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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