Wintersun - The Forest Seasons

Wintersun The Forest Seasons cover
The Forest Seasons
Nuclear Blast
Wintersun managed single handedly to polarize the metal community, by their antics. While Jari Mäenpää started the band as a side project to Ensiferum although he was still a member, he did leave the band in 2004 to concentrate on them. While the first couple of releases were highly regarded, especially “Time I”, it has taken him almost seven year between albums and during the interim between “Time” and this release, he managed to have a falling out with Nuclear Blast, over contractual binding clauses that made crowd financing an album, non-profitable and after he kissed and made up with them, he went asking the crowd to fund not an album – but the making of a state of an art studio for him, thus solving most of his lively hood problems once and for all, asking for the ridiculous amount of 750.000 euros in contributions / 50e per “album + stems” digital versions that cost nothing in physical medium production etc. This made, half the crowd mad at him, as well as estranged a good portion of reviewers, both professional and weekend “keyboard warriors with a blog, alike.
Regardless of all that, the guy is talented and his artistic vision seems to be central and integral to what he does. Despite this not being “Time II”, as he was hoping, or sounding like a million dollars, or even half as he must have raised more or less… “The Forest Seasons” (another metal take on the Four Seasons, but not the famous Vivaldi suite, rather than the actual seasons of the year) is a suite of four long winded tracks, all clocking above ten minutes each.
Opener “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)” is an impressive and very symphonic piece, that mixes Blind Guardian, Ensiferum obviously, a bit of the majesty that the intricate latter day Dimmu Borgir orchestrations offer, even a bit of the old COB in terms of some of the riffing. The melodic vocal parts appear to stick out the most, along with some menacing vocal passages that precede them.
“The Forest That Weeps (Summer)” quickly disturbs the placid acoustic opening with some scorching black metal riffs and quickly goes into a clean, pretty epic section that’s heavily symphonized with a faked choir of stacked Jari’s? It’s pretty impressive, even if it sort of repeats itself a bit, past a neat solo in the middle of it.
Eternal Darkness (Autumn)” goes apeshit, past the first half minute of “wind blowing” effects and another half minute or so of soft melodies… as it quickly escalates into full on majestic orchestrated black metal via a barrage of double-bass and blastbeat barrage of drums… with some soft choir effect in the background. How Dimmu Borgir-ish… past the fifth minute, things go very power metal in the background – almost to the point of it sounding a bit like Rhapsody (in Black) – while the vocals remain harsh; there are small variations and some neat soloing as the ten minute mark approaches, past which the song returns to it’s pretty chaotic symphonic black metal style, going instrumental for a while and only returning to the callous black vocal for its conclusion – in which things are maxed out.
“Loneliness (Winter)” is a sorrowful, largely lamenting piece, with mostly clean vocals that sound rather desperate. Equally it’s lyrics mirror the sadness and despair of nature “dying”… although the lyrics are rather grim throughout, Autumn and Winter don’t contain a single glimmer of hope, other than the last two lines of Winter that herald the coming of Spring, in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth.
The ridiculously oblong in width digibook edition of the album, that almost measures 30 centimeters, has a second CD that features, among other things, an acoustic “condensed” version of “Winter” than in all reality sounds better than the original. And offers as well instrumental versions of all four seasons and the acoustic rendition, which makes it a rather pleasant and more ambient listening experience, one could put in the background and go on about doing things…
Despite all the surrounding circumstances, Wintersun are not bad. Not really all that groundbreaking as some would have them be, but certainly not bad at all. Whether JM will manage to make “Time 2” and if it will be the “masterpiece” he envisions only time knows and time will tell. If I were to offer any constructive criticism or even express an opinion, I guess keeping the songs a little shorter and going for more clean vocals, as he seems capable of pulling them off, is what I’d say. Other than that and love them or hate them, Wintersun are here to stay and most likely they’ll still be bound by that NB contract for a while, so knock off your shoes and grab a cup of coffee, we’ll probably see the next chapter of this saga circa 2023 or so… until then…