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It’s not very often that I reward an album with a perfect score, but Wintersun’s debut album really earns it. As we’re all still waiting for over seven years for the second album to be on the way, just one glance at this record reminds us why the hell we still hope for that second album to come out. But most of all we want to know how the hell Jari Mäenpää can top this masterpiece of epic power metal.
Nothing but good words from me about this record. From the opening track “Beyond the Dark Sun” on you will be bombarded with epic chord progressions, strong melodies straight from the gut and in-your-face heaviness combined with virtuosic solos. Mr. Mäenpää sorted his songs from short to long and released them in exactly that form and surprisingly the winning formula of variation coincides. After the fast, epic introduction of “Beyond the Dark Sun” we get to know the heavy side of Mäenpää and the true nature of drummer Kai Hahto as furious blastbeats dominate the track, ironically topped with a melodic, icy ambience. Mäenpää’s screams sound very convincing and full of emotion; not something I often experience when hearing screams, growls or grunts. The great solo in the middle also deserves a little mention. From fast and melodic to heavy and aggressive to the third song of the album: “Sleeping Stars”. As the title might suggest this song tends to be an epic ballad-ish type of song. Given that Mäenpää still uses his screams might indicate this is not truly a ballad, but we also get to hear him sing here and he does it alright. Too bad his singing voice is mixed a little to the background so it doesn’t fully come to its right. With these three first tracks, we’ve seen the many-sidedness of Wintersun and the next few tracks will blend these elements to longer tracks with worthy mentions being the epic ballad “Death and the Healing”, the progressive “Starchild”, the blackened “Beautiful Death” and the beautiful album closer “Sadness and Hate”. I could write another paragraph to describe each and every one of them, but it will contain the word ‘epic’ a little too many times.
Instead, I’ll focus upon what makes this album thrive so much. The concept of a dark sun, a winter sun, is nothing new within the Scandinavian metal acts, but I have rarely seen an album so obsessed by eternal winter, by epic darkness, that it actually brings a melancholic element to the band. Within this aggressive record of despair, grief, anger and regret there’s a very strong longing for light; a desperate cry to reach the warm sun, which is a source of positive energy. I think it might very well be a feeling familiar to many inhabitants of northern Scandinavia and other countries close to the North Pole. For me, someone who doesn’t know the effect of the dark winter sun in my country, the feeling is still familiar, but not the literal phenomenon. On pictures it always is a beautiful sight to see such an image, but in reality, such a long period of darkness affects your mood. This album totally captures that mood. Its melodies and sounds are beautiful, but in reality Mäenpää and Hahto want to make us feel like they do and the lyrics are as dark as the night. I think it’s a really thrilling concept and they did a good job bringing that concept to a credible and terrific end.
In short, if you want an album that not only sounds original, but also has a thrilling concept combined with excellent music, executed by virtuosos, this album should be on your ‘to-get’-list. Today, almost five years after I discovered this album, I still listen to it and enjoy it to the full. I have different favourites every time I hear it though.
Strongest moments: “Winter Madness”, “Death and the Healing” and “Beautiful Death”.