Wintersun is no longer a band that needs any hue of introduction. If that is the case, however, then I’m obliged to ask “what rock have you been hiding under for the last 13 years?!” For those who have not been diligently counting, it has been roughly five years since Time I was released. In my humble opinion, it did not utterly disappoint. Its orchestration-driven elements have inspired a great many fans to become creative and create their own covers and interpretations of the album. This sometimes causes distress to those with Kontakt libraries, constantly crashing in epic proportions, but it was an album to aspire to nonetheless.
This time around, via Indiegogo’s crowdfunding, as well as Nuclear Blast, Wintersun is releasing The Forest Seasons. It embarks fans on a musical voyage of approximately 54 minutes through a magical forest with four massive tracks, each running over 12 to 14 minutes.
The Forest Seasons starts out blithely with ‘Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)’, a song exhibiting many meticulous arrangements. Some slightly emulating the sounds of Nightwish, a bit of black metal executed à la Dimmu Borgir, and the second half echoing various features of old Ensiferum. The melody of the song ‘Iron‘ springs to mind perhaps. It’s the most upbeat piece on the album overall.
‘The Forest That Weeps (Summer)’ is a very atmospheric track that sonically characterizes more of a frozen, serene landscape. It’s an anthem more suitable for the winter season if you ask me. It is exceptionally chord oriented, capturing a broad somber setting, something that Moonsorrow or Summoning would showcase in their discography. Aside of course, from the choir allotment that Wintersun, as a rule, unearths for the sake of elevating dramatic effects and theatrics, which is a good thing.
“Well, where are the guitar doodley-things?” you may ask? That would be on ‘Eternal Darkness (Autumn)’, the third track of the album. The lead guitar starts to kick in after the six minute mark, riding the main melody at first, and then eventually becoming more interesting and shreddy, unveiling a riff akin to Marty Friedman’s playing in Cacophony (although it ends quickly). This piece has an eerie, turn of the millennium era of symphonic black metal feel to it, a new venue for the band, as well as acoustic engravings clearly influenced by the mighty Dissection. It is a song filled with alluring concepts, but a tad bit too long with the drums dismally repetitive and monotonous for a Wintersun song. The fourth and last track, ‘Loneliness (Winter)’ is where Jari displays the many facets of his vocal capabilities. Perhaps showing some aspects that went amiss from the predecessor’s ‘Sons of Winter and Stars’.
In my opinion, The Forest Seasons is Wintersun’s least creative output. At the end of the album, I was left wondering when they will ever release anything that comes close to the self-titled album again. Where is The Way of The Fire?!? My fixation with the band (as is with many others I’m sure) is mainly due to the dedication and impressive amounts of the guitar work displayed on the self-titled album back in 2004, which noticeably has neither returned nor revealed itself even after this release. The Forest Seasons seems like an immense gap filler designed to keep their fans from complaining momentarily until they finally release what they know the fans have been patiently waiting for; something that closely resembles the album that has made them so notorious in the first place.
I can think of many other bands who thrive in the waters which convey the same sort of sentiments found on this album. Undoubtedly, many others will enjoy this new release through and through, but this is not the Wintersun I was looking for.
01. Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring) - 14:40
02. The Forest That Weeps (Summer) - 12:18
03. Eternal Darkness (Autumn) - 14:08
04. Loneliness (Winter) - 12:54
Playing Time: 54:00
Jari Mäenpää - vocals, guitars, programming
Kai Hahto - drums
Teemu Mäntysaari - guitars, backing vocals
Jukka Koskinen - bass, backing vocals