest choruses I have ever had the pleasure of listening too.
Then we have a mid-paced beast of a song - "Land of Snow and Sorrow". This song has the least amount of harsh vocals in this album, but for the most part it doesn't need them. This song speaks of great pain and sorrow and really utilizes that haunting melancholic atmosphere I talked about earlier and turns it into a truly excellent ballad. Then we have another instrumental track, a bit unnecessary I feel, but it serves its purpose well and it's good so no real criticism there. "Time" the second epic of this album is another truly amazing piece, it picks up the speed a bit after 10 minutes of balladry and orchestral interlude, though it doesn't get as fast as "Sons of Winter and Stars". This one contains another great chorus sung with clean vocals and including the best vocals on the whole album. Even though this song is faster it still manages to be really sorrowful and dark really maintaining the feel of the whole album.
Overall what really makes this album so good is a combination of the dark sorrowful atmosphere and the orchestration throughout which blends in with the metal perfectly. It's still metal, but very symphonic metal and it adds some progressive elements that really add to the feel. The vocal performance is also of the utmost perfection, Jari easily switches between clean and harsh vocals clearly drawing a line between the crushing metal and the melancholic emotional parts. The complexity is truly impressive and definitely helps to explain why Jari took so long with this album, I really hope Time ll can live up to the standard this has set because this is a truly superb slab of melodic death metal.
Ensiferum's first album is a masterpiece and one of my favorite albums. When I found that the mastermind behind the album formed this band, I started watching and waiting to see what would become of this band like everyone else: waiting for this album. I felt like the self-titled was solid, but I thought eventually Jari would realize his vision he set out to achieve when he left Ensiferum.
8 years later, Wintersun decides to greet you with a 5 minute intro. Please take note, Wintersun, that intros longer than 20 seconds are bad enough, but when you haven't produced anything in 8 years, making a 5 minute intro to start the "album" is absolutely absurd. Stop.
One of the 84 adjectives Jari uses to describe this band is "technical" and I'm glad to say that is accurate. This is extremely demanding on the technical end, very harmonically and structurally complex music. Of course, most of this is programmed music. This could explain part of the wait for this album. There's half of every musical instrument known to mankind being used. The overall feel of the music is I think what the band was going for and it's pretty cool in that regard.
Other than that, I don't have much good to say about it.
The guitar tone is the weakest I've heard in a while. I listen to a lot of "symphonic" stuff with a lot of different things going on, but this is metal. Heavy fucking guitars...we need them. It's kind of important. The guitar is so far behind everything else it feels absent most of the time. Considering this band was kind of founded on guitar riffs, it's an odd decision to not only bury the guitar in the mix, but just fail to put any real leads on the album, especially considering Jari is a pretty damn good guitarist. The mix of most of the instruments is inconsistent and the whole things kind of blends into a goop of indistinguishable tones.
Aside from that, the songs' structures are too ambiguous for their own good. There are decent ideas throughout, but none are fleshed out and there is way too much "ambient, winter-y, vaguely Oriental"-sounding filler. Way, way too much. It's 40 minutes long and all of about 25 minutes is de facto "song". 8 years for 25 minutes of music.
Time. Mine was very much wasted on this band.
First it was 8 years. And then last night it became 9. That's right, an out-of-nowhere update on the official Wintersun site very quietly slipped in that ‘Time II’ is now due in 2014. We’ll see. In fact even better – let’s not discuss it again. Let's discuss Time I instead. And let's do that with only one rule in mind; no matter how long it took to write and record, it's either a good album or it isn’t.
My verdict? Yes, it is a good album. But that doesn’t mean it’s good at everything it does. The very fact that there’s only five tracks tells you exactly what it’s trying to be good at, (especially given that two of them are instrumentals!). That leaves three real songs and me kind of owing it to you to talk you through each one.
“When Time Fades Away” is the opening instrumental. It’s a haunting and acoustic little crescendo with hints of an Asian influence, but no more than that. Next comes the first song anyone’s heard from this guy for….oooops, I promised not to mention of the 8 year thing. Back to the review.
“Sons Of Winter And Stars” is in four parts with a chorus that makes most Viking bands sound like a bunch of oafs who wondered in drunk after a dress up party. But it works most of all because Jari has the melodic firepower to keep the thing going for close to fifteen minutes. But only just. There are already signs that the principle here is write really long songs because you can, not because you’re good at it. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
“Land Of Snow and Sorrow” is a kind of repeat performance with Jari in what he called a “slow gothic shit” mood on the first album. As always, Jari couldn't write a bad hook if he tried, but the first two minutes are just repeat without a journey. And after that it’s an almost leisurely stroll with moments of brilliance, but an imbalance that can best be summed by comparing it with “Sleeping Stars” off the debut. Back then there was lots of repeat too, but an emotional thunderbolt gave that one a momentum that goes begging this time around. Remember, I’m comparing Jari to Jari here. Any other band and this would be outdoing themselves. Jari can do better.
“Darkness and Frost” is a genuine first. An almost Jari filler. I said almost. You can tell by the desperate sampling. But “Time” is redemption time. Because remember what I just said about the emotional thunderbolt missing this time around? Well, it’s back. And the interchange of clean and growl and choirs have never sounded so piercing and powerful. This is a whole sky of storm clouds.
The melody and phrasing and lyrics are all heart shatteringly beautiful. But what’s not so perfect is an unceasing policy of left turns into interlude and instrumental territory. Want proof? Have a listen to the astonishing metal peak climbed and conquered at the very final line of the first verse, “Oh time, don´t fade away when I need you here, oh please don´t leave me now”. What I want to know is what the hell is Jari doing for the next thirty or so seconds? To me it just sounds like a jamming speed hump until the anguished chorus blast beats things back into the kind of beautiful misery only genius knows.
And with that the album comes to a close. But not before Jari has come within a whisker of doing a George Lucas. Because in the same way that the once all conquering Star Wars creator slipped and slipped badly on a banana peel of excess to pump out three of the worst films ever made – so too has Jari come close to his own fruit loop moment.
Lucas himself has now gone on record to say he’s going to go back to making movies the way he once used to. With a good story and a camera. Now Jari has absolutely by no means fallen anywhere near as far as Lucas did. In fact the brilliance is still intact after eight long years. Yeah I know, I said it again.
Jari is a genius. End of story. And if I wanted to be kind I’d say he’s well on his way to becoming a symphonic master. But what I’m going to say instead – is exactly what everyone else is thinking. For all its 40 plus minutes, this album never once manages to come into focus the way “Beyond the Dark Sun” does in less than ten seconds of kicking off.
Yes I am waiting for Part II of “Time”. Utterly. We all are. But whoever it was that claimed that the album had to be split into two to enable fans to more fully “digest” the layers and scope blah blah blah needs to be taken out and shot. Jari is a great songwriter. But someone please just give him back his instruments and take away his computer. Because that’s where it all started.
What can we say? The man behind Wintersun, Jari, is a dreamer and he is damn proud of what he has produced. Passion and effort were greatly applied here, so much so that Jari is not willing to ask a native English speaker to help him correct his lyrics, hence the lyrical slips such as "I have awaken the darkness". This music means everything to him and if he were to die right now, he might not feel as if there was "so much left undone."
Of the five tracks, there are two "pairs" of tracks on this album. The first two tracks form a nearly 18-minute anthem which can be divided into five parts. The elements of these parts (in order) are: entrancing, powerful, ambitious, peaceful, and then mighty. Darkness and Frost is an instrumental (as is the first track) and escalates perfectly into the final track, Time. Time itself is more of a one piece prog track as opposed to being split up into parts. And thanks for the solo. The screaming is as dark and clear as ever and the singing is very methodical and can really captivate an attentive listener.
The entire cd is mixed together into one huge anthem except the transition from Sons of Winter and Stars to the middle track (the oddball). My first listen to Land of Snow and Sorrow left me a bit confused. Being extremely catchy yet epic, I thought 'what is this slow mawkish track even doing here'? It took a few listens to start understanding it. Although being more mellow in comparison to the other more swift and variant tracks, this track shines as a plus. It is a song for true Wintersun fans, yet a track you could play for a Sabaton fan and blow him away.
I am not quite sure exactly what took so long for this release, and frankly I do not care. There is a lot of other music to listen to. Maybe Jari could only write and record his music when he felt like it. However, that does not matter because the music is what it is. And it is awesome. Splitting the album into two releases in two different years was an attempt to get the band a bit more noticed. A brilliant idea, turning out to be a great success. I hope Jari is laughing at the critics who think they know him and his music better than himself.
Good job man.
Another month comes, and yet another album that falls victim to being subject to too much hype has been released into the metal community. This particular album, Wintersun's Time I, has been many years in the making, with recording starting as early as 2006. This had been hyped up as being an epic album, with insane degrees of complexity, that would seamlessly fuse intricate symphonies with brutal guitar work and drumming, coupled with Jari Maenpaa's instantly recognizable vocals, both screamed and cleanly sung, to make the ultimate in symphonic metal releases. Unfortunately, things did not quite work out that way, and in my opinion, this is a poor release, which spends too long messing around with strange structures and the orchestral arrangements, and in this sense the songs became too over drawn out.
This album is five songs long, with a hidden track at the end, with two epics each lasting more than eleven minutes. The former of these, Sons Of Winter And Stars, is divided into four parts, each progressing the story a little more. This is the best of all the songs on the album, showcasing some gorgeous instrumental work, packing a real punch to it when it truly kicks in. The screamed vocals on here, however, are dreadful. They are overly raspy, and highlight the real problem with this release. Given that this is partially a melodic death metal album, one would expect at least a fair degree of heaviness. However, this album proved only one or two moments that are truly heavy and have a lasting impact, with many of the guitar riffs in particular feeling lackluster. The emphasis of this album is clearly on the symphonies themselves, as the true metal instrumentals are very weak and half formed. The drumming is sub-par, with a few quick beats that are bland, and the slower beats being a discredit to Kai Hahto's name, especially given how solid his performance on their self titled debut was.
The real success of this album is that it truly has an atmosphere of a land completely left to decay. Many of the songs have suggestive themes in their titles, such as Darkness, Snow, Frost and Sorrow, and all of these are fully realized within the overly complex instrumentals. Once again, it is the symphonies that hammer home these feelings, clearly having had a lot of time put into them. They are nothing when compared to such classics as Ride Of The Valkyries, but they are powerful enough in their own sense, with each instrument to be included having a good sense of depth to it. However, they are far from perfect, and are often far too long, impacting on the song's abilities to leave a lasting memory. The first listen to this album will almost certainly blow the listener away, but they just grow tiring upon multiple listens. Compare this to another band that has crazily long songs and a huge amount of style changes, such as Opeth or X Japan, and it becomes painfully obvious where the weakness lies. The songs on this release are, for the most part, overly long and never get straight to the point. No amount of precisely written symphonies can take away the fact that songs such as Land Of Snow and Sorrow or Time are just too long. Even Sons Of Winter And Stars tends to drag on as it goes through, without ever having a real feel of progression. They are good and epic enough in their own merits, but this does not make for a good solid investment in time, as proven by releases such as this one.
When Time Fades Away is, in my opinion, the worst track on this album, for the fact that it is not a song in its own right. This just feels like an introduction to Sons Of Winter And Stars, which really does not need a four minute instrumental introduction to it, as it takes long enough to build up on its own. No amount of Japanese culture influenced melody can really take away from the fact that this song is pure dull, with no real sense of accomplishment behind it. This is a song that feels to have just been slapped on the album as an introduction, a way to build an atmosphere before the coming storm of the 13 minute epic that follows it, but surprisingly enough, this is the one song that FAILS to create any form of mood to it. This is the absolute most pointless song on the album, not fitting in with the categorization of metal that this album has had slapped onto it at all. This album has two instrumental songs, both of which really fail in their aims to create any form of atmosphere or sense of desperation that should accompany an album like this.
This is just another album that has suffered from being over hyped. By its own merits, this is a good enough album, possibly a 3. However, the fact that, going into this release, the listener expects one of the finest albums of the year and then are underwhelmed is just too great to ignore. The symphonies drag on too long, and the metal sections are just not enough from what the band's previous, self titled album would lead the listener to expect. This is the first in a two part release, with the second part due next year, and hopefully that will be a huge improvement, and focus more on the actual metal side of things than spending too long with symphonies. Even the soloing on this album is kept to a minimum, with there only being one memorable one throughout the entire album. This truly was a disappointing release, that is underwhelming in nearly every sense of the word, no matter how many glorious instrumental sections penetrate the listener's ears.
After 8 years new Wintersun's album. Despite what track-listing says there are actually 3 songs instead of 5. When Time Fades Away is instrumental introduction for Sons Of Winter And Stars, and Darkness And Frost is introduction for Time. Intros aren't epic, but they serve good purpose for which they were intended. Sons Of Winter And Stars, Land Of Snow And Sorrow and Time are as complex and progressive as songs Starchild and Beautiful Death, but longer, and done in a little bit different style. The whole idea was not to make separate songs which will blow you away with speed, face-melting riffs and technical explosion of solos and drum-work, or beautiful and passionate ballads, but to make something that flows like a river does, and combines all of these elements. On its way there are parts where it runs fast, some chaotic parts with waterfalls and some tranquil parts on plains. When Time Fades Away is the spring of Sons Of Winter And Stars, and it flows through the ambient of orchestrations made in far-eastern style while crushing with riffs, machine gun-like drums and harsh vocals, drifting away into the complex structure of the song where orchestrations are very dominant, and chorus are epic. It's similar with Darkness And Frost and Time, but Time doesn't have bombastic aggressive parts like Sons Of Winter And Stars has.
Land Of Snow And Sorrow reminds of Abandoned and Eternal Wait from Ensiferum's same titled album, because Jari contributed on those too. It's like combination of those songs with symphonic metal style, and with even better clean vocals. Refrains in Land Of Snow And Sorrow and Time sound extremely beautiful because of Jari's vocal colour and interpretation, while delivering so much passion with it. There's good riffage going in these 3 songs. Not one of them is much outstanding, but together they make great composition which creates, leads and follows the mood change of songs. Unfortunately guitar solos are very short and not impressive like on Wintersun album. Songs work well even without them, but they could have been present, last long due to the length of the songs, appear on many places, and be much more creative and interesting. Time has short guitar solo which just goes almost unnoticeable because of orchestrations, and lack of creativity. It's the way it is, songs are like heavy metal interpretation of classical compositions. They really go flawless, so you won't even notice how long they are actually while listening to them. The overall sound is maybe more magical than it really seems, specially when it is combined with Jari's good voice which makes the whole thing even more pleasant. It takes lots of listens to capture the essence of the whole album, because every single second is way too complex.
The reason why this album gets maximum rating is because there are 3 songs, and each of them is 5/5. Time factor, number of songs and overall length are excluded here in order to make review as objective as possible, no matter how long it took to complete this album. So, was 8 years worth this? It depends on the point of view. If you see it as new studio album, no matter how long it took to make it, then there's nothing significant to complain about here. If you want pure melodic death metal, or the Wintersun we all know, you still have Wintersun album. This one is done in symphonic metal style, fans of progressive metal can enjoy this too, but mainly it can please anyone who likes top-notch heavy metal music.
Good sides of this release:
Composition of songs is done extremely well, so you have a feel that songs are shorter than they really are, or you completely lose the sense of running time. They are done in symphonic metal style properly, although balance between guitars and orchestrations is a bit in favor to orchestrations. Songs reflect Jari's impression and point of view on time both musically and lyrically, and it almost looks like they're giving a dose of Finnish mentality, where the lands are cold, yet its people are worm-blooded, revealing cold burning flame within their hearts. Lots of solid riffs combined with clean guitars, and contrast of clean and harsh vocals perfectly picture that. Highly recommended for all metalheads.
