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'Wintersun' - Wintersun (7/10)
Arising to the attention of the metal world for his work in folk metal band Enisferum, singer and multi instrumentalist Jari Maenpaa already had a loyal fanbase before 'Wintersun' was released. With little idea what they would receive, the fans eagerly anticipated. While Wintersun is certainly more than a meager extension of the previous band, there are definately many of the things here, that gave Enisferum their fierce fanbase to begin with. Folk and power metal abounds here, with a little bit more heaviness than a typical metal fan may expect of either genre. What makes Wintersun and this debut so noteworthy is that it melds styles that surprisingly rarely cross in the metal scene.
While melodic power metal is generally thought to be something that's left to the whims of operatic dropouts and screechers in the style of Rob Halford, Maenpaa takes the speed and technical considerations of the aforementioned style, and couples it with many traits one might expect from black metal. Blackened screams and heavy-as-hell guitar riffage seems to work magically with the generally lighter lead playing and harmonies.
The album flow of 'Wintersun' seems to be very much relient on a 'shortest-to-longest' format. Over the course of the album (which almost hits the hour mark) one begins to notice that the songs get longer and longer, going from a vicious two minute introduction to a drawn out and frostbitten epic finale that tops the ten minute mark. While this might be an interesting gag, it can make for an uneven feeling of flow along the way. However, 'Wintersun' is the sort of album that is better based on the quality of the songs themselves rather than the overall product.
Besides the drums, this is Jari's show completely. He writes all of the music, and performs all of the instruments except the percussion, which is played skillfully in a black metal style by Kai Hahto. For anyone that is not a fan of speed in heavy metal, it is better to skip by this one. 'Wintersun' blows the doors off in terms of tempo, and more often than not, things are racing by at lightspeed with blastbeats, and fastly picked guitar melodies. This is an area of the music that is completely subjective however. The transitions from the heavy to lighter portions of music can be very rough at times, but the band's emphasis on heaviness in their power metal blend is very refreshing to my ears.
While it is enjoyable to listen to such a powerful and energetic album, it can feel at points like there should be more variety. Throughout, it feels like very similar riffs are being used; and Maenpaa (while being a gifted metal guitarist) is pulling out the same tricks over and over again and expecting it to be just as impressive. All things considered however, this is a very competent debut album, and with a new highly anticipated Wintersun album arriving to shelves late in 2011, the sound of great potential is heard even more in this music.