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Legendary - 100%

BlackMetal213, April 24th, 2016

You know those bands and or albums we get that are both considered legendary, timeless classics, but also seem to have a vast sea of people who dismiss them as nothing more than overrated, average crap. Wintersun is one of those bands, and this self-titled debut is certainly one of those albums. Released in 2004, "Wintersun" forever changed the metal genre. This album has garnered quite the reputation and thankfully, much of the reception this album has received is positive. This band was conceived while Jari Mäenpää was still the frontman for Ensiferum but he left due to conflicts arising from his busy schedule trying to juggle both Wintersun and Ensiferum as full-time touring bands. Of course, Petri Lindroos formally from Norther took over Ensiferum, and Jari stuck with Wintersun and remains the driving force behind this band today. This has to be one of the greatest metal albums ever to be created. It is one of the most epic sounding albums for sure, and the atmosphere it possesses remains unmatched by many bands that would follow. I am aware this album already has a prolific amount of reviews but I feel I compelled to give my thoughts on this masterpiece.

How accurately does this band's name describe the music they created on this album? Quite honestly, absolutely perfectly. The music here is freezing cold, but well-produced and very atmospheric. The album artwork depicts a warrior fallen in the snow, obviously dead. When you listen to the music here and gaze upon the artwork, it really does feel quite real. I recall the first time I listened to this album. I was in my freshman year of high school and one night, I was playing Age of Empires II while listening to some metal. I had my iTunes open on my laptop at the same time. I had actually gotten this album not too long ago at that point and just hadn't really chosen to listen to it, for literally no reason whatsoever. My music was on shuffle as back then I didn't have that large of a collection. "Death and the Healing" eventually came on. I was blown away by the beauty and melody I was hearing and quickly went to see what band it was. Upon finding out it was Wintersun, I immediately took my music off shuffle and commenced listening to the album from front to back. I was astounded by what I was hearing. "Beyond the Dark Sun" opens the album up and is probably the most aggressive song here. It's also the shortest and only 2 and a half minutes long. The songs range from that to 10 minutes with the epic closer "Sadness and Hate". One thing most people fail to note is how the songs increase in length with each track as the album goes on. This doesn't do anything for the actual sound of the music but it kind of give that album an "epic" feeling.

So yes, my encounter with this band was more or less fateful. Wintersun became my favorite band for years and this album remained my favorite album ever recorded as well, until I heard "Colors" by Between the Buried and Me. Even so, this album still remains one of my favorites even if it no longer holds the #1 spot, and is still legendary beyond belief. Jari is one of my favorite guitarists ever. His melodies and riffs are instantly recognizable and are the most important aspect of the album. It's quite obvious this is a guitar-driven release. Aside from "Beyond the Dark Sun", "Winter Madness" is perhaps the album's anthem or fan favorite. These songs are two of the faster tracks on the album, and "Battle Against Time" sets things off at a similar pace. For me, however, this album is at its best when the songs focus more on atmosphere and a slower pace, not to say the faster parts aren't atmospheric themselves; this entire album is extremely atmospheric throughout its duration. As I mentioned earlier in this review, "Death and the Healing" was my first song from Wintersun. This song to this day, years and years later, remains my favorite of the 8 songs. This song totals around 7 minutes in length and doesn't really change pace too much. This song contains no fast parts and remains mid-paced throughout its length. The riffs in the intro are some of the coldest I have ever heard and the orchestrations in the background only enhance the vividity of this song. There are also no harsh vocals in this song, allowing Jari to utilize his gorgeous Finnish singing voice. While the riffs are breathtaking, the proggy solo in this song is one of my favorites out of them all. It's also quite lengthy and manages to sound effective and technical without sounding like generic guitar wankery. "Sadness and Hate" is the other song on this album that pretty much maintains a slower pace but it's a bit harsher, with harsh vocals and an overall heavier sound. These songs do both emit an obvious progressive metal influence.

"Sleeping Stars" contains one of the most melodic riffs on the album as well and has a certain ambiance about it that suits the ever-fitting album cover perfectly. The guitars may be the most important instrument here but they would not be nearly as atmospheric or effective without the lingering keyboard orchestrations in the background. Even when the keyboards are not being used, you can almost hear them ringing in your ears. The ambiance is greatly enhanced by this. This album is actually quite hard to fit into one genre. It tends to mainly fall under the melodic death metal and folk metal genres, but also implemented plenty of elements from black metal and power metal, especially the latter of these two. The incorporation of power metal into the riffs generally cause people to make allusions to bands such as Children of Bodom and Norther whenever they discuss Wintersun, and honestly, I don't really think this is fair. Wintersun is extremely different from both of these bands musically.

The drums in this album do what drums are supposed to do: provide musical and structural support to the guitars and the vocals. Kai generally alternates between blast beats common in black and death metal and mid-paced pounding. There is a bit of double bass that pummels the listener like a freight train. In terms of vocals, Jari uses both a style of screams that sound very influenced by black metal and an operatic, almost choir-like style of clean singing. Aside from the aforementioned "Death and the Healing". "Sadness and Hate" and the extremely folky segment of "Starchild" contain extremely powerful clean vocals. These aren't high pitched clean vocals either, and notably, there is no power metal influence in the vocals. More than anything else, Jari's cleans sound powerful and heroic. I could just imagine listening to this on a frigid winter mountain top gazing over a frozen landscape. Jari is not only one of the greatest guitarists in the metal genre but one of the greatest vocalists as well.

Most people need no introduction to this album at this point. Wintersun truly has created a legendary album, whether or not your opinion of it is positive. I personally rank this in my top albums of all time within any style of music and was forever changed when I first heard this. I'm not going to say something cliche like "Wintersun saved my life", but this album certainly has impacted me in a highly positive way. "Time I" was finally released back in 2012 and while it's a good album, compared to this, it doesn't hold a candle. Any fan of melodic death metal that somehow managed to never hear of Wintersun would benefit greatly from doing so.