Bad sides of this release:
Songs lack guitar solos, but work well without them.
The whole album.
Wintersun are renowned for the extensive production of their music - deep arrangements and layers of symphonic synths that create a massive, glossy sound that leaves an impression of the scale of the production. The guitar sound is chunky and mechanical, a percussive force of consistent rhythmic chugging that is polished to the point that it sounds synthetic - this doesn't have much to detract from as there aren't really any guitar riffs here, just underlying chugging for the vocals and synths. Overproduction is the main attraction here - the sound is massive but the music is boring, both quickly setting it apart.
The production and lengthy songs seem intent on making an epic, majestic piece, but it sounds only overbearing. Within the long songs themselves, there is no sense of dynamics, a constant deluge of synthesized symphonies that roar for a full 13+ minute song. The band has two settings: "overload" and "interlude", with two tracks of each and the finale alternating between both. The vocals, clean and growled, are always strained and overdone, forced and ill-fitted, over-the-hill like recent In Flames, not over-the-top like early Fates Warning.
Time I is overcooked and overproduced to the point of being a spectacle, but there's not much substance here.
“Time, what is time?” once asked Blind Guardian on their legendary Power Metal release “Somewhere Far Beyond”.
Sometimes, good things need some time to be done but this is not the case at all for Wintersun’s new output that has been released eight years after their first strike following many complicated recording sessions, lots of strange announcements and wrongful promises and more and impatiently growing expectations from critics and fans. The difference between Guns 'n Roses' “Chinese Democracy” and the new Wintersun record is that nobody really expected anything special coming from the one man project of Axl Rose but the record turned out to be quite decent without being a masterpiece while in the other case what has become a one man project of Jari Mäenpää was expected to be a masterpiece and is nothing but a big deception. After all the dramatic events over the last years, they could only fail. In the end, couldn't one have seen this coming?
“Only time will tell.” realized the British Heavy Metal flagship Iron Maiden on its dark “A Matter Of Life And Death” release.
Jari Mäenpää announced in fact that his new material was so complex that it needed new and revolutionary recordings procedures. This complexion led to a quite predictable result as the new overhyped record turns out to be completely overloaded. The guitar riffs feel lackluster and are buried under a too big amount of symphonic elements. Despite the length of the single tracks, they show no progression whatsoever. The calmer moments lack of emotions, the louder parts lack of energy and the productions is without dynamics.
“We got a little time to make up our minds.” stated the pioneer band of European Power Metal Helloween on the first part of their legendary “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” trilogy.
During the whole process of that difficult birth that Jari Mäenpää gave to his new baby, he seems to have either worked too much on the tracks as they feel very complicated and inaccessible or not worked enough on them as they lack of consistency. The whole record has no catchy moments even though the same patterns are heavily repeated. Apart of the instrumentals, all songs vary from calm ambient or folk rock introductions to extreme symphonic metal or melodic death metal parts to calmer folk metal sections before the entire circle is repeated again and again and soon starts to get quite predictable. The few new elements such as the Japanese folk parts are overused in the genre and don’t fit at all to the topic of ice and snow. That being sad, the song titles lack as much of originality as the tracks themselves do.
“I’ve been here before, was it all just wasted time?” questioned the German power metal band Edguy on their “Rocket Ride” release.
In the end, there is nothing left to say but that this record collapses under its own pressure and feels directionless and overloaded. Maybe the sound would have been more mature and natural if the release would have taken less time. I can understand that the band finally wanted its material to be released but maybe they should have worked on something completely different and new as time went by. The plan to make two records out of one is a good commercial idea but artistically, it just stretches the whole chapter and people like me are not looking forward for the second part of this release at all. But maybe time will change things again and the band will actually revise its initial decision or work on their songs to make them sound more natural. As most of the reviews on here are surprisingly positive, they though surely don’t feel the need to improve so that my expectations are very low for the upcoming release.
“Tears of time – just an illusion.” concluded the legendary German gothic metal band Crematory on their well entitled “Illusions” release.
It was almost inevitable that an album so delayed and so over-budget would end this way. Wintersun's highly anticipated sophomore album has been eight long years in the making, a time in which many other artists have split, reformed and released more quickly, but as the dust settles and the shock around the mere fact that "Time I" has actually been released subsides, we are left with extreme metal's "Chinese Democracy" - an album where the absence of any spontaneity whatsoever has resulted in an over-thought, over-blown, over-produced, disappointment.
The "I" in the title does indeed mean a "Time II" is soon to follow, but if that implies this is only a half-album then it begs the question why it is being released this way and fans are being asked to pay twice. The answer is no better if "Time I" is to be taken as a free-standing release of it's own because to have only 40 minutes of new material, approximately nine of which are atmospheric filler, is a very poor return for a band who released their stunning self-titled LP so long back. The intentions of Jari Mäenpää & co are evident from the outset of extravagant opener "When Time Fades Away", the album believing itself to be a film score rather than vehicle for high-quality metal riffs and in a trait which is becoming distinctly Finnish, whistles away with flickering lights, speaker-filling vastness and not a whole lot else in the belief that this 'epicness' is what will do. This slowly morphs into "Sons of Winter and Stars", a 13-minute track which I gather is being described as 'epic' by most - I would argue that while it moves through plenty of stages, very little of it is truly memorable nor on a par with the likes of "Sleeping Stars" or "Starchild" from the debut. In it Mäenpää displays some impassioned pipes but behind it are mediocre riffs displaced by an over-dependence on synth that will no doubt be pumped out in the live arena (for the effects of this just see Arkona, Turisas or Equilibrium live recently). Like the album at large, it is too sweet and synth-driven to hit home hard; the song is simply trying too hard to be 'epic'.
"Land of Snow and Sorrow" is a bit more on-target with more decent vocal melodies but bogged down by over-reliance on that darn synth again. Leading into "Darkness and Frost", effectively another intro piece for the 12-minute closing title track which mixes acoustic strumming, techno synth and battle-ready drumming more effectively than it's earlier counterpart and which brings us to "Time". Notable for some truly horrible vocal howls straight out of production hell early on, it again produces much but little of it, save for the vocals and odd moments of guitar work, lingers in the memory. It too closes with two minutes of atmospheric outro, book-ending the album in long periods of substance-free dynamics.
Overall, "Time I" can be said to possess none of the seismic riffs the debut did and has gone way too heavy on the futuristic keyboard effects and guitar tones playing boring riffs to elicit similar feelings of majesty and power. After so much time in production, too much has been attempted in the short span of this release with few moments of genuine greatness amongst them. Ultimately, if the band were not coming off the back of such a widely-loved record this one would not generate much love or admiration. Let's see where "Time II" goes off from here.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
As the dust settles, and the invariable weight of many an opinion ring resonantly in the rear-view mirror of my mind, I find a persistent, nagging curiosity towards exploring my own opinion of this phenomena entitled Time I. Both maligned and revered to astronomical proportions, what Jari Maenpaa’s long anticipated return to recorded music seems to have garnered, in the end, is a universal sense of baffled incredulity. Indeed, 3 (admittedly strong) songs and 2 intros do not feel like whatever I myself was waiting for, and for all their splendorous trappings, I can’t help but feel dissatisfaction. I understand that this is just the proposed half of Wintersun’s epic return, but when the other half is not in hand, that sentiment rings hollow. After all, I have only what is in front of me to experience, and while there is certainly a plethora of quality and uniqueness to this pittance of epic bombast, it is still, at length, a pittance.
To begin, yes, I am among the many rabid supporters of the original self-titled Wintersun, and continue to hold it aloft as a king among princes in the melodic metal spheres. It is, in point of fact, one of my favorite records of all time, a sentiment many of you share, and an equal number of you seem to disdain more than a banquet of liver and AIDS. So, this heightened sense of expectation, bordering on pure, unrestrained exhilaration, at finally obtaining another window into Jari’s fantastical musical universe, can be counted as prime influence for Time I coming up a bit short. Unlike many, however, I let the album sink in across both myriad repetitions and a suitably lengthy period of time, before setting my opinion in outraged or rabidly slobbering stone. Part of the trouble with critiquing music, I find, is that one tends to make up their mind hastily in order to put thoughts to pen, and then allow this cursory, surface perspective to forever dominate their thought process concerning the music in question. So, I took my time here, allowing my opinion to breathe and fluctuate, as the way I perceive something in an immediate sense is much different than the viewpoint gained by repeated exposures. And so I must, with finality, state that I do certainly like Time I, but with the caveat that it is also something of a disappointment, as it just does not feel complete.
To Jari and company’s credit, the material here truly is majestic. Some sections more than others, given, but the plateau of quality is universally high, and in terms of pure musicality, the word ‘masterpiece’ isn’t too far-fetched, particularly for Sons of Winter and Stars, which approaches a near-classical beauty for much of its almost 14 minute running time. The titular closer Time is close behind, and though I’m not as intensely drawn to the bloated middle track, Land of Snow and Sorrow, it’s certainly nothing painful. The general focus on Time I is far more synthetic (read: symphonic) here than we’ve come to expect of the band, with seemingly limitless layers of interweaving keyboard lines making up the lion’s share of any given melody. This is one of the reasons this supposedly took 8 years to develop, and it must be stated, it is indeed quite grand. The guitars do not do nearly as many cool tricks and solos as on the original record, but the compositional focus here is pretty different overall. There’s not a lot of immediate hooking or punchy gratification, as there’s a monstrously inflated sense of bombast that encompasses every corner of this audible world.
It’s still Wintersun, of course, utilizing a potent and delicious mix of melodic blackened aggression and vibrant wintry aesthetics, somewhere between black and power metal in overall feeling, but more unique than that in delivery. When combined with Jari’s strong growls and soulful warrior cleans, these forces work wonderfully together, and use the founding styles we all know so well to branch off into some very compelling new territory, experimenting with a lot of interlocking and flowing Japanese melodies, among others, strung together with a generally strong sense of narrative structure, lending true meaning to the term epic. While a record made up entirely of vast compositional vistas is not in and of itself a negative or positive, I felt that the album could have used some more diversity, perhaps in the form of some shorter, slicker numbers to balance it out. The lyrics and song titles are also interchangeable and rather meaningless, but the vague tropes of ice and snow and warriors and sorrow are just the level of cheese I expect out of the group, so I wouldn’t call it so much an issue as an innate trapping. It’s Wintersun, after all, in all its glory, and the things you either love or hate about them are generally magnified here.
In truth, Time I is quite conflicting for me, particularly as a critic. I really enjoy most all of it, and from that standpoint, it should achieve a very good score. However, I must jump back to a prevailing, rather pervasive issue with this album: it does not feel like an ‘album’. For all the marks Time gets for its musical achievement, I feel that Wintersun really shot themselves in the foot here, and missed the opportunity to make a better mark on history. I understand and sympathize with the concept of staying ‘relevant’ for longer, or wanting to fit a bit over 80 minutes into your work, but as history looks back upon this, I don’t know if it will be seen as the bountiful epic it could have been. One amazing, complete album is far preferable to two strong, incomplete ones, and this is just icing on the cake of the problems caused by anticipation. To lay it bluntly: I have waited for this for eight years, and I simply do not feel satisfied with the result. It’s simply not enough. The level of content, all of it undeniably great, is still paltry, in both its running time, and the innate overall pacing. 3 epic songs, though epic they may be, are still just 3 epic songs. All of them play upon the same emotions and compositional tricks, thus feeling more like a bloated EP than a vast, adventurous masterwork of a record. Wintersun’s debut succeeded not only on the strength of its material, but on its incredible pacing, working its way towards the more grandiose material, and even then, it struck a good balance. Time I is all epic, all the time, which naturally lessens the impact this kind of material might have had if it fit into a more dynamic structural shell. For all the incredible quality of the individual tracks, Wintersun have hobbled themselves when it comes to presentation, which when it comes right down to it, is an incredibly important aspect of an album.
I love Wintersun, and I desperately want to love Time I. In some ways, I do, as the sense of exhilaration and adventure is very profound at times, and songs are richly layered worlds that reveal more secrets with each listen. There’s a beauty here that transcends metal and delves into classical, with distinct melodies dancing around each other, swirling into magnificent patterns that are very impressive and transfixing. Only 2 of the 3 songs really fully grab me, sure, but these two are of immeasurably immaculate quality. These fantastic qualities make the problems all the more debilitating, however. Imagine as though you’ve been waiting for a bountiful feast for months, or years. You’re absolutely starving, and when the food finally comes, it’s unbelievably delicious, but they only allow you to fill your belly but a fraction of the way. Despite the inherently savory nature, you are left dissatisfied, and so it is with the new Wintersun. Making me wait 8 years for 3 songs, only 2 of which I really feel like repeating endlessly, is unbelievably irritating. Where did all the effort go, one is inclined to ask? Of an already succinct running time, does it really need such immense padding? Of the 40 minutes here, I’d say only about 25 of it really feels absolutely essential. This is 2 incredible songs, after 8 years of effort. It’s a very hard thing for me to compute, particularly as one of the Wintersun faithful. While making music is, above all, a very selfish thing (and if an artist creates not for the self, but for the opinion of others, he is not really an artist), is it wrong for a fan to expect more than this? I think not.
While perhaps time will look favorably on, well, Time more so than I expect, at this juncture it is both questionable and lacking. It’s a testament to just how incredible the existing content is that this will still receive a good score, but if Wintersun had just trimmed the fat a bit and released a full, well-rounded record, or even a double-album, I’d reckon the vaguely empty feeling I have upon completing this journey would be a whole lot warmer. Perhaps it would have been best to wait for part 2, and rate them together, but as Wintersun have seen fit to release this as a full record, by itself, that is the standard by which it shall be judged, as will its successor. I really wanted to avoid this style of review, so over-utilized in critiquing this record, but at length, it’s just so absolutely dominant in my thoughts. It feels, on a deep level, wrong to chastise a record for what it’s not, rather than what it is, and based on expectations that I, perhaps unfairly, foisted upon it. Surely, in another universe, where Wintersun put this out as an EP between albums, it likely would score much higher, and it’s oddly unsettling that circumstance colors my opinions so drastically. By all rights, I should judge this based solely on its own merits, and nothing else, but at length the dominant feeling I get from Time is one of incompletion, and so it cannot be ignored. The quality of music should theoretically never, ever be compromised by the method through which it is delivered, but Time has proven otherwise. If anything, I hope we can take this as a learning experience, as even though piecemeal content may seem like a good idea, it will inevitably corrupt the purity of the original artistic vision, and that is simply not a fair trade-off for any self-respecting artist. I still love you, Wintersun, and will still listen to sections of this miniscule album for ages to come, but please, please don’t ever do anything like this again.
-Left Hand of Dog
We all know the story of Wintersun. In 2004, Jari Maenpaa gets into a fight with Ensiferum due to scheduling conflicts, is fired, and releases the first Wintersun album soon after, which is universally praised by critics and fans alike. Then the next thing we know, the band disappears off the face of the earth for eight years. Eight long years. That's how long it took to release this next album, with postponements and delays pushing back the date until some wondered whether or not it would ever be released at all. But now the time has finally come, and Wintersun delivers an absolute masterpiece that meets all expectations and outdoes its predecessor.
