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WLM Reviews: Wintersun – The Forest Seasons

July 16, 2017

Well, this was a bit of a surprise. For the last couple of years, I’ve been waiting for Time II, but all of the sudden Wintersun puts out The Forest Seasons (Nuclear Blast) with no warning – at least none that I saw. I was not tracking this release, but it’s good to be surprised.

Jari Mäenpää returns with album number 3 as the brainchild of Wintersun. Yesterday’s album is one I referred to as the most important (so far) of 2017. The Forest Seasons may be a close second, particularly with the underground support the band receives despite the rather long waits we have had between albums. Having gotten on the Wintersun bandwagon kind of late (2008 or so), they, along with Ensiferum and Amorphis, have epitomized Finnish Metal for me.

The Forest Seasons clearly is a concept album with just four tracks, each named for a season (Spring, Summer, etc., not basil, thyme), and song lengths between 12 and 15 minutes. The first track, Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring), actually didn’t strike me as being essential Wintersun. Something about the songwriting at the beginning just didn’t seem right. Once it gets going, though, it’s clear that Mäenpää has done it again and created a killer song and a superb album. It’s quite difficult to review such expansive songs, as there are so many parts and changes throughout that it becomes a sonic wave that keeps washing over me. Once again, like on Time I, there are some Asian musical influenced parts, something that Wintersun has become known for.

The Forest That Weeps (Summer) begins with an atmospheric placidity that morphs into mid-paced Melo Death with lilting melodies. Harsh vocals dominate the verses while a beautifully sung chorus can’t help but get stuck in your head. Delicate Asian string instrumentals occupy the central section of Summer, reminding me of some of the stuff we heard on Time I. Wintersun then takes those lines and plays them both as straight forward Metal and mixing it up with respect to the time signatures and changing the flow, yet remaining faithful to the motif. Wintersun then goes full blast right up to the subdued ending.

Eternal Darkness (Autumn) is likely the heaviest among the four. Building from a quietness to probably one of the darkest songs Wintersun has ever attempted. There is a fantastic Black Metal element present that blends nicely with the Wintersun sound. In addition to Mäenpää’s typical harsh vocals, there is another, more typical Death Metal bellowing. Unconstrained brutality leads to a melancholy central section, complete with a stellar guitar solo. The track closes out with several minutes of Black Metal brutality, enhanced by orchestral elements and creepy backing choirs. Certainly atypical of Wintersun.

Concluding the affair is, of course, Loneliness (Winter). A somber affair that takes too long to get going, dragging on during the first half for 3-4 minutes too much.  The track is probably most reminiscent, melody-wise, of Wintersun’s debut album, at least the first 2/3s.  Once the tempo picks up, we hear the band exploring some of their progressive influences.  I suppose in Finland that winter is a depressing time and this song epitomizes that feeling well.

Here is a mere taste:

Wintersun, though there are only three albums of evidence, continues to be a significant Metal band, clearly expanding their horizons and doing some different things that we might not expect. That is a refreshing approach. The Forest Seasons shows an already epic band striving to be more so. It may not be an immediate, work-free listen, but it will be worth it. This one will see some album of the year consideration.

I hear the sound in a Metal way.

Related articles: Wintersun Live, Desert Island, Epic Songs

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