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I don't hate this album. In fact, it has some really good moments here and there, but those are diluted by the fact that Wintersun are a product of the frightening and growing trend of all style and no substance. Jari Maenpaa is revered highly by many people for reasons that I will never agree with. Yeah, he can string together a lot of riffs and keyboards and drum tracks and vocal tracks and screaming and everything else that he could possibly think of - seriously, man, where are the accordion solos, A Capella sections and rapping verses? I think you forgot a few things. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
This album is basically just every In Flames/Dark Tranquillity kid's wet dream: flashy, overly sweet melodies, processed speed metal riffs polished to a sickening sheen and of course harsh vocals that, while competent and workable, wouldn't even scare away your five year old sibling, most likely. Why do bands like this even use harsh vocals to begin with, anyway? That's a good question that I think needs some answering. Do they just not want to take the extra time to find a strong clean vocalist to sing over their rather melodically inclined music? I mean, really, the basic function of harsh vocals in the first place is to act as an extra instrument of sorts, to provide atmosphere and help the music out in that regard - were they ever intended to lead the music in the same fashion as clean vocals? I don't think so, and it might just be personal taste shining through here, but that is about why I cannot get into the vocal stylings in most melodeath bands.
So, really, what can you say about Wintersun? It's melodramatic, it's jam-packed with ideas and you certainly can't fault Mr. Maenpaa for not trying - the effort here is obvious, I just don't happen to enjoy this very much. A few times I thought it was really getting good, like on the Children of Bodom-esque "Winter Madness" and the somber "Sleeping Stars," but that never happened, as pretty much every other song on here is not good. This is very tiring music, very over-saturated, very much like a stick of cotton candy. It tastes good and sweet, but there's not much to chew on. This is music that basically just wants to be as extreme (not extreme like extreme metal though, just extreme like DragonForce's last couple of albums) as possible; nothing else. The creativity in the arrangements unfortunately lends nothing to the enjoyment of the music. This is basically just early Children of Bodom with dignity, and that just takes all the fun out of it; it's missing the point of early Bodom entirely.
These songs - yes, all of them except for the two I mentioned before - spend too much time being technical and fast and not enough with rich hooks and memorable guitar licks and everything else that makes metal such a pleasure to listen to. A lot of modern bands do this, and it never turns out good, and Wintersun have done nothing to rectify it. If you don't want anything else in your music but wading-pool-level theatrics and meaningless technicality, you will fucking love this, but me, I can't get that excited about it. Fuck, I don't even hate this or anything, but it's already annoying me more the more I think about it. Then again, though, I guess I shouldn't expect much from a guy who calls his music "Extreme Technical Majestic Epic Melodic Metal," or some shit like that. What a fucking joke.