Wintersun // Time I 
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — It’s about Time… *cough*
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: |
Release Dates:  Out now worldwide!

Wintersun - Time IFor a few years now, the proverbial white whale of the heavy metal scene has been a new Wintersun record. After the band’s initial, highly acclaimed (some would say overrated), self-titled debut from 2004 former Ensiferum frontman Jari Mäenpää essentially fell off the face of the earth. Now, I’m not a die-hard fan, so I have not kept up with the ridiculous, neurotic, Axl Rose-like kabuki theater that apparently drove fans nuts, but the fact that 8 years later we’re getting record number two should probably tell you the torture that Jari put his fans through. Teaming up with Kai Hanto of Swallow the Sun on drums, Jukka Koskinen of Amberian Dawn and Cain’s Offering  on bass and Teemu Mäntysaari of the short-lived Imperanon on guitar, Jari’s new record, what we now know to be 2012’s Time I, has teased fans for years and has ruffled some feathers. So the question is at it always is: can this record possibly live up to the sky-high expectations that the fans have.

The answer is “obviously not.” And that’s not because this record isn’t good or that the band hasn’t displayed enough grit and gumption or something, it’s just that metal in 2004 versus 2012 are very different – it’s fair to question whether or not Wintersun‘s brand of melodic death metal is really even exciting to many fans of metal these days. Oh, and after the release high, the result will always be disappointing because people have had such high expectations for 8 years. But Time I is really no carbon copy of the self-titled debut, either. Instead, it’s a pondering slog of orchestrations and textures; pretentious meanderings into the esoteric nature of life and death and modern recording budgets. Consisting of five tracks, two of which are musical interludes, the record takes a surprising amount of time to develop musically. It starts out with the four minute long introduction “When Time Fades Away” [Jari writing what he knows, apparently – AMG], which reveals some of the cards the band has to play – the use of “oriental” (Japanese?) tones and melodic structuring – before merging into “Sons of Winter and Stars.” This 13 minute and 31 second epic which takes until the 11th minute to really reach an emotional high point – with the Manly Viking Manchoir™ punctuating the chorus that must be repeated 40 times.

Track 3, “Land of Snow and Sorrow,” moves smoothly into Jari’s “other” mode, the mid-paced power metal death of the early Ensiferum era (and least entertaining tracks from Wintersun) – only much more lushly orchestrated. What this song does well is counter-melodies and textures – again, the orchestration stands out, but also the countermelodies and harmonies on the guitar and keyboards really show off the melodic death/borderline power metal chops that fans know to expect. But at 8 minutes, the repetition of the themes and chorus causes the song to fade into the background for me, and if it weren’t for the great interlude between it and the powerful beginning of final track “Time,” I might have walked away disappointed from this record.

But the slow build of “Time” actually works remarkably effectively. With a fantastic introduction and chorus riff, coupled with the impassioned vocal performance of our Finnish hero, the song finally picks up speed at about 3 and half minutes and the song is a roller coaster ride of awesome orchestration, finger gymnastics and powerful peaks, showing of Jari’s incredible guitar skill. Sure, it’s melodramatic and over-the-top, but we here at Angry Metal Guy happen to love that stuff. Which reminds me, this record actually is remarkably similar in production tone to the new Nightwish album and in writing style – though arguably less catchy and more plodding – to the immense Crimfall. This tone surprised me, but in good speakers it sounds immense, adding extra heft with orchestral hits and punctuating Jari’s crooning baritone. But it is quite removed from the guitar-in-front, blast-happy Ensiferumesque post-Children of Bodom neo-classical guitar orgy that Wintersun exhibited.

Ultimately, though Time I isn’t a hugely successful album, just a good one. There are great moments, but the repetition and the continued pounding of themes into the ground for 13, 8 and 11 minutes makes for songs that fade into the background. While the songs in Wintersun were longer than I remember them being, they were much more self-contained, but the self-editing process appears to have just gone out the window on Time I (further evidence: there is a Time II on the way). So while the seeds of the songs are good and the material is great (at times and the production is definitely a step up in terms of its high quality), the energy gets sucked out by excessive repetition and too much downtime.

You’ve probably already heard the record and will have made up your own minds – thanks for nothing Nuclear Blast – but if I had to make a recommendation I would say find a stream and give it a go. This record will grow on you, but I don’t know that it will set deep roots. I’m interested to see if it will hold up better back to back with Time II.

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  • Tarık Ay

    Time I is a huge disappointment except for its second track. It doesn’t have the energy that the debut has. But I understand a lot of years have passed, so they have “matured” a bit and maybe they are saving the best for Time II.

  • Michael Imbornoni

    I was really disappointed in this, for the expectation aspect of it (I think you got the rating right). Usually I don’t complain about no solos, but I want solos, dammit. Apparently Time II is much better in this regard.

  • I’m on the Fence with this album, i heard it over and over,i must say it is a grower but it isn’t as Awesome and as memorable as their first album. But i’m glad it was finally released, I will most likely pick it up some time later this year. Better than nothing, at least it did not turn out to be another Morbid Failure of Morbid proportions.

    • You mean it wasn’t “I’ll-Dive-in A-man’s Anus” ? Nothing will be that bad by Wintersun EVER

  • User Name

    Well, I have a different opinion than this review. My favorite portion of this album were the first two songs, rather than the last and the second last one.

    Infact I thought the first instrumental was brilliant and so was sons of winter and stars. The intro to the last song was also very good as you point out.

    Had this released in 2006, it would be very awesome since a lot of great similar albums (e.g: sagas by equilibrium) wouldn’t have released back then, but even now it is good.

    I really have to listen to some of your 4.5-5 review albums if this gets a 3 !

    • Yeah, now it’s good. But it’s not great. It’s not VERY good, ’cause I’m not sure whether I’d come back to it or not and it’s certainly not better than a 4 at all.

