I think Angry Metal Guy said it best when he reviewed one infamous, little record back in 2012. Sometimes the hype is just too much for any one album to endure. And, sure enough, the hype was too much for Time I. Now, don’t get me wrong. Wintersun‘s Time I isn’t bad, and by no means is it a flop. But, all the talk, the delays, the anticipation (not just for one album, but two) even had die-hard fans exhausted when it finally arrived. Still, Time was a convincing piece of symphonic melodeath that still pleased (most) of their fans and created scores more. But, after its layers upon layers of choirs, choruses, and orchestrations, Time I ended up being two great songs (“Sons of Winter and Stars” and “Time”) and three OK ones. But that was enough to keep appetites whet for its sequel. A sequel that never came… And still shows no sign of coming (except for the two random live performances). That’s why the title above doesn’t say Time II. Instead, we get a whole new album. One built around more talk, more delays, more anticipation, steamy saunas, and micro-hotel experiences. Welcome to the tangled forest that is Wintersun.
There’s so much shit that one could say about Jari Mäenpää’s latest opus (and the opus that has yet to come). So much that it’s about as annoying and clickbait-y as a situation can be. Thankfully, for all involved, I don’t give two fucks about Jari, his “legacy,” his feud with Nuclear Blast, his crowdfunding, his saunas, his make–up sex with Nuclear Blast, his Time I‘s, his Time II‘s, or any of the stinking shit surrounding this album. I enjoyed Wintersun, I liked Time I, and don’t hate this new one. I know many of you are already disappointed that the Almighty Angry Metal Guy isn’t here, giving his two cents on Jari’s newest release. Sorry, life happens and work gets in the way a lot around here. Though I can’t speak for the boss, I’m pretty sure he’s as sick and tired of reading all the annoying press surrounding this album as I am. So, do what you can to ignore all the horseshit and the idiotic things said about this record, and let’s just take it one track at a time.
If you’re unable to get passed the stifling smell of feces surrounding The Forest Package—I mean The Forest Seasons—don’t fret. You only need to bear with me for four songs (and a thousand words). The Forest Seasons‘ concept focuses on (spoiler alert!) the four seasons. And contains just as many songs—all ranging from twelve–to–fourteen minutes in length. The spring season, “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring),” opens the record and instantly reminds me of the more bombastic moments of Time I. It’s got the heavy orchestration befitting “Sons of Winter and Stars” and a chorus to match. Though longer, yet with fewer repetitions of its chorus, this spring song just doesn’t have the same impact as “Sons of Winter and Stars.” And it’s really only the back-half that has any real memorability. Just the same, there are ascensions, descensions, orchestrations, dark rasps, beautiful cleans, and even some Dimmu Borgir-like sinisterness. All the stuff (most) fans will adore.
Then summer arrives, bringing even greater heat than spring. Opening with some oriental flavorings from Time, this one has a greater catchiness and loads of melody. After building up to a booming chorus (which does repeat itself many times), it dies—beginning its climb once more. After reusing the opening atmosphere, the song explodes into a stronger rendition of the main, melodic riff—with an energy that brings to mind Arsis‘ A Diamond for Disease. After swinging back around to the chorus (this time, comprised of a gigantic choir), the song gives you all its got. Though “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)” is the shortest of all the tracks, it’s definitely the most epic.
But, as far as epicness goes, “Loneliness (Winter)” ain’t far behind. While the summer season may have its heat-searing rasps, barks, and stomping riffs, the winter has a mood befitting its climate. “Loneliness” is as cold as Jari has ever been. After opening with a sad, melodic intro (that sounds like a Christmas carol played at a funeral), the orchestration sets out to melodeath us all. Clean vocals arrive, taking the more depressing moments from Green Carnation and Jarifying them. At thirteen minutes, you can expect a lot of ups–and–downs, but the pace and emotion never speed up and never allow light to pierce its frozen shell. Like winter, this track is cold, dark, bleak, and beautiful.
But autumn doesn’t cut it. While the dark atmospheres, haunting choirs, sinister vibes, and black-metalish drum and guitar attacks of “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)” don’t turn me off, this just tries to hard. Meaning that it feels forced. Which is a shame, considering that you have to put up with it for fourteen long minutes. After staying with it (and more of its odd Dimmu Borgir keys and growls) for a couple minutes, I continue to zone out. That’s until the acoustic guitars arrive around the 10:00 mark. After this, the builds begin to make sense and the vibe begins to settle in. But, then, it’s gone forever, as the song shuts down just when it gets good.
If you’ve ever kept a detailed scorecard for a nineteen-inning baseball game, you know how hard it is to pull yourself away from the hours of stats to see the final score. In the case of The Forest Seasons—the win concluded with one run. Not a walk-off hit or walk-off home run. Instead, the win came on a bases-loaded walk. Like Time I before it, two songs stick out and the rest don’t. The shorter summer and winter tracks have the greatest impact, while the longer, more involved, autumn and spring don’t. All the impressiveness of writing, editing, and mixing such a massive album are here (much like they were on Time I). But, unfortunately, after all the hype, this new outing lands on the same playing field as Time I. Not a bad thing, but it’s just not worthy of all the hype. And for those fans that were hoping for Time II, I suspect this will either disappoint or flat-out piss them off.