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A furious, icy blizzard through space and time. Howling winds where there is no sound. Cosmic energies focusing around shining nebulas. Portals into unknown, hostile worlds. Galaxies weeping. Wormholes of pain and suffering. Beautiful death in -273,15 degrees.
What I described above are images "Wintersun's" critically acclaimed (or accused of being highly overrated) debut album evokes in my mind. For me, these visions encapsulate the essence of this masterpiece. Only a handful of albums have ever reached the level of uniqueness, richness of songwriting and pure, blazing intensity that Wintersun's self-titled holds within it. It is a phenomenal mixture of some of the best features of metal music, all of them incorporated together with no cracks or shatters whatsoever. The mastermind behind this album is no other than the famed Jari Mäenpää, former frontman of "Ensiferum". He has done amazing job by using his admirable talents in different areas of expertise: with several instruments, in songwriting and as a lyricist. He makes brilliant use of the neck-breaking fury of melodic death metal, the soaring melodies of power metal, the grand vastness of epic folk/viking metal and the blistering speed of melodic black metal, all this smoothly interconnected and iced with formidable technicality. The album raditates despair, fear, hate, melancholy and sadness through images of cosmic proportions put inside the mind of a human being. The lyrics stem from this context, creating emotional surges of the deepest thoughts of man.
"Wintersun" is an ominous maelstrom that draws the listener deep into its bowels. It is also a representation of musical prowess that only a few can match in my books. From destructively fast solos to razor sharp riffing, from beautifully bleak and freezing keyboard melodies to impressive harsh vocals, from gloomy atmospheres to enchanting lyrics, everything is carved in the shape of colossal, ambitious and inspiring images. "Winter Madness" shows us perhaps the most technical and speedy side of the album with its hyper fast guitarwork and multi-layered melodies. It is a frosty anthem that paints pictures of merciless winters of the far north. "Battle Against Time" leans towards a different area of metal. The song's most remarkable characteristics focus around majestic, crushing harmonies of epic metal. Raging blast beats and ingenious guitar melodies are completed with bombastic clean choirs and the result is a massively cosmic sound. One of the high points of the album is also the slow, intriguingly wandering "Death and the Healing". It features only noble, clean vocals and offers the listener fascinating visions. The lyrics are excellently supported by long, intricate lead guitar passages that are woven around the main soundscape. Truth to be told, in my opinion every single track on this album is a masterwork of epic, melodic metal but "Starchild" has always been my favourite. This song kind of compiles every best bit of the album and reforms them into a new entirety that surpasses the rest of the songs. It has speed, it has the most memorable melodies, it has in-depth, spacey lyrics and it has great, diverse vocals through which Jari truly shines. Listening to Starchild is like diving through planes of existence on a journey to discover something about oneself and exploring the mind-blowing depths of the universe. No doubt one of the best songs I have ever come across.
Like I mentioned before, each song on Wintersun is a highlight in its own right but I'll leave the secrets of the rest for you to discover. The album is a complex whole of magnificent elements brought together by the creative force that is Jari Mäenpää. However, I also have to specificly mention the drumwork since it's the only thing not done by Mr. Mäenpää. While this album was being made, behind the kit sat one of Finland's most respected drummers, Kai Hahto. His superb skills laid down the spine for the grandiose structures summoned by Jari and that is no minor achievement. All in all, I reside in the camp of those who worship this album and who are awestruck by its elaborate world. So why take 2% off of the rating, you might wonder? Some certain parts of "Sleeping Stars" fall a bit short of the gloomy excellence the song is mostly constructed of. Yes, it's that simple: the album has basically one little flaw. Thus it is almost as close to perfection as possible so reach out your hands and grab this album before the second one finally comes out!
Originally written for http://reflectionsinthousandlakes.blogspot.fi/