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Outstanding folk metal, the best in the genre - 98%

Caleb9000, January 18th, 2016

There are albums in certain genres that are pretty much superior to everything that has been done by other acts joined with them in the past. This album is one of them. Say what you want about it, but I see Wintersun's 2004 self-titled debut as an absolutely outstanding masterwork. In 2003, Jari Mäenpää of Ensiferum decided that he had too much spare time. So he decided to make a side project. That very side project went by the name of, "Wintersun". It has now become a front project (he left his main project), but this was during the days when it was his second priority. This is their self-titled debut and it's definitely my favorite album of 2004 (Next to "Sonic Firestorm" by DragonForce). The riffs are very atmospheric and melodic, the vocals are powerful and it has some very mature, complex rhythms. I can definitely see why so shortly after this album was made, Jari decided to leave Ensiferum and put his full dedication into this band. Now, let me get into explaining the title of this review to those who may be a bit confused about it.

"Wintersun"...perfect title. Winter is a blistering cold time. It sends shivers down your spine. This album is chock-full of blistering riffs and vocals and guitar work. The sun is something that can be enjoyed when you're at a pool or something. The word "sunny" can normally be used when someone is explaining a time that they had that they enjoyed. This album can sound pretty happy at some points. But winter can be a dark time and so can this album. This may have been a stupid example, but it was the first thing on my mind after this album had stopped playing. Now, I'll go on to my interpretation of what genre to call this. There is a lot of debate over what to call this. There are a lot of genres incorporated in this album, but overall, I'd say that folk metal is the most prominent out of all of them.

Some people have called this album black metal or death metal. Some have called it power metal as well. The most prominent black metal thing about this album is the vocals. Vocals don't create a genre. I guess that they also have a bit of a black metallic atmosphere, with the epic sound, but it's closer to folk. The most death metallic thing about this album is the drumming (which is definitely way closer to tech-death than just regular death). The closest thing to folk is the medieval-influenced sound, but folk metal can also have that. It does have a bit of a black metal-ish atmosphere, but the epic sound is closer to folk metal. Not to mention the riffs. They are all about the sound used those epic folk and power metal bands, such as Blind Guardian and Hammerfall. The most power metallic thing about this is that it has sweet and epic melodies. But the epic sound that this album possesses makes me feel as though I am surrounded by battles told of in folklore. Not to mention the epic fantasy lyrics used and the smooth, yet hard bass playing. That's just what I hear. You can hear something different. Now let's talk a bit more about the music on the album in terms of levels of greatness.

The album opens up with the main riff to "Beyond The Dark Sun". It's an epic, high pitched riff that's packed with energy and charisma. Jari kicks off the vocals with a low and soft speaking voice, which descends into ferocious screaming within the next twenty seconds. "Winter Madness" is probably the most rhythmically complex. It has some very well-structured drumming and it can have a lot of tempo changes, without being annoying. Isn't that something for you. It and "Sleeping Stars" are probably the most folk-ish songs on the album, or at least devoid of other genres. Sleeping Stars is a slow song, but not quite a ballad. It's a just-under-mid paced song. Oh, and by the way, that main riff...one of the best riffs that I have ever heard. "Death and The Healing" is the real ballad of the album. Sure, it can get a little cheesy, but I still find it to be enjoyable. The amount of cheese put on top is exactly the right amount. "Beautiful Death" has the deepest lyricism on the album for sure. It drives away from the fantasy and it really makes you feel the depression and anger that the protagonist in this track feels and is describing. It was able to make me feel extremely captivated. "Sadness and Hate" is the epic of the album. The epic and depressing nature of this track is completely off the chart. There is quite a lot of complexity within this track, yet it somehow manages to prevent itself from throwing the listener off. I really love the melodic riffs on this track, as not one fails to fully captivate me. The passion put into the chorus of this track is absolutely amazing. Nothing could complement it more than the lyrics.

"My eyes bleed for you, my star, my pride and the love of my heart.
But why did you had to fly so far? I raged and it tore me apart.
I promise to you with sadness and hate,
Wherever I might go, you will know".

While the lyrics may be rather simplistic, they definitely give off what they mean to, which is pure depression. I am completely aware that I have just mentioned a shitload of tracks, but hey, it was necessary. However, I am not saying that any of the other tracks weren't good.

There are two things that stand out to me the most on this album. One of them is the drumming. It sounds a lot like Dave Mackintosh's early days in Bal Sagoth and also like the guy who did the drumming on Death's "Human". The drumming is very focused and technical, but it doesn't refrain from being powerful and aggressive as hell. It's a good thing that this album has blast beats because if it didn't, it would just get kinda flowery. It is also a good thing that the drumming has variety. This isn't the kind of music where you can just do one thing for an entire album. Sometimes it can work, but not here. Here, the drumming is extremely adventurous, which is for its own good. The way that it can change beat without annoyance is fantastic. The other thing that especially catches my attention is the guitar work. The leads are virtuosic and they don't just fuck around like some of those black metal and death metal solos do. However, I enjoy the rhythm guitar even more. These riffs are definitely pretty innovative. Sure, they have strong influences from other artists, but not to the point where they just start ripping off everything. They are picked through fast and they have a very big structure behind them. That was what stood out to me. The vocals were also well-executed. The harsh vocals really give that extra fierceness over the aggressive, yet beautiful music of this album. I once felt like the clean vocals were not quite as gripping as the harsh ones. This was until I had learned to let this album take me on a multidimensional ride and allowed myself to understand the many elements of this album. Due to this, I enjoyed the album quite a lot more.

Overall, this is one outstanding piece of music. By far my favorite album in the folk metal genre. A lot of albums in that genre have seemed to get quite a bit flawed, but this one keeps away from that. I really cannot find anything that I can consider to be classifiable as a flaw, let alone even non-captivating. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, but even if you can fault this masterwork, this is for sure an record that you can definitely expect to immensely enjoy. This album has influenced many current artists. It isn't quite old enough yet to be considered a classic, but it will be considered to be a major one when it is. It is an absolute milestone in heavy metal music and the praise that people give it is deserved beyond words. It has been praised for a decade and I'm sure it will do the same for years to come If you ask me, it deserves what it gets and then some. If you are a fan of abrasiveness, along with complexity and epicness, buy this album. There is no possible way that it can disappoint you.