Dear Mr. Jari Maenpaa. Though you seem very humble and polite in interviews, many would argue that the eight year postponement of your next album release, with the continued promise for the greatest album ever would show signs of a massive ego. Well if that's the case, by god you deserve it. The man is a genius. Seriously, how does such epic music formulate within the mind of a human being? If you thought the bar was set high with the first Wintersun album, boy your are in for a surprise, as "Time I" raises it higher and is actually an improvement over the debut. How is this possible? Well for one thing, its much more organized and better composed than the first album. People are complaining about the 40 minute wait being too short, but the truth of the matter is that it makes the album that much more effective and absorb-able. Instead of 8 minute songs that drag on at times, "Time I" flows together much more coherently, and therefore proves to be much more enjoyable to listen to. Not to mention that the complexity is mind-blowing.
"When Time Fades Away" is an ideal example. Influenced by Japanese folk music. I can't remember the last time that I've been so moved by music; the delicate, beautiful Japanese folk melodies fused with the majestic symphonies is simply overwhelming. It brought tears to my eyes the first listen. From there, it leads into the second track, the powerful "Sons of Winter and Stars," which could definitely make a case for Wintersun's best song. Jari's melodic power metal riffing provides it with a powerful marching theme throughout, particularly at the end. Mark my words, this one will be a breathtaking live performance.
"Time I" is definitely more of a whole album experience than 2004's "Wintersun." Wheres on the first album, it was more of a song-by-song approach, "Time I" blends together as one long piece of music. By the third track, "Land of Snow and Sorrow," this clearly becomes more apparent. By now, it feels like you're listening to a progressive power metal album, where Jari's clean vocals carry the song, his melancholy tone carrying the typical Wintersun emotions of sorrow with great effectiveness. After this, we have another beautiful instrumental track, "Darkness and Frost," which does a perfect job of leading into the 11 minute grand finale, the title track "Time," Though slightly less powerful that the fist half, "Time" concludes the album in grand fashion nevertheless, with an instrumental having a foreshadowing effect, likely reminding us of Part II coming in a few months.
I can understand the flaws one would see on this album, and it's only natural that someone will have something to bitch about regarding an album that took years to finally release. I myself am somewhat annoyed that after waiting eight years and all we get is forty minutes at a time instead of being rewarded with the man's entire body of work at once. And where is "The Way of the Fire?" But I continue to remind myself that Part II is due out next year, and in all likelihood, it will be a fine follow up to form a truly excellent double album. Just a side note, if you were coming into this expecting to hear a replica of the first album, you will likely be somewhat disappointed; less rawness, fewer guitar solos, etc. Both album are great for what they are. And "Time I" is one massive helping of epic, melodic death/power metal, definitely more powerful than the first album thanks to incredible production, increased complexity, and powerful orchestrations. This album is perfect. It made my year. Those pissed fans can cry foul all they want, but it doesn't change the fact that Jari is one of the most talented musicians to ever walk the planet. Get with the TIMES man, or go dwell in the "Land of Snow and Sorrow," where Jari's furious guitar will unleash an avalanche of "Winter Madness" upon you.
Highlight Tracks: Every song
After eight long and grueling years, the album that has been called the “Chinese Democracy of Extreme Metal” is finally seeing the light of day. Marred by recording delays, writing blocks, equipment breakdowns, etc., Wintersun does not disappoint with “Time I,” an album comprised of the frostbitten and savvy mix of melodic death/symphonic/black/power/progressive/folk metal these Finnish juggernauts became known for with their previous release. Actually, it is quite inappropriate to have any sort of “Chinese Democracy” reference to “Time I,” because this doesn’t suck.
The album opens with “When Time Fades Away,” a grandiose and atmospheric instrumental exploring some of the exotic Japanese melodies that Jari Maenpaa, Wintersun’s vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter, mentioned would be present on the album. The introduction works right into the first “real” track, “Sons of Winter and Stars,” a 13-minute epic that ascends the band into tantalizing, euphoric heights. The band can step from luscious melodic death metal with a progressive bent, into traditional Scandinavian folk territory, without missing a beat.
My only real complaint with “Time I” is that the symphonic elements, at times, overpower everything else that is going on. Wintersun’s previous self-titled release was very prevalent with symphonics, but they added to the overall atmosphere without detracting from the vocals, guitars, etc. But that is just a minor flaw in an otherwise stellar release.
“Time I” was well worth the eight-year wait. Unfortunately, I would say the previous Wintersun album beats out this one by just a hair, but “Time I” will make it on my top albums of 2012 that have been released thus far.
Keep on the lookout for the second part of this album, “Time II”, in 2013.
Originally posted here: http://www.bsudailynews.com/72hrs/this-charming-music-wintersun-and-ben-gibbard-deliver-decent-but-pleasurable-records-1.2784316
So yeah, we've waited 8 years. The only reason we haven't just forgotten about it in the waiting period is because we're constantly assaulted by fanboy news updates and articles like "OMGZ WINTERZUN ALBUM GUN BE OUT THIS YEAR OMG OMG OMG,... oh wait, no its not". As concert after concert is cancelled, anticipation grows, and even the cynical old metalheads are getting a little tingly in suspense, because they all are a little curious as to how the album is going to eventuate and how good the music is actually going to be.
Welp, I think I speak for everybody when I say the excitement of anticipation far outweighs the quality of the album. Because yeah, it's shit.
A few primary credits I can give are to such things as dynamism, productive quality, a few speckles of compositional integrity and guitar skills. Secondary credits I can give are to drumming skills, ability to make people wait for a really long time and having luscious, long hair well into their late 30's.
However, the general overtone of this review was always going to be negative, so I'll get down to why this album is just a solid disappointment.
First of all, there is TOO MUCH SHIT HAPPENING. All the time. There is just too much going on, too many layers, too many synths, too much volume and too much attack. Overhead layers of synth battle drums cascading over upper-level layers of choirs on top of hundreds of other layers of more synths, MIDI-tabbed harps and horns, seemingly endless layers of guitars and random splurges of vocal passages, with no break in between. It's an absolute assault on the senses, leaving no time to think about what is actually happening. By the time you realise you just heard Jari singing a melody, you're halfway through a bridge guitar solo while being pummelled by a thunderstorm of choir effects and orchestral synths. It's painfully overwhelming. Regardless of the 3 minutes per assault of introductory instrumentals, there seems to be no real journey with the music itself. I don't feel like I'm being led through any passage of time and winter sorrow (or some other cheesy essay variant of the words "sorry", "winter", "stars" and "sun") like I was promised. Instead, I was sleeve-tugged into a highschool students bathroom and presented a bloody tampon propped against the back of a urinal.
On a musical scale, the compositions are fairly sound. There are some pretty cool melodies, and the basic layout of the music is nothing short of awesome. This could still be a remaining factor is it wasn't being showered by a volley of fucking noise.
All this is in a sidestep of the obvious fact that, really, there are only 3 fucking songs on the whole album. Not just because it is part 1 of a 2-parter, but because the other 3 tracks are useless interludes and intros with even more garden sprinkler-style deliveries of diarrhea. Overlooking the fact that the album is mastered poorly (you can't listen to it on a stereo system, it's too random in audio dynamism), the instrumental areas are sub-par at best. There's nothing interesting about the intros, and no amount of layers of synths and MIDI sounds is going to magically change that fact. Taking a blob of semen and putting lots of glitter on it doesn't not make it a blob of semen. The sooner Jari realises that, the sooner he can run back into his hibernation studio and edit out the billions of layers he no doubt sticky-taped onto his second upcoming chapter of Time.
Contrary to what I believed in the past, Jari has actually revealed himself to be a sullen, arrogant idiot. Unbeknownst to him, what he achieved in his debut album "Wintersun" was actually musical fortitude and production of compositions that had merit and power. His achievement wasn't attributed to his audio engineering skills, yet he somehow tricked himself into thinking the success of his debut was based on obscure synths that he mixed into the background. Had he not tripped over his own saggy ballsack that slowly descended to old-man status in the time it took to mix and produce "Time", he would have stuck to making the compositions absolutely slay ass, rather than making it as "epic" and as atmospheric as possible. However, after 8 years of foreplay, what we got was just another flaccid entrance. Jari should know that you should at least take a viagra if you can't get it up, just like you can't trick metalheads who seek compositional integrity into thinking an analogous over-frosted cake with a poo in it isn't actually just a poo.
I honestly feel like I've just basically been cheated. I hate to admit that yes I did spend the last 8 years of my life being a Wintersun fanboy, and yes I was and still am one of those people that herald their debut "Wintersun" as the pinnacle of musical perfection (for Melodic Death, that is, not all-inclusive), but now I just don't know. No band has ever held me in suspense for 8 years waiting for a follow-up, because let's face it, as we grow older, the rearing music we grow up to loses it's allure and we tend to mature.. But no, I stood stiff. I waited on edge for this fucking album to come out, even though I knew over-growing anticipation would outweigh the reward if I got carried away.
Well, even if I hated Wintersun and only waited 5 minutes for the second album, I'd still be insulted.
I probably could have saved a whole lot of typing and summed the whole album up with "It was some good music with 500 hours worth of noise layered over it", but I thought the backlash was so shocking that it merited an essay to dissect why it's so fucking offensive.
I wrap up every review with "all in all", but this time I'll say "nothing of worth".
I suggest anyone who's been waiting but still hasn't heard it (lol), just set the noose and start writing goodbye letters to your loved ones. This album is a carrot-speckled smear of shit, made only more unpleasant by the anticipation that preceded it.
Unless the time comes where post-apocalyptic music scholars are reading this and all other mention of the arduous wait associated with Wintersun's second album has been erased, I don't think it's necessary to offer a pre-amble about the ridiculous anticipation eight years of waiting have wreaked upon fans. Suffice to say, after so many delays, "Time" became rooted somewhere in between the status of legend and inside joke. Of course, with such expectations, people can be led to say rash things; initial media reports of "Time I" as one of the greatest albums of its generation appeared well-aware of the hype. I've given myself a couple of weeks now to digest it in all of its glory, and while the success of the yet-upcoming "Time II" will ultimately decide where this project rests in history, Wintersun have offered one of the most intense listening experiences of the year with this one. It certainly deserves the polarized opinions it has met, but there's depth and detail here to merit however long we waited for it. Love it or hate it, "Time" is finally here.
The first thing that really surprises on "Time I" is how much Wintersun have developed and changed as a musical outfit since the debut. Although the debut now passes me as one of the finest of its style, it was still rooted in a style and sound that would have been familiar to any fans of Jari's previous band, Ensiferum. Wintersun's direction on "Time I" may still be described with the same melodic, epic, progressive and symphonic adjectives as the debut, but everything is now larger than its ever been, to the point where it becomes difficult to fairly compare the two. Whereas "Wintersun" focused on the quality of its hooks and riffs, "Time I" is painted in terms of orchestration and atmosphere. Jari and his mates fashion a vast folk metal symphony of sorts, not in the traditional 'symphonic metal' sense, but there's not really another word that can aptly describe the complexity and subtle flourishes throughout the album. In news reports prior to the album's release, there was word that "Time" would feature hundreds of tracks at the same time, and though that was enough to raise a few eyebrows, it's readily evident in the music. Wintersun's music is still led largely by guitars, but "Time I" makes its mark by the amount of time and detail invested into the background. Cinematic orchestral flourishes match the intensity of burstfire guitar work, and frequent folk roundabouts give plenty of space for Jari to sport his arrangement skills. Even within an intrinsic 'background' element like the orchestrations, there are plenty of levels to dive into. Even to the attentive listener, "Time I" is an initially chaotic and harrowing experience.
In what I can only imagine would have been a mixer's nightmare from the ninth circle of Hell, "Time I" demands a listener's full attention. "When Time Fades Away" is a remarkably beautiful way to open the album, gradually adapting the listener to a steadily more intense and complex palette of orchestration. There's a definite East Asian motif here- certainly not something you would expect from Finland- although a minute into "Sons of Winter and Stars", the definitive Wintersun sound is at full blast. The riffs are not too fargone from what Jari was doing on the debut; they are fast, melodic, and open to techniques from many sub-genres of metal. Below these guitar riffs are what sounds like a thousand other parts, each grasping for their share of the mix. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" and the finale title track follow in the footsteps of "Sons of Winter and Stars", although each of these three are memorable in their own right. The fourth (and shortest) piece, "Darkness and Frost" is an interlude that also functions as the extended intro to the song "Time", it begins as an acoustic bridge and soon finds itself in the same sort of cinematic orchestration heard on the rest of the album."Sons..." is arguably the best offering on "Time I", although the other two 'full' pieces are not far behind. "Sons of Winter and Stars" is a perfect manifest of where Wintersun are now as a creative act, throwing everything at the listener at full force, yet still finding time to offer a beautiful acoustic break towards the end.
For all of its cerebral orchestrations, the vocal melodies here are remarkable, and may be the most accessible thing on the record. Jari's black metal rasp is still used here, but there's a certain preference for clean singing here. Whether its for an epic chorus of pagan warriors or Jari's own lead voice, Wintersun's intense style manages to make room for these vocal arrangements. As may have been evident from the overblown production, Jari seems to be a bit of a Devin Townsend fan, and "Land of Snow and Sorrow" best illustrates this, occasionally featuring guitar and vocal elements that are virtually indistinguishable from Devy himself. It's a minor disappoint to hear a genius in his own right tracing the footsteps of another genius, but Jari's vocals have a great sound of their own. As a clean singer, he sounds much more confident here than he did on the debut. Thanks in large part due to the heavy symphonic focus here, his black metal rasps now sound less fitting, although it retains his distinctive snarl.
It's almost a granted truth by this point that Wintersun's musicianship is going to be through the roof. Besides Jari Maenpaa's not-inconsiderable skill with vocals and guitar, the rest of the musicians offer remarkable performances befitting a project of this magnitude. Special commendations go to drummer Kai Hahto, whose epic and aggressive technique backs up the metric tons of orchestration. Although the production is about as good as current technologies can allow for something of this density, some performances on this album can be difficult to hear. At its most symphonic, "Time I" pushes Kai's drum recording down to the level of the background, and bassist Jukka Koskinen can be even more difficult to hear, unless you know what to look for. There are times when I feel the debut's more concise and straightforward approach would have been better, but considering the scope of the instrumentation, it's no surprise that things get just a little murky on the production end. At only forty minutes, "Time I" is certainly shorter than most albums, although this slightly shorter-than-average length works to an advantage. Particularly on the first listen, it's quite a bit to take in, and it ends before the 'epic' atmosphere draws thin.
"Time"s complexity is both its greatest strength and most inviting vulnerability. Depending on your tastes as a listener outside the context of Wintersun's debut, it's likely most who hear it will either love it or hate it. Although the depth here is virtually unsurpassed by any other album of its style, that complexity can feel overblown for its own sake. "Time I" achieves the feeling of an epic atmosphere like few albums have managed to do, but there's the sense that some of the overbearing density could have been done without. With that being said, repeated listens only make the album more and more satisfying of a trip. The initial experience is bound to be fairly disorienting, but there's so much to explore here. As I said towards the start of the review, it's going to be up to "Time II" to match the par that's been set, but there's no doubt that the sweat and blood that's evidently been spent investing in this project has paid off. Only coming years will tell if this has the same lasting appeal as its predecessor, but the music speaks for itself; Wintersun are now among the elites of their style... whatever their style might actually be.
Wintersun‘s Time I has come close to being dubbed the Finnish version of Chinese Democracy, with the band delaying the release time and again after their 2004 masterpiece, the self-titled Wintersun. Fraught with numerous unfortunate events including the destroying of recordings in accidents and bizarre stuff like the running out of memory due to the sheer number of tracks on a single song, the band finally drops this long-awaited album, for real this time. And with each delaying and each update by Jari bringing about ever-increasing expectations, it leaves one to wonder whether Wintersun could really live up to the hype that has gradually increased.
