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Wintersun's "Chinese Democracy" - 42%

Khat57, October 21st, 2012

Oh.... Oh, this hurts. Eight long, grueling years of agonizing waiting and the follow-up to the critcally acclaimed Wintersun debut is FINALLY here. Or at least, the first half of it anyway, because Jari Maenpaa thinks "Time" was just too complex for his fans to take in all at once (underestimating the fanbase's attention span, intelligence, and comprehension skills, already not off to a good start here...) so he churned out the equivalent of an EP to tide us over until Time II comes out in what I assume to be the year 2020.

This can't be it. This is a slap in the face to everyone who held their breath for any new material from the band. "Sorry guys! The computers we have right now can't even handle HOW FUCKING COMPLEX AND EPIC THIS SHIT'S GONNA BE! THERE'S GONNA BE LIKE 200 TRACKS IN EACH SONG AND SHIT! JUST YOU WAIT, IT'S GONNA BE THE MOST EPIC, MAJESTIC, TECHNICAL, EPIC, MELODIC FUCKING ALBUM EVER CREATED! (see whut I did there? I made fun of the bullshit made-up genre that Jari created for his band, because the shit he makes just couldn't fit under melodic death metal, could it?) WE'RE WORKING ON IT, I PROMISE! " And we fucking fell for it.

But being overhyped to shit isn't even this album's biggest problem. Nor is the meager length. They are huge contributing factors to why this fails so hard, but the biggest problem is that, of the 5 songs on here, two are intros, and only one actual song is worth your time. One. Fucking. Song. Eight years of waiting, and only one song on this album is worth a fuck. Don't get me wrong, that one song (the 13-and-a-half minute epic "Sons of Winter and Stars") is amazing, but it would have been better suited as a long-ass single, like Blind Guardian's "And Then There Was Silence" was. I would have gladly taken that to an incomplete fucking album. An incomplete BORING fucking album. How is it that this album somehow manages to be so short and yet feel so long at the same time? (and not in a good way...) The other two actual songs, "Land of Snow and Sorrow" (TWO songs with a title along the lines of "Something of something and something else?" REAL FUCKING CREATIVE, JARI) and "Time" plod on an on and go absolutely nowhere.

Oh, and did I mention that the keyboards and orchestrations ARE REALLY FUCKING LOUD? LIKE, ANNOYINGLY LOUD? AND NOT EVEN VERY WELL-ORGANIZED? And apart from "Sons of Winter and Stars" and the beginning of "Time," there are NO death metal vocals on here? Look, I'm all for style changes between albums, but it kinda helps if it's done well. This is just boring symphonic metal with some slight folk-y influences that went the "Unsung Heroes" route of just tacking on death metal vocals to sound "br00tal" but not adding any emotion to it. On the first album, the death metal vox added a harshness to the wintry atmosphere. At times, on the debut, you could feel yourself stranded on a snowy terrain with the subzero wind passing right through you as you collapse to the ground and take your last dying breath, reflecting upon your unfulfilled life. Here... There's nothing like that. The clean vocals are just okay, but kind of lifeless. There are no really grabbing moments on this album at all. Sure, it sounds nice, but nothing blew me off my ass like many moments of the debut did, like the technical fireworks of the solo to "Winter Madness," or the somber and emotional balladry of "Death and the Healing." Instead of hitting you like a harsh snowfall on the debut, this album is more akin to the powdered fluff of a lukewarm winter day--- it just doesn't stick.

I mean, nothing is inherently BAD about the album, but nothing is done particularly well, either. This doesn't sound like 8 years straight of songwriting and OCD-caliber perfectionism that Jari seems to have sought for. This album is Jari trying to be a composer and hardly knowing the first thing of classical structure or variety. Something tells me the Japanese-influenced intro and "Sons..." were absolute flukes of genius because nothing that comes after can even hope of living up to that glory. Nothing on here lives up to the promises. In the immortal words of Noah Antwiler (aka SpoonyOne), "BETRAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!"

But okay, let's say you weren't even aware Wintersun had just released Time I and knew nothing of the hype and promises. Could you go into this and draw enjoyment from it? Maybe a LITTLE more than I did, but I still can't see many people getting past the overly bombastic and pretentious and overproduced symphonics, the lack of substance, and the bloated artificial lengthening of the songs. I'm sorry, but aside from "Sons Of Winter and Stars," this just isn't worth picking up. And for the love of all that is holy, WHERE IS "WAY OF THE FIRE?!"