After reviewing the highly anticipated Pig Destroyer album Book Burner, which took five years after their last album to hit the shelves, I'm going to review another long-awaited album that has finally came out. Y'know how PxDx took five years to release Book Burner? Well Finnish melodic death metal band Wintersun took eight years to release the appropriately titled Time I. Not even all of it, either. Time II is slated to be released next year, so hopefully we'll have it by 2020. Yeah. Eight fucking years. And it's finally (half) here.
And holy balls, was it worth the wait.
Wintersun are a Finnish melodeath band that formed after vocalist and guitarist Jari left folk/ melodic death metal giants Ensiferum in 2004. In that same year he put together the first self-titled Wintersun album, which was received with much praise from critics and fans alike. Wintersun essentially operated as a modded version of Ensiferum, dropping a little of the folky sounds and pumping up the aggression and speed.
Eight years later and we have the first taste of what a new, evolved Wintersun sounds like. What kind of evolution was it? Well, it's like seeing your Charmander evolve right into a motherfucking Charizard. Yeah, it doesn't make a lick of sense, but who cares, because it's fucking awesome. If 2004's Wintersun was a spear to the chest, Time I is a +10 frost enchanted adamantium katana to the throat.
If the artwork and title font don't give it away, Time I musically seems to live in a majestic, snowy, Oriental winter fantasy land. It's kind of like if there was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: I Wish You a Blood Red Christmas. Time is crammed full of massive sounds, from thick, distorted guitars, to massive orchestral arrangements, to giant choirs, to throat shredding screams and growls and more. The intro track "When Time Fades Away" wears it's Japanese influences on it's sleeve. The giant orchestra and pounding drums play with Eastern melodies and rhythms, which build up and build up like the score out of a martial arts movie.
One vast improvement between Wintersun and Time I are Jari's vocals. There are a bunch of vocal styles that crop up on the album ranging from Jari's death metal growls, Jari's clean vocals, and a choir consisting of members of the folk metal bands Turisas, Tyr, Kiuas, and Jari's former bandmates in Ensiferum. Jari's guttural vocals have gotten much deeper and fuller sounding on Time I, and his clean vocals have taken on an almost Devin Townsend-ish tone, pumping out massive sweeping operatic lines.
The music the band plays is great, as expected, but the focus on the album is more on the band's ability to blend classic metal instrumentation with orchestral arrangements rather than the band's technical ability. Riffs as powerful and catchy as the classic intro riff in Wintersun's "Beyond the Dark Sun" don't crop up often on Time I, which is a little disappointing considering Jari's well-proven riff writing abilities (See Ensiferum's Iron). The symphonic compositions all sound great, with enough rhythms, melodies, and counter-melodies to keep you busy while you dissect the layers upon layers of music thrown at you. The only gripe I have with the orchestral sounds are that they are synthetic, with the instruments' sounds clearly emulated by a computer or keyboard. That being said, they don't sound bad, I just believe the album would have sounded much better with the addition of a live orchestra.
Bomb-Ass Tracks: When Time Fades Away, Sons of Winter and Stars
On a Playlist With: Ensiferum, The Okami Original Soundtrack, Devin Townsend
So 8 years after Wintersun dropped, Jari and the Wintersun crew have definitely shown a lot of positive growth with the music they make.If you're a fan of Ensiferum or large scale cinematic scores (especially those with an Eastern flare), Time I has something to offer you. Time II is scheduled to be released in 2013, and I can only hope it lives up to it's predecessor in quality.
That's all for now, folks! Now we only need to wait for the new Necrophagist album (I heard it was coming out December 2056).