That symphonic aspect of Wintersun‘s music has not only been retained, but has probably even increased with the cinematic opening track When Time Fades Away, with the band even incorporating some slightly oriental instrumentation, and would have fit perfectly fine on, say, a later ChthoniC release, with a somewhat folkish sound. The arrangement here is brilliant, with the music slowly building up into a climax, creating a nice epic feel and leaving the listener in eager anticipation as the intro fades into Sons of Winter and Stars. It doesn’t take long for one to realise that the approach that Jari and co. have taken here is rather different. While the speed and the intensity are still present, the focus on the material on Time I instead are on the atmospheric aspects, with not only the orchestra but also the choirs at the background that help to emphasise and reinforce that epic feel that lasts the entirety of the album. Furthermore, the energetic side of the band is often presented in rather short bursts, as every note, every hit on the drums and basically everything that goes on in the music is put at the particular place for a reason, each serving to complement all the other stuff that are going on at at the same time.
Jari’s growls still retain that gruff quality, and his clean vocals emanate that heroic feel as it did on the previous Wintersun album and his works with Ensiferum, giving a nice folk metal quality to the music at the same time. Kai Hahto’s drumming skills are really pushed to the limits this time as well, not only with the trademark speed that he has presented on prior Wintersun material, but also in the rather technical and complex beats that he has to execute on the album as well, giving a slight progressive feel at times.
While the Wintersun debut was a collective of eight, individual good tracks into an album format, Time I was written revolving a particular concept, and this really shows as the album progresses. Each of the tracks ease seamlessly into the next, and sounds like a natural progression as the album progresses, and certainly displays the ability of the band as songwriters, ensuring that Time I is not simply a collection of good songs, but stands as an excellent, and coherent record.
Wintersun, for those of you who aren't already in the know, is a Finnish melodic extreme metal project started by Jari Mäenpää (formerly of Ensiferum) in 2003, with the first Wintersun album being released in 2004. This album was, and still is, one particularly prime cut of metal, defying the label of melodic death metal to incorporate elements of power, folk, neo-classical, black, and even progressive metal, all while having its own sound and songwriting qualities. After this, the band played some live tours, and went to record the next album, tenatively titled Time. However, during the process of the recording, everything that could possibly go wrong did. Production issues. Growing ambitions. Lineup changes. Jari's own battle with tuberculosis. Touring. So, after almost nine years of development, the first half of Wintersun's magnum opus-to-be, Time, was released to the public in October of 2012. So, after all the hype, not to mention the long-ass production time, is Time I an auditory masterpiece or the Duke Nukem Forever of metal?
The first thing to be noticed about the album is its rather short length of only 40 minutes. Obviously, from the name Time I, it implies that there'd be a Time II, and this album is effectively one half of a larger album. The second thing is the differences in sound. On this album, Jari utilizes a far more epic-sounding orchestra, complete with choir. The composition of the parts used in the song is, quite frankly, some of the best orchestral elements used in a metal album. It could be labeled as a real orchestra and choir, and it'd be completely believable. A lot of the melodies used in the album also have a bit of influence from Japanese folk music. There are only five tracks (plus a hidden track of the band members fooling around in the studio), two of which are instrumental interludes, so there are, in effect, only three real songs on the album. However, two of the songs are longer than 10 minutes, with the third approaching 9 minutes. It's a textbook example of quality over quantity, because every single song on this album is amazing. Yes, even the shorter interludes. When Time Fades Away ranks pretty damn high on my list of "Most Epic Album Intros", and it can certainly be admired of its own musicality, rather than just being a great intro. As noted before, Jari's use of the orchestral sounds throughout the album is so well-executed and detailed that it may very well be mistaken for a classical song. This fades into Sons of Winter and Stars, a 14-minute behemoth of a track that is also comprised of four sections, much like Starchild from the first Wintersun album. Jari is a hell of a songwriter, and it shows. The third section, in particular, shows how much his songwriting has evolved since the first album, with it being a soft, acoustic section that is extraordinarily well-executed for this type of album, and fits perfectly within the context of the song. The third track, Land of Snow and Sorrow, is essentially Death and the Healing, Part 2, but showcasing Jari's much-improved clean singing. His vocals do a stellar job of conveying the emotion of the surrounding music, which, after repeated listens, is among some of the best Wintersun songs composed thus far, IMO. After that, Darkness and Frost serves as a segue between the previous track and Time, the 11-minute title track of the not-quite-double-album. Darkness and Frost has an entrancing quality to it, with its backmasked acoustic background which builds into an epic orchestral arrangement, complete with what sounds like an army chanting in the background by its conclusion. Time rounds off the album, with another consistently excellent orchestration, a beautiful chorus melody, its shifting, almost progressive structure, and the only real guitar solo on the album. The song, and the album, ends on a musical cliffhanger for the next album, ending with a dark, almost ambient synth/orchestra piece that leaves the listener wanting more.
The album, as a whole, can be seen as both an album on its own, and half of a larger album. Some may be disappointed by the focus on the orchestral-qualities of the music and reduced amount of guitar heroics compared to the first album, but you can't argue with the results. Time I is, without a doubt, one of the best albums of the year, and that is really saying something considering both the lack of good metal albums this year and the quality of the music provided here. Again, quality over quantity. And once Time II releases (currently set to 2013, but god knows how many times it'll be delayed if this half is any indication), there'll be plenty of the latter as well. This album needs to be experienced by every self-proclaimed metalhead, or anyone with good taste in songwriting, or melody that also happens to have an epic-beyond-epic orchestral backing. Hell, even people without a liking for metal would probably love the interludes, at least. Simply put, the music is amazing, and once the second half releases, Time will most likely be Wintersun's magnum opus, and one of the best metal albums of the 21st century.
[Adapted from the reviewer's own review at Fans on Fire Game Blog - http://fansonfire.blogspot.com/]
Eight years...EIGHT YEARS! Think about all that has happened since 2004. Three summer Olympics have passed. A young teen started high school and has now graduated college. Myspace was born, and then it died. Christopher Nolan's entire batman trilogy occurred. Jari Maenpaa's old band Ensiferum were able to release a compliation record and three studio albums in that nick of time. Also, his idol Devin Townsend has released around 11 albums since the long gone year of 2004. Eight years is an awful long time, especially when you're anticipating something throughout that tedious waiting period. Well now that Wintersun has finally taken some gumption to spit out an "album", it is a sad thing to think it's a total letdown.
Everyone knows that the reason this has taken so long to be released is because Jari and his slaves apparently couldn't stuff enough RAM into their computer while incorporating a shitstorm of tracks into what would seem to be a clusterfuck of an album. Every year, there was an annual post of news that Wintersun would give to their sheep-like fanboys and it was the same message every time. "WELL YOU SEE, I'M CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF CREATING THE GREATEST FUCKING ALBUM MANKIND HAS EVER HEARD, BUT SADLY I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH ROOM TO PUT MY 7,000th TRACK IN THIS ONE SONG! COME BACK IN A YEAR OR TWO, SO I CAN GIVE YOU THIS SAME MESSAGE!" I will go ahead and confess...I was one of those sheep-like fans - not a damned annoying fanboy, no way would I ever be one of those psychotic, obnoxious Jari lovers that roam the internet posting tiring shit such as, "JARI IS GOD!!! and JARI IS BETTER THAN MOZART!"...But I digress.
The main problem I have with this album is that when listening to it, I think to myself "Does this really, truly sound like it would take eight long years to produce?" and the answer is simply - NO! The album begins with a long, Japanese-style intro that at times bores itself out a bit. It's sounds like something you would hear in a cheesy East Asian made film, but surprisingly enough, I think that is what Jari was aiming for. It does what an intro does best, and that is to prelude the first song - Sons of Winter and Stars. Sons of Winter and Stars is the song I was anticipating most out of this long over-hyped record. What I liked about it was the speed and the unpredictability that was involved. It really had me intrigued from beginning to end with heavy, awesome riffs, kickass drumming and viking-esque chants. Sons of Winter and Stars was and is most definitely the best Jari-written song to date. But with all that is awesome with this one song...The album quickly degrades afterwards.
Land of Snow and Sorrow, Darkness and Frost, and lastly the title track - Time. I don't care how many fucking tracks you can force into these songs, because quite frankly, the problem isn't that they don't have enough tracks, that wouldn't be the problem in a million years (or should I say eight?). The problem is that these songs are fucking boring! Slow paced, uninspired boring riffs that are bound to have you snoring before they even end! Land of Snow and Sorrow revolves around a riff that a beginning guitarist could learn by ear in a heartbeat. The song is merely just a twice-as-long version of Sleeping Stars which happens to be my least favorite track off of the s/t album, it just kills me to think that I waited nearly a whole decade to hear this.
Darkness and Frost is an intro to Time...An intro! You'd think that there's usually just one intro in an album and that's to the ENTIRE ALBUM! Not one fucking song! Ughh, anyways, it's kinda cool but the problem again is that it drags itself out much like As Time Fades Away does, and sounds very Japanese at times, as As Time Fades Away does. Lastly there's the third and final song of this ridiculous EP and that is the title track. The only thing special about this song is the piano roll near the end, everything else is boring as shit. What is boring about it you ask? That would be the monotonous pace and sound the songs carries throughout with Jari's moaning vocals. To point out some lost assets within this song, I guess there is a somewhat of a nice solo halfway through that is a bit opaque with all the 200+ tracks blurring it out of the picture.
All in all, Time I was and sadly is something I spent nearly a decade of my life anticipating. Unfortunately it is a disappointment because it loses interest in itself after the second track. It took eight years to shit out, and it's really only half an album. The biggest problem I have with it is that while listening to it, at points I begin to wonder, "Why in the hell did this take so long to make?" Because with the exception of "Sons", this "album" really doesn't shine with greatness as a lot of morons were confident it would (myself included).
There is an open-ended character to the whole process of composition, in any craft, though perhaps mostly so in the musical medium. Styles are often determined not by little nuances in the instrumentation or implementation in the finished product, but by an overt divergence in audience priorities. Contrary to what some may suggest, the division that exists between pop music and underground music isn’t necessarily a level of virtuosic talent on one side or the other, but in the level of intimacy that the man/people on stage share with their audience. It’s a foregone conclusion that Jari Mäenpää has a relationship with his audience that is comparable to a tightly-knit cult, but unlike some other bands that out there, Wintersun has found itself developed to the point where it’s compositional grandeur borders on the level of pomp and largess normally associated with the architecture of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic cathedrals.
This analogy holds up with particular appropriateness when considering Jari’s long-standing project “Time”, which has finally seen its public debut, at least in part. It carries with it the same level of colossal attention to detail that likely went into the construction of the massive structures of the medieval period both in western and eastern Europe, as well as the rocky production schedule and frequent adjustments that would have come with them too if the corruption of church politics during that era is likewise considered. All one need do is put the 4-minute plus overture “When Time Fades Away” on repetitive play and try to mentally deconstruct all of the melodic interplay and harmonic relations they all share, which culminate in a brilliant and highly unique convergence of European folk and Japanese atmospheric music. The sheer level of different ideas, all of them fit together into a cohesive whole while all being individually intelligible, reflect a heavy attention to detail that alone excuses the massive amount of time it took to get half of the story completed.
One could rightly question the logic of putting together an album that is built entirely out of long, drawn out epic compositions and brief instrumentals loaded with synthesized orchestrations and massive vocal overdubs, but this entire album functions on a level where logic has a far more limited role in relation to the emotions inspired by the starry winter nightscapes depicted both lyrically and musically. Both “Sons Of Winter And Stars” and “Time” go through a series of contrasting sub-songs (the former is officially separated into 4 parts, while the latter functions this way in a more implicit sense) that feature Jari’s signature songwriting as heard on the debut album, but in a more restrained way and alongside a much larger arrangement of keyboard sounds. At times it almost seems as though this band is veering a little too close to mimicking the orchestral bluster of Epica, but with a much more introspective lyrical approach, but Jari’s virtuosic sensibilities manage to paint a picture equally as massive yet much more heroic and, ironically enough, fatalistic. This album isn’t a call to action, but a call to dream, and urges for the most distant from reality-based visions possible.
But perhaps even more significant than any individual song or idea present in this grand conglomeration of sound is the significance it holds for Jari’s insistence on creating long-winded terminology to describe his style. The constant cross-pollination of differing genres, including but not limited to: folk, melodic death, power, shred, symphonic and ambient metal all point to a rare form of eclecticism that manages to straddle all of these borders without losing itself and becoming inaccessible. Quite the contrary, this is among the most accessible albums out there with multiple songs clocking in at over 8 minutes, save an album or two in Pink Floyd’s long past. Nothing on here comes across as being beyond the scope of a casual fan of melodic death metal, yet few could point to a single band as having crossed this many boundaries while still keeping the overall sound comfortably within the realm that the likes of Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and Kalmah tend to keep their audiences in.
It is a bit curious that in spite of the long durations, these songs actual listen as such in spite of themselves, rather than collapsing into a mess of abstract expressions. “Land Of Snow And Sorrow” actually goes even further still and runs contrary to the rabidly technical tendencies of Jari’s work and listens like a down tempo, groove based modern metal anthem that has been dressed up with a massive deluge of keyboard sounds and vocals. It’s recurring theme, which is repeated almost to the point of droning at the album’s onset, is among the more memorable folksy themes to come out of the style since its rise to prominence in the later 90s, and even goes so far as to channel some of Jari’s latent Ensiferum ideas at a few points. It is a bit different from anything Jari has written up to this point so it is understandable that some view it as filler, but it definitely grows on the listener after a few times through and proves to be the most distinctive song of the 5.
The biggest liability that this album has going for it, which is self-evident to anyone who has been following the band up until now, is the massive amount of hype and the split of this album into 2 much smaller, seemingly incomplete halves. Similar fates befell Judas Priest and Helloween in conjunction with one of their well-known 80s albums, resulting in 2 halves being successively released for the latter and a shorter single release with a bunch of left-over b-sides in the former’s case, though neither suffered the 6 years of delays that this one did. The resulting feeling of incompleteness on here manifests itself as a simple half-cadence for the forgiving ear, but as a feeling of business-oriented profiteering to the less forgiving one. Ultimately the irony in all of this is that this has zero to do with the content found on here, and everything to do with the consequential cult character of Wintersun’s audience and detractors, but it nevertheless will impact the album’s reception, save for a few ambivalent types like myself who just like the music and couldn’t care less for the peripheral things that go with it.
This is one of the best albums to come out in 2012, and when put together with its sequel (which we hopefully won’t have to wait 3 more years for), may prove to be a step up from the debut, but by itself it “Time I” has a small lingering feeling of incompleteness that keeps it from being what it probably should have been had a few things happened differently. Perhaps at some future date there will be a limited edition where parts 1 & 2 will be merged into a finalized whole, but in the meantime, just ignore the hype and enjoy this album for what it is, a massive endeavor that manages to be catchy and intricate with hardly a clash between the two extremes it embodies.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 26, 2012.
Oh.... Oh, this hurts. Eight long, grueling years of agonizing waiting and the follow-up to the critcally acclaimed Wintersun debut is FINALLY here. Or at least, the first half of it anyway, because Jari Maenpaa thinks "Time" was just too complex for his fans to take in all at once (underestimating the fanbase's attention span, intelligence, and comprehension skills, already not off to a good start here...) so he churned out the equivalent of an EP to tide us over until Time II comes out in what I assume to be the year 2020.
