Wintersun - The Forest Seasons
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Written by: Juho Karila
Bombastic is a word you could describe WS’ music the best if you wanted to put it into one word. That was exactly what the album gives us but it’s not quite what we’ve used of hearing from Jari Mäenpää‘s songwriting pen.
This is a long and in-depth analysis of the album. If you want to skip onto the verdict, head straight to the last section.
Needless to say, I was anxious to hear the new album as I was, with many others, awaiting for Time II to surface but the announcement of a completely new album was very welcome but is it enough to quench the thirst? Let’s find out.
The first time I listened to the first song, I had to pause and take a breather, because I was stunned. In comparison to the previous albums, the sound is simply amazing and massive. It’s difficult to get a hold of what’s going on because everything but the vocals seems to be so distant. Heavy and distorted guitars are painting the soundscape grim and dark, with surprisingly black metal vibes, while frail and beautifully melodic synths colors the intro with fine details.
When the vocals are sending shivers down your spine, you can notice he has clearly developed in singing. Then the dynamics shift and the guitars take on the melodic role, making me think of Arthemesia. The hypnotic knocking sound of drums makes it even easier to lose yourself to the song as it progresses. All the cymbals are nearly drowned in the ocean of that dark guitars and orchestrations takes a turn to convey the song forward, making me miss the beautiful guitar leads and virtuoso solos.
When the song turns into the second part, you can’t miss it. It almost feels like a whole new song has just begun and it gives me just what I wanted. The sharply shredded guitar leads are working in unison with the orchestrations perfectly and the intensity is doubled, reminding of Sons of Winter and Stars, and what the band does best but still it doesn’t really quite reach up to the level as the predecessor. Partially it feels almost like Moonsorrow and the more the album opens up to me, the less original it feels. The ending of the song even feels like it could be on the next Ensiferum album with the choir singing and galloping beat.
The Forest that Weeps begins with a similar acoustic guitar intro than what Darkness and Frost
was on Time I but as the song kicks in, it reminds me more of Moonsorrow than Time. It gives us a faint and distant guitar lead, which is distorted while another guitar, almost clean, plays in the background and chiming synths dominates the soundscape but the drums are more audible now. At the time the vocals comes in, I can imagine being in a forest in a summer, right after a rain when light pushes through a cloud and the moss is still wet beneath my feet. The feeling is simialr to the iconic Moonsorrow album: Verisäkeet..
Once again, the song feels like being split in two halves, of which the former gives us a proper and clear guitar lead for the first time on the whole album, but it’s one of the simplest the group has ever done. It lifts the mood nicely and it fits perfectly to the minimalist degree the album has to offer. Vocals are more versatile through the song, and sounds mind-blowing and dominates the sound completely with a choir sounds while synths are mildly enhancing the bombastic feel, yet it sounds more like recent Ensiferum than Wintersun.
The best song of the album is Eternal Darkness and it’s the boldest song I’ve ever heard Jari Mäenpää written. It’s a pretty much a black metal song with lots of blast beat and very sharp and dark guitar shredding but it shows a great amount of orchestrations and the beginning resembles of something what Dimmu Borgir could had done. As the song progresses, we’re given once again a beautiful yet faint and distant guitar lead which is more trademark Wintersun.
At first listen, it may sound like it’s repeating itself but the song keeps on growing on you and it’s hard getting used that synths have the main role over guitars. This track also progresses slower but you can’t miss when the dominant lead takes over. Sadly, the riff is one of the most boring and hollow one the band has done, feeling almost like some notes are missing. As the lead progresses to one of the most impressive solos Jari Mäenpää has played.
Nearing the end, a short nearly-clean interlude gives us a breather before the autumn storm fully lashes onto us, it sounds really intensive and massive, in a good way.
Coming to the final song, Loneliness is the calmest and easiest to approach. The beginning feels like a midwinter day when the landscape is frozen and snow glimmers in sunlight. Guitars are surprisingly clear and in the front while vocals and synths are more in the background, but it still follows the line with the previous tracks as the dynamics change and singing takes the lead role and faint guitar leads are backing it up in the background. The main melody carries throughout the song, lulling me to an ethereal serenity. Towards the end, the day turns into an evening and a playful lead is like dance of northern lights in the sky and the whole song feels and sounds most like WS.
As a whole, the album is yet again nearly a masterpiece but it feels like a compromise and the arrangements are maybe a tad simpler than that Time I was. To me, it’s a really pleasing and satisfying experience but it has it’s flaws. It feels partly that it’s a compilation of ideas which are left over from other bands where Mäenpää has been in; some things are just so much in the style of Ensiferum and Arthemesia. And when it doesn’t sound like those two bands, it sounds like a bunch of other bands.
Dynamically and by post-processing it’s the most immersive album I’ve heard of. It balances beautifully between different elements and every instrument has its own, carefully planned, moment, which makes it easily a remarkable one; not the easiest album but definitely interesting in how it challenges the listener to just let go. However, while it is very much worth listening to, it doesn’t fill the hunger for Time II.
Jari Mäenpää – Guitars, Vocals
Teemu Mäntysaari – Guitars
Jukka Koskinen – Bass
Kai Hahto – Drums
1. Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)
Part I The Dark Slumber
Part II The Awakening
2. The Forest That Weeps (Summer)
3. Eternal Darkness (Autumn)
Part I Haunting Darkness
Part II The Call of the Dark Dream
Part III Beyond the Infinite Universe
Part IV Death
4. Loneliness (Winter)