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The soul of the Forest ! - 100%

Livingwave17, November 13th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, 2CD, Nuclear Blast (Digibook)

I have always been looking for something that is truly unique. Something that I have never heard before. Today, it often feels like everything has already been done, and it is so hard to bring something original in the world. Very few times you can listen to a piece of music and say "This has never been done before". When you listen to "The Forest Seasons" you will not be saying that, because you will just have to shut up and listen.

Wintersun's third full length album is finally here. Long have we waited for this one, so expectations are huge and controversy is all over the place. This is an album that is entirely different from anything that was ever done before, in every possible way. It is a game changer. Everything from the music itself, to the artwork, to the way the album was promoted and to the recording is new. So we can easily say that this album is original. And it's Wintersun material so there is no question that it will be good. But is it amazing? If you ask me it's perfect. We are definitely going to see lots of opinions, from lots of different people who expected lots of different stuff from the band, and I'm pretty sure nobody expected what they actually received. This is the kind of album that you should listen to with no prejudice. Expect nothing. Just play it and see what happens. It is that surprising. I would also like to state that I am here to talk only about the music and the way that it was built. The crowdfunding campaign and the promotion of the album are a completely different story.

And as I start talking about the actual music, let the praise begin. The idea of the seasons concept has probably been done before. Yet this album gives a whole new face to it. It consists out of four huge epic songs, each of them reflecting one of the seasons. The songwriting is quite simple compared to previous Wintersun albums but it's still top of the class. The guitars bring long repetitive riffs on this one. The diversity of the sound is created by lots of variations on an instrumental idea. Lead sections bring forth melodic ideas, blending perfectly with the vocals and the instrumental background. Vocals show beautiful clean singing, lots of harsh vocals, massive choirs and Jukka's low heavy death growls. The orchestration is also a lot easier to grasp than what happened on the "Time" album. You will find that overall, this album is a bit tuned down from the extreme complexity of songwriting and in terms of sound mixing as well.

If you know something about Wintersun, you know that with this band everything was always huge. They have always had this powerful epic sound with insane layers of samples and orchestrations, heavy guitars, grinding drums and massive choirs. But the problem with this sort of sound is that it is very hard to achieve, and requires high end gear and big budget production. That is why we have always been forced to wait for years in a row for a new album. For now, the waiting is over. We have finally seen a new album and it is because it's not so crazy anymore. It is something more accessible, easier to record, mix and master, and while Jari is doing all of these things, there is still a huge amount of work into it. Therefore a different sound should be expected. The thing with this album is that in order to sound right, all that fancy science fiction gear and production isn't necessary. In fact, as Jari himself states, the music would suffer from it. Jari has a very specific vision for his music and for once in his life that vision was within his reach. So the sound created by this shift in perspective is a bit more natural. The guitars have a harsh muddy sound created with a Vox Tonelab amplifier and the bass follows similar sounds. The overall sound is quite harsh on this album. Even the orchestrations are quite harsh, especially on the autumn song. The heavy death growls just put the cherry on top of the cake. What is really special about this sound is that it can easily reflect different moods and ideas, so that the songs that are quite different from each other still have a common vibe and complement each other beautifully.

And what a perfect way to bring together four different epic songs into a cycle of perfection. Each of these songs has it's own distinct personality. It's as if they reflect each season as a living entity, bringing it's own power to the forest. The albums starts with spring, in the song "Awaken From the Dark Slumber". This song has two parts. The first part is "The Dark Slumber" describing the sleep before spring. It is quite dark and brings a truck load of metaphors about Jari's personal life and about the world in general. The great thing about the lyrics is that they are quite vague and you can easily connect with them. It's even better if you know Jari's history and you can realize where they actually come from. Also if we look at it simply related to spring and nature it is amazing again. For the first part it's like life is trapped under the ground awaiting rebirth. I just love it. For the second part there is a shift in the atmosphere. Everything goes more energetic and powerful as the forest seems to come to life. This part just makes you feel like you're greeting a blazing morning sun while still keeping a cooling breeze around. It's just so fresh. Some cool instrumentals bring grooving riffs and pounding drums and a lot of reprises from the first part but with a twist in perspective added towards them. The song evolves to a clean vocal choir recorded in two separate octaves by Jari, Jukka and Teemu. This is probably the most powerful part of the whole album. Overall this song feels like breathing new life.

Then the warm summer arrives with "The Forest That Weeps". This song is still big and powerful but takes a rather sad vibe as it anticipates the darkness that follows. It's very expressive up to a point where it feels as if mountains are singing, just as the lyrics suggest. This is the first song to be written from the album. And while Jari felt the inspiration while he was in a forest I'm pretty sure that this song added the forest idea to the album. Everything came from this song and therefore kept the same vibe alive. The music itself is probably the simplest structure that Wintersun has created. It is long and repetitive and that might not feel right, but I wouldn't change a thing about it. It sounds a lot like a glorious anthem. This feeling might be because of the massive choir recorded by Jukka and Teemu alongside lots of musicians, some of them from bands like Ensiferum and Turisas. Overall this song feels like looking into a sunset.

At this point, the album takes a turn for the dark side. The autumn song starts with a slow dark atmospheric sound that gradually evolves. The intro feels like a growing shadow engulfing everything in it's path. The song grows gradually up to a point where it brings a fast pace with lots of blast beats and tremolo picking on the guitars. This song is probably the most technical and virtuous on the album. And it is definitely the darkest song to come out of Wintersun. This is a Finnish autumn and therefore no sun is seen and lots of metaphors bring one idea in front of us. Death! It is another multi part song that describes several stages of death and it is partly seen from death's point of view. If you look at the lyrics you will know where this is. The third part of the song comes to a more melodic side and also shows us an epic guitar solo with fast shreds and sweeps. Jari stated that this song is also about his father's death. As his father died in autumn, a part of that made it's way into the song and I feel like the lyrics in the third part of the song are just about that. The song ends abruptly and unexpectedly suggesting that death comes without warning, and overall, this song feels like falling into a black hole.

And finally, the veil of snow is cast upon the forest, and the best song of the album slowly starts to emerge. From an insane wall of sound that is instantly demolished, a pure orchestral melody peeks its way back into your ears. It feels like deafening silence after a war. All that noise and rage as well as the life that was born in spring is now trapped under the snow, and in the end you are the only one awake. This is a masterful way to end an amazing record. The song "Loneliness" is one of the most sorrowful songs that Jari has ever written. This song is slow and quite repetitive. A haunting orchestral melody is present throughout the whole track as the guitars kick in and the best clean vocal performance is heard. The lyrics to this song are philosophical and profound. It contemplates the past and it's filled with regret as nothing can be done to change what has already happened. I can tell that this song is also very personal to Jari, as his past shows lots of personal failures in his vision and in this song he seems to pour everything that he felt sorry about. Just listen to it. Overall this song feels like wandering alone through fields of snow.

And on that note the cycle is complete. And it would be wise to hit the repeat button. After listening to this album for the first time, I felt like I need a slap in my face. You just get lost in the beauty of it. Come to think that it is written and recorded by Jari alone in only 9 months. The guitars, drums and vocals are actual recordings and the drums and orchestrations are sampled on this one. Quite a good job for a one man band I might say. And it doesn't stop there. The beautiful booklet of the album, with the most expressive and beautiful images is also Jari's creation. And they are actual photos taken with a professional camera, and edited to look amazing. When looking at Jari and at this album I see somebody with a "Do it yourself" kind of attitude. The forest seasons is a truly masterful album and when you think of the conditions available for it's recording it's even more impressive. I would ask myself how much genius did God pour into this person, but I always have to remember that Jari is God.