This can't be it. This is a slap in the face to everyone who held their breath for any new material from the band. "Sorry guys! The computers we have right now can't even handle HOW FUCKING COMPLEX AND EPIC THIS SHIT'S GONNA BE! THERE'S GONNA BE LIKE 200 TRACKS IN EACH SONG AND SHIT! JUST YOU WAIT, IT'S GONNA BE THE MOST EPIC, MAJESTIC, TECHNICAL, EPIC, MELODIC FUCKING ALBUM EVER CREATED! (see whut I did there? I made fun of the bullshit made-up genre that Jari created for his band, because the shit he makes just couldn't fit under melodic death metal, could it?) WE'RE WORKING ON IT, I PROMISE! " And we fucking fell for it.
But being overhyped to shit isn't even this album's biggest problem. Nor is the meager length. They are huge contributing factors to why this fails so hard, but the biggest problem is that, of the 5 songs on here, two are intros, and only one actual song is worth your time. One. Fucking. Song. Eight years of waiting, and only one song on this album is worth a fuck. Don't get me wrong, that one song (the 13-and-a-half minute epic "Sons of Winter and Stars") is amazing, but it would have been better suited as a long-ass single, like Blind Guardian's "And Then There Was Silence" was. I would have gladly taken that to an incomplete fucking album. An incomplete BORING fucking album. How is it that this album somehow manages to be so short and yet feel so long at the same time? (and not in a good way...) The other two actual songs, "Land of Snow and Sorrow" (TWO songs with a title along the lines of "Something of something and something else?" REAL FUCKING CREATIVE, JARI) and "Time" plod on an on and go absolutely nowhere.
Oh, and did I mention that the keyboards and orchestrations ARE REALLY FUCKING LOUD? LIKE, ANNOYINGLY LOUD? AND NOT EVEN VERY WELL-ORGANIZED? And apart from "Sons of Winter and Stars" and the beginning of "Time," there are NO death metal vocals on here? Look, I'm all for style changes between albums, but it kinda helps if it's done well. This is just boring symphonic metal with some slight folk-y influences that went the "Unsung Heroes" route of just tacking on death metal vocals to sound "br00tal" but not adding any emotion to it. On the first album, the death metal vox added a harshness to the wintry atmosphere. At times, on the debut, you could feel yourself stranded on a snowy terrain with the subzero wind passing right through you as you collapse to the ground and take your last dying breath, reflecting upon your unfulfilled life. Here... There's nothing like that. The clean vocals are just okay, but kind of lifeless. There are no really grabbing moments on this album at all. Sure, it sounds nice, but nothing blew me off my ass like many moments of the debut did, like the technical fireworks of the solo to "Winter Madness," or the somber and emotional balladry of "Death and the Healing." Instead of hitting you like a harsh snowfall on the debut, this album is more akin to the powdered fluff of a lukewarm winter day--- it just doesn't stick.
I mean, nothing is inherently BAD about the album, but nothing is done particularly well, either. This doesn't sound like 8 years straight of songwriting and OCD-caliber perfectionism that Jari seems to have sought for. This album is Jari trying to be a composer and hardly knowing the first thing of classical structure or variety. Something tells me the Japanese-influenced intro and "Sons..." were absolute flukes of genius because nothing that comes after can even hope of living up to that glory. Nothing on here lives up to the promises. In the immortal words of Noah Antwiler (aka SpoonyOne), "BETRAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!"
But okay, let's say you weren't even aware Wintersun had just released Time I and knew nothing of the hype and promises. Could you go into this and draw enjoyment from it? Maybe a LITTLE more than I did, but I still can't see many people getting past the overly bombastic and pretentious and overproduced symphonics, the lack of substance, and the bloated artificial lengthening of the songs. I'm sorry, but aside from "Sons Of Winter and Stars," this just isn't worth picking up. And for the love of all that is holy, WHERE IS "WAY OF THE FIRE?!"
Here it is, people have been waiting for this for eight years. And let me be just go ahead and say that its well worth the wait. Now, I'll try not to be too effusive here. Wintersun is one of my favorite bands, but be assured that I am not biased with this review in any way. This is an effing masterpiece and deserves to be recognized as such. Now, the best way to go about reviewing this album is to be going by the track-by-track approach. Its such a short album anyway, and moreover, each one of its songs leads to the another, so I really cant see any other way of reviewing this. But first let me say something about the razor-sharp production values of this album. Jari Maenpaa claims to have mixed about two hundred tracks in each song, and frankly, I see no reason to doubt him. A hell lot of different things appear in every song, and to Jari's credit, he has arranged them masterfully. You get to hear bells chiming, operatic vocals, at least five folk instruments and of course, a wide array of guitar effects. This whole album is atmospheric as shit. Just by listening to those sounds make you feel like grabbing your shields and go about charging with your ax in the Finnish wilderness. In a lot of ways, it is reminiscent of the massively popular Elder Scrolls : Skyrim. I'm serious. The mixing of the track is impeccable too. How the hell did he manage to mix two hundred tracks in it, if it was not done to perfection then?
First up is 'When Time Fades Away'. One of the finer instrumentals I've heard in about five years. This song sets the stage and gives a feel to the listener of what's about to come. This is just plain brilliant stuff. The same melody carries over to the next song 'Sons Of Winter And Stars'. Now, this is divided into four parts, so the songwriting is pretty complex. But that's expected of a band of this caliber. What's really impressive about this song is that it's a brilliant amalgamation of that impeccable atmospheric shit and solid riffing. A brilliant journey from start to finish. 'Land Of Snow And Sorrow' is the next one up. Its clearly made in the same vein as the first one. Epic and otherworldly tunes. A rarity in metal these days. The next one is 'Darkness And Frost' and this one is clearly inserted to build up the atmosphere for their title track 'Time'. But did I give the impression that this is a pushover? Hell no! this one is a brilliant song on its own right. That extremely infectious tune carries over to 'Time', and this is where the band gives its all. This is a perfect song in many ways. This song basically defines what this entire album is about. An ode to the rich culture of Scandinavia, and most particularly, of Vikings. Jari clearly loves them. Well...when you come to think of it, I do too. But that's beside the point. All you need to know is that this song is as epic as epic gets.
I have three minor complaints with this album and hence the one percent deduction from a perfect hundred. Firstly, well, this one may be too trivial, but still...did you look at the names Jari gave to these songs? Made me cringe. The second and a slightly more important issue, is that in spite of Jari Maenpaa's enviable virtuosity on the guitar, he didn't give us any good, long solo. That's surprising. I'm sure we were all expecting another Winter Madness again. But he disappointed me on this one big time. There was a short, but very good solo on 'Time'. But it was too short. Just too short. Thirdly, the album is too small. Just forty minutes after waiting for eight years? Come on now! Moreover, there was no need to split his eight year's work into two. No one would have minded an eighty minute long album. I'm pretty sure we'd have all welcomed it. But it just seems to me Jari needs money, because I don't buy his excuse one bit. But the quality of the songs more than make up for the quantity, so I guess we can't really blame him too much. On a side note, even though the harsh vocals are the same after eight years (which is actually a very good thing, in case you were wondering), he really has seemed to improve his clean singing. I guess he realized just how good his baritone sounded and decided to make the best of it. Good for him. I'm all the more impressed.
All in all. This album is a pure masterpiece. Jari Maenpaa really understands the dynamics of a song and extorts every bit of brilliance out of it. This is literally masturbation to your ears. Just put on your headphones and crank up the volume. i guarantee you, you will be transported to another dimension, and for the next forty minutes, nothing else will matter. Yes, you will lose all track of 'Time' (good pun, don't you think, ah well...). This is basically the album I have been waiting for all my life, musically. I have explored everything, everything just to find myself this kind of a sound. It seems I finally got it. This is not Melo-Death. This is truly Epic Majestic Shit (or whatever he calls it). This has transcended the barriers of metal and folk, and has managed to fuse into something so unique that you remain mesmerized by its aural prowess even hours after this incredible journey. For this is no less than a journey, penned by a true poet. This is the new benchmark for Melodic Death Metal, and yet again, Jari Maenpaa is the man to beat.
I feel like one of the few members of the metal community that wasn't blown away by Wintersun's debut. It felt like repetition taken to the extreme, and not much else. THIS, however, was actually a nice surprise. The monotony was taken out, and in its place is some pretty epic-sounding, bordering on power metal at times, music. The album itself contains much more complexity than its predecessor, and holds much more entertainment value. It's an album I can listen through more than once without sitting there asking myself, "Why am I listening to the same riff over and over again? And while I find it annoying that the very mention of this release is enough to bring a steady stream of drool forth from the gaping mouths of Wintersun fanboys, this album is actually far more worthy of the hype surrounding it than the debut. Another major annoyance I have is that I can already picture the number of reviewers who will be gushing over this album simply because Wintersun made it. All the same, I was impressed with how far the band has come in their sound.
Credit should definitely be given to Jari for the monumental song structures. Despite the length, the longest tracks on here don't rely on a single riff idea, repeatedly played in different ways, as a means to fill in time. Instead, the music manages to flow well while simultaneously steering clear of the nuisances from 2004. Jari mentioned that we would hear some Japanese-influenced melodies, and the opening track shows this style right from the get-go. While the instrumentation of the introductory song doesn't really show up much afterword, it's still a pleasant musical addition. Guitar-wise, Wintersun puts out some marvelous, melodic passages. Whereas, 2004 saw the debut being dragged down by its overly repetitive guitarwork, Time 1 shows us that Wintersun can use guitars to enhance the musical experience.
Vocally speaking, both clean and harsh vocals are done very well. Clean vocals can be rather hit-or-miss, but the ones used here are actually pleasant. They are the main reason that this album can feel a bit power metal-esque, combined with the speedy guitars. The symphonic and melodic death aspects are still present, and Jari's harsh tone doesn't become overbearing.
It took 8 years to make this album, and after listening to it, I can see why. Not only are the songs well-done, but the band also came across several setbacks in the process of the albums' creation. Some will complain that the album feels bloated, that the wait wasn't worth the result, or that it was merely a creation put forth in order to satisfy Jari's ego. Whatever complaints are put forth against this album, there is no denying that it is far superior to 2004's concoction in just about every conceivable way. I'm a little concerned if they can keep up the same level of quality for a second Time album, but Wintersun have proven that they have some surprises up their sleeve. Is this the best album of 2012? I don't think it is, but I do think it's one of the better releases of the year.
I hate to burst the bubbles of the fanboys out there, but some of us have waited to hear this album for 8+ years and have seen numerous gaps of time without any news and cancelled shows with the promise that Jari was spending all of his time crafting the greatest thing he's ever done. We were promised almost unprecedented production values, rivaling what you'd normally hear from bands like Blind Guardian, with 200+ tracks on each of the songs. Time passed without any news of Time. One day, Jari says the album is finally finished, but will be released in 2 parts because Nuclear Blast says so. I immediately became incredulous, wondering why this album couldn't be a single release and expecting the worst because of the split. Surely something so epic in scale deserved to be presented to us as intended. However, I put this aside and figured that the music could speak for itself and should be good enough to carry two separate parts given how much time has gone into Time. All of these songs have got to be a lot better than some of the drudging boredom produced on the latter-half of the first album.
After hopefully at least 1/10th of my lifetime has passed, this album finally graced my ears. The introduction track was beautiful, fulfilling the promise of Japanese stylized atmosphere Jari had mentioned back in 2004. This leads perfectly into one of the best songs Wintersun has ever released, if not the best. Sons Of Winter And Stars really does show a culmination of talent from the whole band and focuses on the dynamic sound and emotional journey which great symphonic background can bring to a band. This is far better than anything Nightwish or Rhapsody have been doing with their orchestrations as of late, which made me hopeful that this album might actually live up to the hype from its lengthy gestation period.
That hope died as soon as the next song played. Nowhere to be found is the inspired mixture of heaviness and orchestration featured on the previous track. Instead, we're regressing to a boredom not unlike the last few songs on the previous Wintersun record. This time it's worse, because the lack of real guitar riffs and solos leaves us to only focus on the sleepy, half-baked nature of the song. I began to feel crushed by the weight of mediocrity and the fact that the rest of the album was yet another intro/song combo of epic length only compounded my fears.
The album ends just as terribly as I began to fear in the middle. The boredom continues and nowhere do I hear anything nearly as well-written as should be expected from this release and the length of the title track becomes a chore to sit through unless your hanging from Jari's nutsack. There is finally a solo in this song, but it's not enough to save it from being quite possibly the most mediocre thing Wintersun has ever produced... and I daresay one of the worst things I've ever heard Jari be a part of musically.
Overall, this is a very disappointing album. As I said, I approached this under the assumption that splitting Time into two halves shouldn't have any effect on whether the music is good or not. What we get is one amazing intro/song and then 3 more tracks which feel nowhere near as inspired and quite frankly are insultingly half-assed when compared to the 8 years given to writing and recording this material. The actual sound of the recording isn't terrible. The mix is good for the symphonic elements, but the guitars are slightly buried and the bass is difficult to discern among it all. The drumming is sufficient, though never anything more than stock beats to support the overall composition. Again, these things are disappointing given the length of time dedicated to this release, but at least it doesn't sound like it was recorded in Jari's bedroom.
I am eager to hear what it is in store for Time II, as Jari has promised more riffs and solos on the second half, but I really can't expect a lot given what I've heard so far on this release. This is not the magnum opus we've all waited so long to hear. It's not even half of a magnum opus. This is a vast disappointment and anybody who disagrees is fooling themselves. Go back and listen to the first album. It's a much better use of your time.
I'm just back from what seemed like a rejuvenating journey that apparated me to a time where the winter ruled our earth. Long story short, this is the best way I could explain my voyage of listening to the Finnish metallers' much awaited new album, "Time I". This album is Wintersun's second full-length album, originally scheduled for release in November, 2006 but then delayed six whole years because of its alleged "complexity" and it took Jari eight whole years to finally slam this masterpiece on the table. Needless to say, that Jari doesn’t hesitate one bit, to experiment in this album and oh boy, doesn’t he succeed!
The album contains five tracks with the second track having four subdivisions. It starts off on a high note, excelling in setting your hopes up sky high for the rest of the record. “When Time Fades Away” begins with a soothing, and endearing symphonic intro and delivers a great atmospheric feel to the listener. It makes you feel like the band is playing amidst a series of waterfalls and you’re among them. Just when that symphonic intro seems to nurture your ears, a drum roll kicks in with a theatric feel to it. The song then gets a tad bit heavier just to descend back to its tranquil feel. Yet again, it’s like you’re lost in the Finnish woods, like in a movie. Just, phenomenal.
The second track, “Sons of Winters and Stars” is basically divided into 4 parts, “Rain Of Stars”, “Surrounded By Darkness”, “Journey Inside A Dream” and “Sons Of Winter And Stars”. The song starts off with yet another symphonic intro that is knocked off with some sudden in-your-face mix of symphony, melodic death metal, and haunting theatrics. Like Jari said, each song has about 200 tracks in itself! Now 200 might just be a bit too much but its close enough! The song faces another transition into a rising riff, that riff when you know that something big is coming, and just then some pure Wintersun material is blasted in your face. Its like you’re running into a brutal blizzard and the riffage feels like the strong, frozen wind is blowing against you. Jari impresses you with some very commendable harsh vocals. About half way through the song, it descends into an acoustic passage with some magnificent clean vocals by Jari, with a symphonic fill here and there. As expected, it rises back to the heavier side of the song and the immensely connective atmosphere created by the band makes you want to sing along to, "We are the sons of winter and stars! We've come from far beyond time!". This song is quite different from the predecessor as it makes you feel like you're in a Finnish war in the freezing winter! Soon enough, some incredible lead by Jari and Teemu hits your ears, something which most of us would be waiting for, moreover, but it remains just a flash in the pan. Nevertheless, the song ends on a high note with a totally brutal assault of an amalgamation of extreme metal, symphony and melodic death, something the band is known for.
