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Firstly, I would like to state that I am an advocate of folk and viking metal, and enjoy acts like Falkenbach, Ensiferum and Lumsk. Immensely.
This is something very different indeed.
I first heard of Wintersun when I bought a Nuclear Blast CD in September '04, and when I saw the cover art for this album within the promo leaflet, I immediately fell in love with it. I'd start listing it as my favourite cover art all over the place despite having never heard any Wintersun material at this stage.
I became determined to own the album after downloading Beautiful Death from Kai's website. Back then, I despised growled vocals and absolutely loathed all black and death metal. However, this was intriguing enough to get me to look into it more deeply. A harshly-sung song I liked? It was still something alien to me.
Having bought the album, I started to have one or two initial regrets - "I don't even like death metal, what am I doing?" - but once the CD arrived, I noticed the plain white slipcase with metallic blue text, and once again flared up with enthusiasm for Wintersun. I dashed to a computer and immediately ripped the CD.
Beyond The Dark Sun is the shortest track on the album. However, it works very well, and has an excellent beat to it. The vocals at the beginning are simply Jari speaking, but they quickly evolve into fully-fledged death metal vocals, and his voice is transformed. This may well be one of the fastest and most catchy songs on the album, but the ending left me a bit cold... It's a long shot, but I'd love for an extended version of this song to crop up in the future.
Winter Madness is very technical. The drumming, guitars and keyboards are all insane - The vocals are probably the harshest on the album, save Sadness and Hate. It wasn't my favourite track on this cd by any means, but that doesn't stop it from being a very nice piece of work. It's only about a minute twenty into the song that it really picks up, and the singing is clear enough for one to hear the lyrics properly. There's also a nice melodic, harmonious singing interlude that crops up occasionally. Not much else to say, other than that this song has one of the best choruses I've ever heard.
Sleeping Stars is the antipode of Winter Madness, in effect. The harmonised clean vocals are as prominent than the growled ones, but they're both still in there. It has a slightly symphonic feel to it, and it's very slow and epic in this manner. There are some great guitar spots in here, and it's quite a bit more rythmic (and less progressive) than some of the other songs here.
Battle Against Time is, in my opinion, not one of the better tracks on the album. It's quite progressive, but this doesn't stop it from getting slightly boring at parts. It's also the only song on the album I couldn't really "get into"... Only really a listen for when you're bored of the other tracks.
Death and the Healing is *fantastic*, mark my words. It's a mellow, vaguely symphonic ballad about the cruelty of the wilderness, and - my favourite part of this song - it's sung entirely in clean vocals. This was the easiest track for me to enjoy when I first listened to the album. And the chorus is amazingly melodic and well-sung. The lyrics are kinda... Not as good as some of the others, but it's still one of the superior tracks on the album. One of the only memorable guitar solos is in here, too, and it's a wonderful one at that.
Starchild... The only album divided into separate parts like any decent, age-long prog-metal piece. Each section sounds quite different to any of the others, and this is without a doubt the most "epic" song on here. Worth a good, long hour of listening and re-listening.
Beautiful Death begins with distorted background noise, and then tells you loud and clear that it's going to be the most brutal song on the whole cd. At points, the singing is completely out of sync with the instruments, and it sounds really quite good. This song has more expressionless growls and screams than any of the other tracks on the CD.
Sadness and Hate is a stunning end track to what I consider one of the best albums of all time. It's packed with emotion, and gets better and better as the song progresses, climaxing with the expressionless, ambient soundscape that ended Beautiful Death. If any other song was ever so melancholic and had as much effort poured into it as this, I must hear it. Now.
Definitely a must-have for Ensiferum fans. Essential for prog-metal fanatics looking for something different.