      I know some people love it, but what I loved about the first one was the “neo-classical guitar orgy,” and that’s kinda missing here.

      • I’m really enjoying it. Somehow I missed the first one and therefore have not been party to the hype train or any expectations – once I’ve given this a few spins I’ll listen to their first and see what i think.

        Cheers AMG as always for quality reviewmanship

      • there was no neo-classical guitar ORGY on the first one… haha, it was pretty balanced and the guitar gymnastics were spaced out pretty far. Compare it to Children Of Bodom’s Follow The Reaper, now THAT is a real guitar orgy.

  • User Name

    Also, Kai’s surname is Hahto (you have a typo mentioning it as Hanto).

    • Y’know. given Finnish names, the fact that I misspelled the easiest one is pretty impressive.. ha.

  • flaming_froghurt

    The album feels like what it is – only half of it. I think I’ll put it aside until Time II is released and then listen to the whole thing (btw, “The Way of the Fire” is much better than any of the songs on Time I).

    • Impossible to make such a statement, without hearing the studio version and not shitty YT versions.

  • harley_d68

    I am right there with you AMG. I did have great expectations, but ultimately it is just good – nothing more or less.

  • HohenheimOL

    The biggest problem I have with this album is that the guitars and vocals are really low in the mix. It just feels like they aren’t adding much to the mix, which consequently makes the album feel really boring, seeing as the furious shredding is half of the appeal of Wintersun. The album just feels kind of overmixed, the reason being fairly obvious.

    Seriously, 200+ audio tracks per song? What the hell were they thinking?

    • Sons of Winter and Stars has over 1,600 audio tracks, reason being that he used individual synths and orchestral elements on a single track (which he shamelessly admitted on his own)

      • Wait, so he tracked all the orchestral stuff individually? Holy fuck. Does have OCD?

        • He doesn’t do hardly anything other than music, man. That said, it’s amazing that it took so long to make this record (that’s why you NEVER rely on a Mac for heavy processing power and he certainly shouldn’t had done so 8 years ago)

          • Mac Pros w/Logic are pretty beastly. I’ve got a Hack Pro with Logic and it does heavy processing all day long.

            But wait, did he lose everything and have to start over? Because that would fucking kill anyone’s motivation. I know that I have songs that ended up partially written because of losing everything.

          • They didn’t have the 64 bit version of Cubase out yet, limiting the amount of RAM he could use. Now that Nuclear Blast gave him the money for good Mac computers, he was able to finish his projects faster.

          • HohenheimOL

            It’s seriously ironic though. Despite this album containing an utterly insane number of audio tracks all going on at once, it still managed to not succumb to the loudness war. Looking at Time in Audacity compared with Wintersun, the latter is full of brickwalling, where the former has almost none. I gotta give credit where credit is due, Jari used those 8 years pretty well when mixing this album.

          • HohenheimOL

            It’s seriously ironic though. Despite this album containing an utterly insane number of audio tracks all going on at once, it still managed to not succumb to the loudness war. Looking at Time in Audacity compared with Wintersun, the latter is full of brickwalling, where the former has almost none. I gotta give credit where credit is due, Jari used those 8 years pretty well when mixing this album.

  • Lord_Snow

    I really think this album would’ve been better had Jari released I and II at the same time. With just so much time (heh) between releases, a total of 5 songs, two of which are filler instrumental tracks, just doesn’t hold up enough to create a fantastic album.

    It was pretty decent though.

    • If you listen closely, the 2 intros are part of the whole album, certainly not fillers and sound perfectly in place.

    • They’re not filler, they are part of the album as a composer envisions it.

  • ZacP

    This album is a lot like the newest GRRM novel “Dances with Dragons.” I waited for-fucking-ever, and then the experience is 95% buildup and just a little bit of excitement towards the end. But there were enough interesting ideas (I thought the oriental themes were pretty rad) that I’m still on board for the sequel. If Time II/The Winds of Winter reverse their shared formula, I will most likely overdose on the extremely high concentration of excitement!

  • 1. It was NB decision to split the albums, if not we would still be waiting for Jari to finish mixing it.
    2. Yes it sounds different to the first album, those songs were written a long time ago.
    3. Yes 1600 tracks per song, not that most will be able to hear or appreciate, but huge respect to Jari for not budging and sticking to his dream.
    4. Watch the bonus DVD and see how painstaking this album was put together, Jari is certainly a very talented composer.
    5. Time II is already recorded, Jari will mix it when he is done touring this album.
    6. For me after 20 or so listens, the album is a masterpiece, not a term I use very often.

  • I really enjoy this album for what it is. It’s not what I expected, and it obviously feels cut off. That being said, I’ve given it around 15 listens so far, and I love it. I’m thinking I’ll go see them in NY on December 20th.

    It’s unique, the Japanese melodies and tones help call it out and some of those parts really stick in my head. There is a mysterious/magic feeling to the whole thing that I think is pretty cool. It’s extremely well executed and it may not be for every metal head, I feel you really need to pay attention to it to take it all in but it’s a rewarding journy.

    This album sure did take it’s Time, and this is only half of what’s to come. I’m sure that’s mostly being picky and fiddling around being a perfectionist. I can’t fault him for that, if I had the opportunity to spend say 4 years creating a product that was my vision and then another 4 years polishing it. I would do the same thing. I’m looking forward to Time II.

    • Just saw them live in Chicago with Eluveitie headlining. Wintersun blew the place up, and should have been the headliners. Best performance I’ve ever seen. Jari’s stage presence was amazing, and he really worked the crowd up.

  • sold out shows and awesome live performances here in the states.
    Great album! so epic, i look at it as more one continuous song than a collection of seperate pieces. Cant wait for time ii.