The third track, "Land Of Snow And Sorrow" begins with a slow rising riff that is greeted with some symphony and then the mighty drums kick in. Jari's new found harsh, clean vocals are blended well with some operatic vocals in the background. This song too, has the tempo changing suddenly and the song drifts away swiftly into a partially acoustic passage, midway through the song.
The fourth song, "Darkness And Frost" is more like a bridge to the album. Like a warm, heavenly massage you get after all day's work. It is a small snippet with some amazingly intricate acoustic guitaring. The drums kick in, but moderately enough to balance out things equally. Its a perfect song for a victory celebration, like after a war. You might just think that this one deserves to treat you in the end, rather than in the middle.
The fifth and the last track of this 40-minute escapade from reality is "Time I". The song begins with a melodic riff, delicately carved to fit into the socket of some beautiful symphony. It gets heavier with the benchmark Jari scream which later on free falls into some bloody impressive cleans. The song then progresses to catapult itself to the heavy side with fast drum rolls, double kicks, and swift piano parts. It will surely make you stand up and scream along to, "Time fades away!". Halfway through the song, a much awaited guitar solo sets in and its short but long enough to amaze you. The guitar solo turns to its alter-ego, to pleasure you with a breezy and fast piano solo. The song drops into silence for a few seconds in the end, just to treat you with some peaceful, serene, Finnish folk tunes.
As you must have observed, this album was quite literally a roller-coaster ride that has covered all the aspects required in a masterpiece. From the slow, pleasant parts to the fast, frost-bitten brutality, the album has covered it all! It is so multi-genred that you simply cannot narrow this record down to one genre. The only setback would be lack of emphasis on bass, because the rest of the members seem to have unanimously put in effort, Jari Maenpaa obviously being the stand out performer. Apart from the well above exceptional instrumentals, it was pretty amusing to see Jari come out and sing cleans, be it harsh or operatic! What a talented musician!
If you're one of those people who always wanted to visit Finland, don't worry, because Time I is here to take you on a magical trip to yonder land! This obviously doesn't mean that the rest of them shouldn't listen to it though, because you'll be missing out on one hell of a ride! This album must be heard by the world, not just us metalheads. That is the magnitude of this album.
Hauskaa matkaa hevarit!
Originally written for Metal Wani : http://www.metalwani.com/2012/10/review-wintersun-time-i.html
Posted by Wintersun - http://www.facebook.com/wintersun/posts/376913132387140?comment_id=2709428
Initially I thought to leave it eight years before writing this review, claiming it was too epic to be contained on my hard drive. But I had to make a few comments on this monster. My love for it has been raging wild in my heart, as Gaahl might say.
Now I did like the debut Wintersun album, not quite as much as seemingly hordes of people did given its not so-called legendary status in pop-metal, Nuclear Blast-loving circles, but the first couple of tracks are good just for some cracking shredding and the rest wasn't too sloppy either. It was good fun. I was never able to understand why it generated almost as much hype for the followup as Chinese Democracy, and so I suppose that I can't really be qualified to say whether this album satisfies the same cravings the original did for all those nutters. For my money though, it is far better in every way just as a piece of music, despite its forsaking of some of the debut's more straightforward melodic metal cookers.
Time I has been sating my less regularly titillated needs for overblown, symphonic, epic, whatever metal that doesn't completely go up its own arse and fail to find its way out in the process. Make no mistake, Jari is currently buried somewhere near his colon, and those unsupportive of high-budget cinema-metal outfits like Epica and Nightwish and so forth will find much to gripe about, but judging by the quality here I'm fairly sure the man will be able to find his way back out of his arse or at least get as far as his taint by the time the second piece is dropped. Personally I absolutely love it, and as I wasn't one of the people carving the track listing and song timings of the debut into my forehead with a compass to express my undying love for it, I've been pleasantly surprised into the bargain.
The largest reason for my obsession with this record is the first 17 or so minutes of it, comprising the intro and maybe the single best song I have yet heard this year, 'Sons of Winter and Stars'. The Japanese soundscapes and haunting Chinese erhu presence in the record's introductory piece 'When Time Fades Away', are not only fabulously presented and expertly performed, but well chosen for the job. Over in yander West we've grown to love such sounds for their evocation of timelessness, pride and that most treasured of Far Eastern epic movie traits, eternal love. The jumpy, Kitaro-like refrain (reminiscent of video game soundtracks as a matter of fact - no bad thing, since video games are oft availed of far superior musical accompaniments than big-budget films these days) in that song's latter parts also brings some o' that Wintersun fun in for those by now totally lost, while still representing the deliberately differentiated nature of this album to the band's - now extremely inferior - previous material.
Meanwhile there is only one appropriate response to the moment when that intro gives way to the bloated orchestras, pompous choirs and hammering blastbeats from Kai Hahto for the beginning proper of 'Sons of Winter and Stars' - "holy fuggen goodness"... Or some variant. It isn't often I resort to such easily expressed stock sentiment in reviews, but this shit has to be heard to be believed, to be appreciated in its truly unrestrained, intricately arranged and bombastically layered glory. The blasts are tight as a lesbian nun, though triggered, the strings and choirs and erhu all moving parallel but doing their own highly worthy thing. Meanwhile the composition of this song is far beyond anything Jari has achieved before, making even bombastic pieces like 'Iron' seem like very humble beginnings, designed more like a film soundtrack - in keeping with its cinematic lead-in - where spasmodic switching between pace and scale gives you the feeling of catching glimpses of two or three scenes of a high budget, dramatic summer blockbuster blowout; tension growing as these switches grow in frequency as the song goes on.
I suppose I must pay some lip service to the fact that there is more than one song here - three full compositions reside within. They are of course fucking good. 'Land of Snow and Sorrow' is a mid-paced slice of what could be called epic doom, showcasing Maenpaa's sublime clean singing over a small but satisfactory set of chugging riffs and accompanying epic trappings. His singing on the entire album really is amazing, especially compared to his somewhat typical performance on previous Wintersun and Ensiferum releases. Perhaps he's aged, and his vocal chords with him - producing the more gruff tone -, perhaps he just worked on them a long time, but they kick arse. Far deeper, a little harder and generally more heavy metal, if I may.
There's the winter and the er, sun in the background, see.
The production and overall sound of the album is made much of with 'Land of Snow and Sorrow's more spacious arrangement, with the heavy, clear and clean boom shown off most groovily. The album's pacing and in fact even the songs selected for this first of two CDs also catches my ear when I reach this midway point, with the expert placing of a mid-paced bridge only accentuating the more fraught and shredding chunks sandwiching it. 'Darkness and Frost', another short intro song - reminiscent of video games again - that weasels its way into your brain and renders you humming it moronically (but cheerfully) as you do your groceries, leads into the project's title song. 'Time', obviously. Another epic at 11:45, it rounds the album out with a largely mid-paced trample through icy palaces and forests and what have you, spiking deliciously into tense, crunchy guitar riffs that plow with purpose towards more massive and utterly beautiful clean singing sections, probably the album's best. I can't drive home enough just how stunning these parts are. And though I haven't spent quite so much time with these last two songs - and given the scant nature of separate tracks available here I hope any readers that come along will forgive my examining each in turn - that should not detract from just how good they are, particularly the finale.
Now this album has without preamble rocketed to probably the number two or three spot on my year-end list, and the reasons for that as presented by this magnificent creation are manifold. The sheer amount going on, the 200+ audio tracks offered by Jari Maenpaa as an excuse for Time's struggle with delays as epic as the albums rendering and seemingly as eternal as its subject matter, merits a good few listens alone. There's still plenty of those spiky, sizzling synths that characterised the project's opus eponymous, and likewise the jagged, insanely catchy harmonized riffs, themselves almost symphonic in their nature. It isn't merely the awesome effect of the albums aesthetic superficialities, but also its broadening and smoothening of the earworm Wintersun sound, that makes this so remarkably superior a sophomore. The entire form and function of the band has been remade as a ridiculously catchy, sprawling epic, extreme power metal with proggy tendencies -band. I can't wait for Time II. This time, I'll be counting down to the next Wintersun album with everyone else.
"When time fades away [...] I'll never feel the same."
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Do I even need to introduce anybody to Wintersun? I'm sure all of you know who Wintersun is by now. The debut album is one of the most preposterously, disgustingly over-hyped albums of all time. I can't go anywhere without hearing that album's praises, then subsequently being ridiculed and ostracized when I calmly and politely ask these fellows what kind of ass worm is in their brains to make them think Wintersun is the pinnacle, epitome, or glorious standard all albums should be held by as it bafflingly is so consistently considered.
As such, Time I is most likely the most anticipated release of this year. Most of you have probably been closely following every rumor about this album, losing sleep over it, and cutting your wrists every time the release date was pushed back. How many times was it pushed back, anyway? Three times? Five times? A dozen times? I lost track ages ago. I'm guessing you guys have a lot of unfortunate scars.
And so, here it is. The album everybody waited eight years for is among us. And damn, this thing is fucking hilarious. Fans waited eight years for an album that is essentially only three songs long. Oh yeah, and while Wintersun was full on melodic death/power at super speed, Time I abandons most of that in favor of a hugely bombastic, symphonic sound at a much calmer tempo. So fans also waited eight long years for an album that is of a significantly different style.
Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahaha! Mäenpää may very well be metal's greatest troll. Either that, or he's really fucking ignorant. Did he seriously expect to pull this out of his ass after a damned eight year wait without his hardcore fan base usurping the Vikernes throne and actively searching down his house to set it on fire? I feel I should also mention fans have waited those eight years for only half an album, but I get the feeling the label is using this as a sales tactic due to the power behind Wintersun's name, thus making them more responsible for the double album idea than Mäenpää and co.
Regardless, the fact remains: fans get an idea of what they want in their heads, then they get really pissed off when it's anything remotely different - and this album is definitely different. With this as given knowledge, it is here I point out that I actually like this album. That's right, it's better than that clusterfuck winter-on-crack debut. COME AT ME, BROS!
One of the things that really put me off about Wintersun was how stupidly chaotic it is (rather ironic, given the fact that "Beyond the Dark Sun" and "Winter Madness" are my favorite tracks on the record). Winter is the season for doom and dirge. Everybody knows this. The Wintersun debut, however, rarely keeps in line with its somber roots - instead, every time the album seems like it's meant to be thick and dramatic, Jari said to himself, "THROW IT INTO OVERDRIVE!" Combine that with the utterly random pacing of the album and the end result is a giant mess.
Though Time I certainly contains many traces of the superspeed melodeathpower that made up the debut, it seems that, in his overdramatic journey up his own pompous ass, he almost entirely forgot about the raw intensity that (for some Godforsaken reason) everybody fell in love with in the first album. Instead of being raw and chaotic, Time I takes the journey all albums take when the songwriter consumes a timespan equivalent to the average lifespan of a child with Progeria to meticulously perfect every second of his work: it's overbloated, bombastic, and polished shinier than Rarity's diamonds. It retains its predecessor's spaciness, yet replaces the fury with a massively overdone, pretentious, neverending symphonic assault.
Is this a bad thing? Well, if you're one of the people who was waiting for Wintersun II, probably. As a random passerby metalhead simply curious on what the ass an album that took eight damned years to create would sound like, I do not mind at all. From the opening strains of "When Time Fades Away" I knew this would be something I'd seriously enjoy. I recall reading in years passed Jari was working on Japanese harmonies for Time, and this beautiful opener guarantees this promise. "When Time Fades Away" soothes the listener with gorgeous oriental folk melodies that really do sound like they were polished for a whopping eight years. Both the Japanese harmonies and polished sound carry on into the first of the real three tracks, "Sons of Winter and Stars" - and not just into that, but into the entire album. The huge Japanese melodies and constant oriental vibe never departs. It brings to mind Whispered's 2010 debut masterpiece Thousand Swords, though Time I is far more symphonic and significantly less melodic death. Really, this oriental folk thing is just excellent and more bands need to do it. If anything throws this album into the "fuck yeah" category, its those Japanese melodies. They unite seamlessly with all the overbloated symphonies and make this album seem bigger than it actually is. Have I mentioned how pretentious this thing is yet?
Unfortunately, the fact that this album sounds like it was polished for a whopping eight years is its most glaring drawback. Rather than spending those eight years coming up with more ideas and expanding the songs with more melodies, riffs, whatever, it sounds more like Jari spent a year or two actually writing the music then spent the remaining six or seven years just polishing and tweaking every note to flawlessness. Given when this album was supposed to be released, I wouldn't be surprised if that is exactly what happened. To sum it up, this album reminds me of Blind Guardian's A Night at the Opera or, in a far more recent example, Nightwish's Imaginaerum in terms of scope (and I can certainly see similarities in vision as well). However, try as though it might, it fails at captivating an epic, grandiose nature the way those two albums do. As such, it often doesn't live up to its ultimate potential. As example, "Land of Snow and Sorrow" (seriously, Jari, you need to get your head out of the snow pits and come up with more creative names than this) should be huge, bombastic, and powerful. Though it offers its share of sexy leads, entrancing symphonies, and never relinquishes its chilling atmosphere, it instead plods along, stretched thin through its own atmosphere. Put simply, these tracks are huge musical journeys, but they don't take us to fascinating, exciting places as often as they should be.
On the plus side, all the time spent shining this thing to perfection has resulted in a damn Wintersun musical. You can take that however you want, but I love it. Time I is truly flawless in terms of flow, redeeming the jumbled "let's throw random shit anywhere and everywhere" of the debut. No note feels out of place, because Mäenpää clearly spent a good six years making damn well sure every idea fit in perfectly. Each of the main three tracks is huge and progressive. They're also overwhelming in the amount of layers to each track - there's constantly a plethora of different elements twisting together, yet never seeming out of place or unwelcome. One can repeatedly dig further into each song and discover more intricacies to the music, reminding yet again that Jari spent nigh 1/4 of his life perfecting this album. "Sons of Winter and Stars" is probably the best example. The track is huge, thick, and goes through more moods than your mother during PMS; it definitely manages to succeed at them all. Hell, every track even segues together perfectly, giving the illusion of one, long song if you're not paying attention. There is also clearly some kind of underlying concept going on here, though I have no idea what it is (probably some story about some guys visiting an icy world of stars and dying in darkness and sorrow, because that's what all Wintersun songs are about, right???) I'd be more inclined to carry the concept unto its musical being rather than its lyrical being, but in both regards this album seems to be its own cosmic world. It is a world with endless, wintry landscapes to the edge of the horizon - on display are infinite wonders of frigid beauty, each beauty seamlessly woven into a tapestry of frozen time. Time I is timeless in its vision. It's just, well... it's fucking pretentious, that's what it is!
So, the bottom line here: Time I is a massively overdone, pretentious, neverending symphonic assault! However, as pretentious as it is, as overbloated as it is, as beautiful, atmospheric, and powerful as it is, it doesn't reach its full potential as often as you'd expect out of an album in the workshop for eight years. But hey, simply releasing this proves Jari is a giant Finnish troll, so maybe this is all a clever scheme to really freak out the Wintersun fans. Once everyone is alienated, he releases the true masterpiece next year. Yeah, yeah! And if not, well... Time will fade away. And though some may lose more sleep and cut more wrists in anguish of the eight year wait for an album they never wanted, I will revel in the fact the wintry light radiating brilliantly from the dimension of Time magnificently eclipses the dim, flickering glimmer of the chaotic dwarf planet debut.
