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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.