without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
"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.