I love a good cup of dark roast black coffee, something strong simple and unceremonious to get me ready for the day. It isn't that I’m opposed to the idea of adding cream and sugar; at times it adds to the overall presentation and enjoyment of my beverage, but more often than not it simply masks the bitter, natural flavor of coffee. When people put cream and sugar in coffee, it’s typically because they feel that their coffee will taste like shit if they don’t; they are correct because it is usually shitty coffee. Not everyone who drinks coffee actually enjoys coffee, there are some latte drinkers who would rather indulge in sugar, cream, milk and whipping cream to the extent that the coffee itself becomes an afterthought; rather than the main attraction.
Extreme metal is a lot like coffee; it has a strong bitter flavor that many people feel the need to sweeten with sugary symphonic arrangements and overly melodic elements. Keep in mind that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Summoning, for example manage to mix up a latte that’s barely recognizable as metal, yet I can drink it daily without feeling bloated or unsatisfied. The best symphonic metal bands (in my opinion) are the ones that rely on strong riff writing and song arrangements. The symphonic elements in these bands are typically subdued and only used when necessary to add to musical climaxes or other areas where more texture or emotion is required. There are other symphonic metal bands that don’t even bother writing riffs, the guitar simply chugs 3 cords in the background (in order to satisfy the pretense of being a metal band) while the symphonic elements are left to carry the music.
Wintersun are not the type of project that palm mutes 3 notes and calls it riffing. Jari puts time and effort into the majority of riffs he writes and it made the first Wintersun album a success. This album also has genuine riffs but they are buried deep in the mix and don’t come through. This is not a production problem; this is an attitude problem. Jari seems to feel as if a metal album isn't enough, he needs to add extra textures everywhere and saturate everything to the point of absurdity and beyond. Jari doesn't want the listener to be impressed, he wants the listener to be blown away! It doesn't work because it doesn't bring anything new to the table. After listening to the first Ensiferum and Wintersun albums, you have heard every idea that Jari ever had. Sorry kids, drenching old ideas in superfluous, symphonic bullshit is not the equivalent of coming up with new ideas. (My favorite part is when he starts playing “Little Dreamer” half way through “Land of Snow and Sorrow.”)
Wintersun have treated us with the musical equivalent of a venti caramel macchiato with an extra vanilla flavor shot, caramel syrup, whip and only a half shot of espresso. As soon as you take the first sip you are bombarded with delicious flavors and marvel at the effort put into the preparation of your drink, but after you've finally made it through the first inch of whipping cream and syrup you start to ask yourself: “where the fuck is my coffee?” Yeah sure, there’s harsh vocals and double kicking, with the same triggered drum sound on literally every nuclear blast release but who cares.
The first song is like a think mound of sickeningly sweet whipping cream and the outro at the end of the last song is like the thick clump of sugar and syrup that always settles to the bottom of the cup. I don’t want you do get the idea that this album is sloppy or poorly put together. Actually, it suffers from the opposite problem. This album is over produced, over saturated, overblown and under whelming. The previous Wintersun album also had its fair share of problems. To me, the first Wintersun album felt like the entire project was nothing more than a vehicle for Jari to show off how fast he could sweep pick, but was saved by the shorter, catchier songs like “Winter Madness” and “Beyond the Dark Sun.” The only short songs on this release are totally useless intros that fail at creating any atmosphere whatsoever. If you take the 2 and a half minutes of useless crap at the end of the last song and add it to the two useless intros you get a total of 9 minutes of stupid intro. For those of you who are a bit slow with math, that is 22.5% of the album. That is a lot of sugar for one cup of coffee.
I am glad that there are no obnoxious, ostentatious and self serving guitar solos on this album, but I am afraid that Jari traded them in for something much worse. One is begged to ask, why are the songs so long? Does the song “Sons of Winter and Stars” warrant being 13 minutes? Of course not! If the song was between 6 and 8 minutes it would probably be my favorite Wintersun song, it is very unfortunate. I’m afraid that Time 2 is probably going to be even more overblown, pretentious and ultimately unsatisfying than Time 1, but hopefully Jari will acknowledge his potential and release the jaw dropping album I know he is capable of writing. Until then I am going to sit back and enjoy my coffee.
Originally written for abloodredpath.blogspot.com
Wintersun is a band that, in a way, didn't actually need to release another album past their first one. It belongs to this small number of bands/musicians that wrote a magnum opus, a 9th symphony, straight from the beginning. Jari could have rejoined Ensiferum or made other, easier (and faster!) projects that would have sustained him as a professional musician, leaving this album as a single offering of excellence and a producer of eternal fame. Instead, he's been struggling for over than 6 years to come with the sophomore album, striving to widen and perfect even further his vision; for that alone, he is a hero of some kind. There is no epitome of perfection in the world and even "Wintersun" has pretty obvious faults and weaknesses that might make one think "what if..?" However, it is a rational "what if" in the aftermath of a total spiritual success. With great and complex music such as Wintersun's, the threads of magic are not clearly discernible and one playing with them risks a lot. For every solution two other problems might occur, for every "fault" that is fixed an emotion might be subdued. Jari seems to have understood that. Time, coupled with patience is certainly the greatest advisor.
"Time I" is an album that expands in many directions beginning from the debut, however the question is; does it stem from a similarly vibrant source of inspiration? Surprisingly, it also features even more obvious faults than the first one on the production side, that sometimes detract from the listening experience. Jari has took up the production and mixing himself in this record, a decision I applaud as it is the best option for composers of complex and elaborate music, as its nuances can hardly be understood by anyone except the composer himself. However, some of his decisions are peculiar (and they certainly are pure artistic decisions, he sure had all the Time in the world not to miss anything). While I'm theoretically very positive to albums that sport a wide dynamic range, "Time I" features severe loudness fluctuation that makes me either jump from my chair or reach for the volume control. I imagine that, in the course of increasing orchestral influence, Jari wanted to give the dynamics of a symphonic orchestra to his heavy metal band. The problem is that it's not always done correctly, or that it is overdone, it seems as the instruments are squashed of their natural dynamics typically for a modern metal production and then programmed to the desirable; it feels unnatural at times, like you can see Jari's hand moving the faders. Also, the drums are unexpectedly buried in the mix and the bass is often untamed (perhaps unlike the majority of Wintersun fanbase, I don't see so many Hollywood blockbusters as to enjoy hearing an earthquake in the middle of a song). Negatives aside, the production is still much more powerful, atmospheric and expansive than "Wintersun", largely because of the bigger prominence of various layers of synths and effects. It is actually a very bold and original vision that, if perfected in Time part II, will be something totally unique to the metal world, in which the orchestra had been always subdued in the mix and conservatively used as another synth layer. For "I" though, I wish Jari had a professional mixing assistant (or an opinionated mastering engineer) in his side that would trim off some of the excesses.
Let's go at last to the music. There are no great stylistic changes comparing to the debut, to put it bluntly and non-poetically, it seems like an orchestral, pimped-out-in-every-aspect version of it. This might sound bad, but in reality it is what everybody probably expected and wanted, and actually is an amazing feat of courage and inspiration. The album's intro, "When Time Fades Away" is a foray into the epic midi territory that is on the same level with the music of some of the best game composers out there (and perhaps there's even an influence from the Japanese ones). The first real song, "Sons of Winter and Sons" is almost like Wintersun passed through the bombast of the "300" soundtrack or these "Two Steps In Hell" guys. These horns are sure damn loud, but the essence of Wintersun's music does not lie there. It is in their glacial, pure as childlike wonder sense of melody and harmony, in its frantic and inspired progressions, in these amazing climaxes of emotion. Is any one these here?
After 2-3 listenings, the mind begins to recover from the shock caused by all the bombast and begins to notice all the small details, the second and third voices/melodic lines, being able to really go along with the song as an active listener. The answer is: YES. "Sons of Winter and Sun" is a triumph for the band and will always go along "Starchild", "Winter Madness" and I dare yet say, "Way of The Fire" as one of their greatest magic spells. The level of complexity and density has risen, as there is no single guitar line without its counterpoint, while in the background there lies always an orchestral arrangement playing, a traditional Japanese flute, harps, female voices, choirs. The themes of the album hardly are presented with repetition as in typical heavy metal fashion, but are adorned with constant variation, leading into each other almost in enthusiastic hastiness, before one has a chance to fully absorb them (thanks Zeus for the replay button) - as the melodic vocals of Jari are this time more prominent, together with the virtual orchestra they take many melodic lines away from the guitars, so it makes sense to talk about themes rather than riffs in this album. "Son...” alternates between destructive anger, angst, beauty, mystery, powerful determination, awe, enlightenment. It goes directly to being one of the greatest heavy metal songs of history for me.
I never was a huge fan of the slow Wintersun songs, which says a lot about how much I love the fast ones. It perhaps has to do with Jari's background as a shredder, or that he simply needs more space to fit in his long evolving melodies, but to me, they are in the same level with Ensiferum's best songs, which is to say "just good" (Moonsorrow are the masters of slow and epic Finnish folkish metal, just so that you know). So when "Land of Snow and Sorrow" begins, my expectations are not the highest. It does not shatter them completely, but it manages to hold the album in a quality level. Here, the orchestral instrumentation backs off a bit and stays in the background as in the first album. Like the other slow songs in "Wintersun", it is almost mono-thematic and with the exception of the expected, but adventurous middle section (which reminded me a bit of Devin Townsend in the end, was curious to see if this influence would finally materialize) it is just nice to listen to. Even though I like the basic melody, one cannot expect to keep high interest by elaborating on it for so long, except if this one is Beethoven, say. Moderation isn't Jari's strongest point as a composer; however he's fighting it, understanding the need for a break in the intensity and pace of the album. In an eight-song album, this one wouldn't be a problem, but in this shortened to half 40-minute edition of Time, I feel I would have welcomed something stronger.
"Darkness and Frost" is a short, two-minute introduction to the brilliant basic melody of "Time" and should have been left as one track altogether, meaning I have the feeling they were divided rather than intended as separate tracks from the beginning (hey guys, some of my favorite metal albums are comprised of four tracks!) So, "Time", here we go; the same-titled track of the original intended album, assumably the stronger or among the 2-3 strongest tracks of both Time I & II, it is hereupon that you are judged (at least until the second offering). I'll cut the drama short, there is enough in the album; it's the second fucking triumph of the album. This song features some irritating loudness fluctuation as well so I had to put headphones in quite loud volume at this point, which seems to be the correct way to listen to this album (I can't say about monitors as I can't put them as high in my apartment, but oh Jari, I sure hope you didn't mix this way).
Get ready to be faced with endless layers of melody here, I am truly at a loss to describe the depth of emotion and the immensity presented. I will say that this song is perhaps his culmination as a composer as of yet. The song's also comprised of a small number of basic themes, but like the great classical composers, his treatment of them via massive orchestration and delicate counterpointing so masterful that one is swept by the flow, forgetting all about themes of structures or where exactly are we in the song, how long until it finishes and so on, living only in the Magical Now. Is this Wintersun's treatment against Time, to extinguish it, at least for the duration of this song? "Time fades away - you'll never be the same" - it seems like an obvious statement, probably juvenile in the context of the lyric sheet of a music album, at least for the "mature" or "tasteful" listeners, but Jari with his dramatic treatment returns to it the importance it deserves. Metal music doesn't need to use long words or Wittgenstein references in order to be philosophical, it just needs to address these eternal, simple questions with the immensity, conviction and depth that is needed for the listener to confront them and make them his/her own. "Time", the song, doesn't even need to burst into blastbeats or maniacal chord progressions to enchant us, the purity of its melodies, its glorious somberness suffices to lift up our souls into the skies.
Probably Jari's greatest victory against time is that his music will be eternal, surely to be heard in the ages to come. Gustav Mahler has said "Nothing will stand the passing of time, except this which has been perfected upon in every detail". I don't know if this already has been the motto of Jari, but he sure works like he's known it forever. On the other hand, "Time I" is not entirely satisfying to listener, as it leaves one dry, ending at the moment the enthusiasm reaches its greatest peak. It doesn't really feel like an album, with its three songs and one intro and personally I will be ripping both albums and putting them in the same folder when "II" is hopefully released. I'm certain it will take about a year until I can really follow along to reach to the end without having it melt my brain, but until then it will at least feel better conceptually. Therefore, any attempt to make a comparison between the two albums should wait until then. It's also interesting to note that, for me at least, the essence of "Wintersun" lies in basically just four songs that transcend to reach the plane of divinity; with "Time I" I believe we already have two.
The greatest thing with "Time" is that is transcends expectation, it shows that there can be hope against the law of mediocrity, that there are people who can rise into excellence more than once in their lifetime, that can face the destructive winds of Time and stand strong. But, hey Jari, don't just chill and rest yet, you've got a second part to deliver (and please, be extra careful with these faders!). The rating is just for Wintersun standards - there's absolutely no one else in their league. Oh, and remember to listen to this with good headphones - and loud, please.
Originally written for http://questunknown.blogspot.gr
Well, it is finally here. After eight long years, filled with anticipation and disappointments, the long awaited follow-up to the band’s debut album “Wintersun” has finally landed in our time. The ironically entitled album “Time”; This has to be one of the most anticipated albums of this year, at least to me, and after a few spins you can notice quite a change in the approach since their 2004 debut.
In this review I will try to neglect the fact that this was supposed to be a full album with more songs, but was split into two albums in the last few months because in Jari’s opinion, “the music was too big for one album”. I will neglect the fact that Jari has been a real dick concerning releasing this album, in order to perfect it to the ultimate form possible. I will ignore that and focus on the music itself.
The album contains only 5 tracks, 2 instrumentals: “When Time Fades Away” and “Darkness and Frost”. And 3 songs: “Sons of Winter and Stars”, “Land of Snow and Sorrow”, and “Time”.
The music is generally much more atmospheric, depends on engulfing guitar riffs with a cocoon of synthesis and orchestration, you can also notice an influence of Japanese music, especially in the intro “When Time Fades Away”, the song “Sons of Winter and Stars” and the end of the last song “Time”. The music also sounds a lot more epic with extra layers of different keyboard sounds, the album at some points sounds even too big for its own good, sometimes you can feel the extra use of layers is getting out of hand, but it’s well controlled by the drumming of Mr. Hahto, the bass line and the awesome well crafted guitar riffs, but you can feel it’s much different from before, which is really a double edged dagger, it’s good at some points and offers a fresh breeze in the record, but on the other hand it can a bit boring and inconsistent.
Probably the most surprising part of the album is the vocals, the vocals of Jari has improved significantly, it’s more emotional and touching in the clean vocals domain, and it sounds more brutal and violent in the growling part, it really suits the whole atmosphere of the album and gives it a beautiful frozen flavor, it’s like listening to a depressing Anime movie.
As a keyboardist myself, I must say that I am completely awed by the amazing talents I have witnessed in this album. The orchestration is incredible and flowing through the whole record, like a tapestry of darkness and beauty, it’s weaved in a very professional way, crafted in tears and blood of years of work. Probably the most incredible keyboard gems are hidden in the song “Time”. It’s flowing perfectly and flawlessly like a pure immortal stream.
You can easily notice that Jari and the others have really poured much of their emotions in this album, and it shows how hard they have been working. It’s a really rewarding album. I must say that in many ways it managed to surpass its predecessor, but on the other hand you can notice that the guitars have been a little neglected in the mixing zone, I mean the riffing is very well written and molded, but it hasn’t got its fair share and should have been given a little more attention, at some points in the depths of songs such as “Land of Snow and Sorrow” and “Time” it almost sounds that the album is entirely executed on keyboards until few riffs and solos kick in and change that idea, but you can still get that feeling.
