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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.