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Whenever a prominent musician decides to leave his current band and work on a wholly different project, it can be sure that their fans and detractors alike are braced to be cock-slapped with whatever fetid music they have envisioned; they descend down to another circle of hell all in the name of exercising their creativity. Wintersun's self titled debut did not have the same effect on the fanbase that Jari had gathered from his days with Ensiferum and as a whole has been warmly received by the metal community despite the fact it's pretty shit; most of the time at least.
'Wintersun' is an oddity; at times it sounds like Jari had been listening to one too many Children of Bodom LPs (the early ones of course) and in other sections it is disturbingly reminiscent of Ensiferum, just without all the ghastly folk instruments pervading every square inch of the music. The two opening songs, "Beyond the Dark Sun" and "Winter Madness", are pretty fucking awesome; very majestic sounding melodic death metal. Again, the closest description I can think of is Children of Bodom's 'Hatebreeder' which is a compliment if you're thinking otherwise; there's nothing wrong with ball-bustingly fast riffs and solos with some exceptionally flamboyant but appropriate keyboards. Even the more melodic sections in "Winter Madness" seem to flow unhindered within the confines of the song and enhance it.
At this point of the album my cynicism gland kicked in and reminded me that the gentleman fronting this band had previously been in Ensiferum and thus, it was inevitable he'd cock this up somehow and by golly, he upped that cock with some legendary talent indeed. The remainder of the album can be split into two distinct species, songs that are; far too long or far too melodic.
Let's tackle the first species of this decrepit pair; exceptionalis longus (note: I know absolutely no Latin. Consider this abuse of an ancient language as being artistic license or something). This creature isn't necessarily repulsive; at first glance songs such as "Battle Against Time" and "Starchild" hardly differ from the two aforementioned tracks and are quite enjoyable for the first four minutes or so. After this time though you've got the idea, and the riffs aren't being varied to such a degree to alleviate the glaringly obvious flaw that you've still got another three or four minutes of this to go. There are quite a few melodic and keyboard breaks throughout that have been wedged in as a rather limp-dicked effort at being epic, but hardly achieve what their entire purpose is based on.
The second species is far more numerous however and will at times exhibit similar initial attributes as the previous one; fast riffing, lots of decent keyboards and such (I was going to give this one a Latin name as well but it'd be the same as above except I was going to bastardise the word 'melodic'). Regardless, this species is far more guileful and will gush forth with a deluge of melodious keyboards and slower riffs that will send to sleep faster than a flunitrazepam martini (shaken, not stirred). "Sleeping Stars" and "Death and Healing" are the most devoid of any substance, being nothing more than an exercise in exhausting your patience by going through the typical melodic/ballad song structure. I can only assume that Wintersun are still trying to be epic but at this point in the album I'm finding my 1300 page book on university-level calculus to be far more enthralling.
On the whole though, there are just so many moments that are just irrevocably terrible; the (synth?) trumpets in the latter half of "Starchild", the stupid whispering over the ambient backdrop in the first half of "Beautiful Death" and the entirety of the song "Sadness and Hate". However if they aren't bowel-clenchingly bad then they're most likely to be completely redundant and in most cases they're detrimental to the overall quality, like a thorned appendix.
I suppose the only real saving grace (besides the first two tracks) is that the musicians are extraordinarily talented and there are some amazing solos and lead work throughout the entire album. Even the faster riffs, despite their repetition and tendency to wear thin, are a great listen during the first couple of times they cycle through. The problem is that Wintersun suffer from trying far too hard to create an epic album when they could make an excellent, straight-up melodic death metal album; it would certainly be far greater than the usual gothenburg plague we've been weathering these past few years.
Thus in the name of wanking off to one's own superiority, we end up with Wintersun's self titled; an album that will appeal to if you couldn't get enough of early Children of Bodom and have an immense tolerance for soul-draining melodic songs/sections and keyboards. Also recommended for the hardcore BDSM crowd; the sounds emitted from this album will get your sub squealing louder than your other 'sounds'.