In short, this record is an undeniable masterpiece and it was well worth the wait, but as long devoted fans of Wintersun we expected much more in the guitar department, I really hope to see more of that in the upcoming album Time II.
Welcome back, Wintersun !
It’s about TIME!
Yeah, yeah, that’s a cheap derp joke, but I still think it’s worth at least a little merit. Jari Maenpaa didn’t really make a lot of friends over his desire for his perfection-to-the-point-of-obsession when producing “Time”, and many of us who’ve been so blown away by WINTERSUN’s s/t debut started to get more and more anxious over the years-on-end delays. Eight years. Eight fucking years. And the last few times something like this happened, the listening public got “St. Anger” (1997 to 2003, a six year wait) and “Illud Divinum Insanus” (2003 to 2012, an eight to nine year wait), both of which ended up with their fair share of detractors in the end (though to be fair, “Illud…” had its moments or glory, whereas “St. Anger” was just a train wreck from front to back). Not that I’m accusing “Time” of running the risk of being among the no hopers of yesteryear. But you know where I’m coming from with this.
So here I sit, fingers at the ready, gearing up to enter the album’s fray…
No words. None. I’m speechless, utterly and resolutely. I never thought an album this massive in its musicality could still be possible in this era. Based on pure atmosphere alone, “Time I” is overwhelming. The risk of being swallowed whole by the sheer amount of layers is there, but it’s a willing sort of swallowedness, intentionally drawn into its enveloping grace. It’s really a thing of beauty, (this of course being said without any shred of blind hero worship on my end), and the time I’d spent listening to it was done so with a stunned sensation. This demanded my attention, and dammit if it didn’t receive it. So, with all that said, was it worth waiting 8 years or so? Yes. Yes, yes, YES. From the creative aspect, much of the musical end of things is based on miles-thick layers of synth and orchestral movements that really move the listener, with the guitar and bass riffing merely running alongside them (that’s not to say that the guitars are wholly useless here…just not as important as many would expect, is all) and more singing/choruses than before; thankfully the years have been kind to Mr. Maenpaa’s pipes, as nowadays his cleans much stronger and majestic than before and his screaming has more balls. And when they all come together, things go from section to section with a strong progressive vibe, truly taking in the spacey aspect Jari’s been shooting for since the start of the project (pretty much in spite of its wintry/nature-based origins).
Those who are here for either a replication of the first album or desire a more “traditional metal” album will be horribly pissed off by this. “Time I” is here to bring you into a universe all its own rather than simply rock you. And it’s within its own dimensional flux, where things veer back and forth at such a rapid pace, that one can finds its many, many little satisfying details. You’ll think you know where the album is heading, you’ll think you’ve got Wintersun pegged, but time and again you’ll end up veering off into worlds unheard (at least, by their perspective). Yet, with all that said, though, this is an album I don’t really see appealing to everyone. Particularly those who hate the majestic/symphonic metal thing. And as I’ve said before with regards to other albums/bands of this caliber, it’s really their loss because “Time I” is an absolutely stellar disc that bursts at the seams with a “Wow!” factor so few albums in recent times have been able to possess. No one track really stands out; they’re all fascinating in their own respective rights no matter how you slice it. Stunning. Amazing. Awe-inspiring. That good enough for ya?
In the end, Wintersun truly outdo their first album in terms of overall solidity and ability to stun the listener. This is not an album to simply listen to or merely appreciate; this is something to experience, to live through, to traverse across over and over again. This is definitely a must-own album, and a clear forerunner for Album of 2012. Just…wow.
Well this is it, kids. The big one, the one you've all been waiting with bated breath for nearly a decade for. Jari Maenpaa's alleged masterpiece, the one and mighty Time. After leaving Ensiferum at the height of their popularity to focus full time on his baby, Wintersun, Jari has spent presumably all of his free time obsessively crafting this masterwork, this ode to the gods of music, this sonic journey through time and stars and snow. Tours were canceled, tentative release dates kept on being pushed back or passing by with nary a fart noise coming from Jari's general direction. This was poised to be his Use Your Illusion. He has a monumentally successful debut and then spends the next couple years being a reclusive perfectionist while meticulously nitpicking and perfecting his complex vision. I mean really, he describes the music as "Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal", which sounds like some ridiculous shit I would make up in order to make fun of it. Really, look at that profoundly superfluous descriptor and try to imagine what the fuck Wintersun sounds like. Clearly this is the work of a mad genius, the musical equivalent of Nikola Tesla for the new millennium.
Now Time is finally, for realsies out and finished, and to the shock of precisely nobody, it's a goddamn insult.
Eight years. Think about that, think about everything that's happened in those eight years. The Chicago Blackhawks went from perennial whipping boys to Stanley Cup champions, Saddam, Gaddafi, and bin Laden were all killed, a black man became president of the United States, MutantClannfear lived more than half of his life, and Fall Out Boy's entire career happened. In all of this time, Jari assured us he was slaving away, doing his absolute damnedest to make sure he was getting his creation just perfect for all of us. This dude was acting like goddamn Howard Hughes, except he managed to skip straight to the piss-drinking insanity stage. There are apparently something preposterous like 200+ tracks on each song, the hypothetical tape would be fucking transparent if this weren't all digital. The problem is that he thinks he can be Queen here, and just capture this huge journey and set it to music that's as complex as it is accessible, that's as bombastic as it is grounded. If Jari Maenpaa is Queen, then I'm Roger Ebert.
I could make stupid metaphors and similes until the goddamned sun implodes if left unchecked (I even passed on my overdone picnic analogy! Go me!), so I'm going to attempt to rein myself in here and explain why Time I is so offensive. And really, a huge component is the ratio of sheer amount of time it took to complete to the actual amount of content we got as a result. I can't get over the fact that after eight years of waiting, the band is actually going to play the Darelle Revis card and hold out on us after proving themselves precisely once. Wintersun's self titled debut is for some utterly perplexing reason heralded as a beacon of metal songwriting despite containing precisely two good songs followed by what feels like ten hours of Jari jerking off to pictures of himself. Based on that, fans have waiting patiently for enough time for a Great Dane to live its entire life for the follow up, and when that day finally, finally came, we were only given half of the final product. What kind of bullshit turd dicking move is that? After all this goddamn time, you expect me to lap up five measly tracks, only breaking the forty minute mark because the last song has three minutes of an unrelated instrumental transition track tacked on to the back of it and then promise me that the second half will be out soon? Bitch your word is worth about as much as the Hungarian pengo, I'll have kids in grade school by the time the second half of this album sees the light of day if your track record is anything to go by. Because hey kids, here's some random trivia you've all seemed to have forgotten, the first handful of songs written for the first Wintersun album were written... *drum roll* eight fucking years before the album was released. This obnoxious waiting period is nothing new for the band, Jari takes his sweet time when writing music. But hey, let's pretend for the sake of keeping this review on track, that Time II comes out within a month, does it still justify the piddly bullshit we have here for Time I?
Of course not, I'd be cursing a whole shitbucket less if that were the case. The problem with this is that the preposterous waiting period doesn't show at all. At no point is there anything complex enough, or well thought out enough, or executed strongly enough for me to believe that two high school careers were spent honing it to perfection. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a sloppy mess that sounds thrown together in the eleventh hour, clearly every moment was meticulously planned and orchestrated from the beginning, but it's all so mind-numbingly average that it becomes something worse entirely. I feel like the problem here is that Jari simply thinks he's much more clever than he actually is, so he spends an eternity putting together this masterpiece that turns out to be something Rhapsody could have sneezed out in between their cruddy albums in the mid 00s. Did anybody truly expect this to be life affirmingly great? Of course not, in fact I actually expected the music itself to be much worse than it actually is. I won't deny for one second that the music is well performed and actually showcases some very diverse dynamics, which is a complete rarity for anything within the confines of metal nowadays.
The first two tracks rank somewhere between "very good" and "surprisingly great", and are paced masterfully. This is a massive improvement from the self titled, which was paced like somebody sneezing and then watching their phlegm drip down a wall. The songs there were arranged from shortest to longest, which I suspect was an effort to make the album feel more and more epic with each new piece, but instead made it feel longer and longer each time and really hammered home just how glacial and dull the album truly was. Instead of blowing his wad early and then spending the next 45 minutes silently sobbing into his pillow, Jari instead actually builds up anticipation and releases it in a scarily brilliant fashion. "When Time Fades Away" ranks as one of my favorite intro tracks of the past decade or so, to be entirely honest with you. It's merely an intro and it's quite lengthy as far as instrumental intros go, but the fact that it slowly builds up energy across a very palatable melody just works in such a strikingly beautiful way. There's also a personal bias because ever since playing the old Playstation game, Tenchu, I've had an almost fetishistic affinity for traditional Japanese music. I fucking love the twang of the shamisen and the pleasant coo of the whistles, and so the prominent Eastern influence is a huge plus, and something that actually managed to assuage my seething fury at the relative brevity of the album itself upon first listen. The first proper song, "Sons of Winter and Stars", actually starts so smoothly that you can barely hear the transition between the intro if you aren't paying close attention, as it starts off with roughly thirty seconds of even more traditional Japanese music. It paints this vivid picture of a dimension spanning journey the listener is about to embark on, and bewilderingly enough it actually manages to deliver on this promise in the beginning. I touched on the dynamics earlier, and while I was slightly facetious about their quality (I do find the two extremes to be akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark in that the quiet parts are too quiet and the loud parts are too loud, and such ends up being distracting), it is nice to hear such thought and care put into the lesser aspects of the music. Despite the soul-melting length of the track (over thirteen and a half minutes) and an extended quiet passage in the middle, "Sons of Winter and Stars" manages to not get dull. The fast and bombastic parts are full of pomp and vigor, and as I've stated oodles of times in the past, that is when Jari is at his best. It builds to no less than two very satisfying and well executed climaxes that end up being very depressing in the grand scheme of things. That release of "Embrace the STAAAAAAAHS" is skin tinglingly great. This is what most people were expecting this album to sound like, and for the first quarter of the alleged full product, it actually does live up to the stupidly high expectations that I certainly did not have.
It's only afterwards that the album falls into the rut that I just fucking knew it would fall into. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" (can you tell that he names his songs with Wintersun ad-libs?) pulls the dragchute and spends the entirety of its duration just trudging along like a lost (and not adorable) puppy. Listen to that opening guitar line and tell me that he really needed eight shit spackling years to tweak that to perfection. It's a lazy, plodding, dull and uninteresting riff that just drives the exciting energy that the previous track just spent a quarter of an hour building up straight into the mud. The orchestrations that build around it are uninspired and predictable, and the pace never picks back up. Over eight minutes are spent on this lifeless, meandering snoozefest that never once ever attempts an epic moment. That pan-dimensional journey the album was alluding that we'd embark on? Yeah, this is where Jari just puts the controls on autopilot and fucks off to go eat some potato chips. Nothing happens, the riffs just plod on like a dozy elephant and the symphonics just kind of diddle around with their own thing, just being wispy off in the atmosphere. Imagine a version of "Sleeping Stars" from the previous album that's almost twice as long (while feeling twice as long as that, added on) with even less going on within the song. I can't get over how intensely boring the song is, this is why the album is so offensive to me. This is what we'd been waiting for? Where was the brilliance we saw in that opener? You're only going to present us with half of your vision, and as an added slap in the face, this dull pit of tripe is part of that? This didn't take you eight years to write, this probably didn't even take eight hours. This is insulting, and any fans lapping this up like good little minions are simply lying to themselves if you can find anything approaching good songwriting within. Go jump off the highest point of your house and land face first on something pointy.
The "album" rounds out with another interlude-full song combo, and this one holds nary a percentage of the vigorous ambition of the first set. "Darkness and Frost" (Seriously? What are some of the tracks on the second part of this bloated turd going to be called? "Stars of Snow and Darkness"? "Winter of Stars and Time"? "Starless Winter Darkness"?) is yet another competent Japanese influenced instrumental, though wholly lacking in the vibrancy and splendor of "When Time Fades Away", and builds up into the drudgery that is the title track. "Time" is yet another dull, spiteful exercise in how to show your patient fans naught but utter contempt. I could just copy and past my entire diatribe on "Land of Snow and Sorrow" here and the description would be just as apt. The main difference is that "Time" is based around a higher tempo and contains one of Jari's patented shredding solos, and even that ends up sounding lame and forced. I wasn't expecting another "Winter Madness", because that would be asking for the moon on a stick, but something a little more inspired than a warmup exercise would be mightily welcomed. The clean vocals come off as tired and obligatory, the strings are dull and inconsequential, the drummer is so pointless that he might as well not get any royalties from the album sales. There is a psyche-out buildup that leads to a loud orchestral part that somehow ends up sounding much less exuberant than the brilliance shown on "Sons of Winter and Stars", which I will continue to hold as the stick by which this entire experience should be measured by. The song is truly only roughy nine minutes long, but in order to breach the forty minute mark, what was clearly intended to be another standalone interlude was tacked on to the end in order to juuuuust push it over the mark. It's this kind of underhanded trickery that further fuels my virulent hatred of what this album stands for, which is a monumental lack of inspiration being mislabeled as visionary and consequently spoon fed to loyal fans as the answer to their prayers. And then fence sitters and vocal detractors like myself are also expected to hear an unheard of brilliance within Time and, if not promptly switch sides for the cheerleader, to at the very least understand what the die hard fans have been chomping at the bit about.
Frankly, NO. This is overblown yet still undercooked. There's a lot of presentation with no flair. And apart from one example of Jari's flukey genius, the other two thirds of the album's content is watered down nonsense with no appeal. If you like this droning, plodding nonsense with weak symphonics, then by all means you'll eat this like candy. I wasn't expecting this to be as fast paced as I prefer Jari to be ("Beyond the Dark Sun" and "Winter Madness" are legitimately great songs from the previous album, and are unironically the fastest and most to-the-throat songs on the album), but I wasn't expecting it to mirror the new Ensiferum album. Yeah I said it. This is akin to freakin' Unsung Heroes. Both albums revel in the dull half of the early dichotomy that exemplified Jari's songwriting style on the first two Ensiferum albums. Time I spends a majority of the album on the slow side, and just like the slow half of the first Ensiferum album, it's fucking bloated and boring, and with the extramusical qualities being taken into account, it's an insult to those who've been waiting. Keep in mind, I'm not even a fan of Wintersun for the most part, so imagine how pissed off I'd be if I was given this dull, glorified EP as a reward for eight fucking years of faithful patience in the face of seemingly dogged contempt towards me.
I compared this to Use Your Illusion earlier, based solely on the fact that the main songwriter became a screwy and reclusive perfectionist after one monstrously popular album, but the ratio of time taken to complete to utter disappointment ranks closer to Chinese Democracy. If you, as a fan, don't mind having your face spat in as long as you finally get to hear some new Wintersun material, then fine, go running back to your abusive ex, crying about how you still love him and you know he's sorry. For me? Fuck that, this is offensive to me on both a musical and non-musical level. The second half of this album better A) come out very, very soon and B) contain some of the most stellar material I've ever heard as an avid listener of epic metal, because what we've been given with Time I is fucking insulting.
PS - Here's a nice visual metaphor to help explain why the production time on this album drives me as fucking crazy as it does. This is the longest review I've written to date, and it holds approximately 2786 words. If every single word in this review represented one day, it would still take another two hundred or so before the album was actually released. Seriously. If you think a 40 minute EP with only one good song and one beautiful intro is worth such an outrageous wait, then you're clearly insane and should see a doctor.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/