Saturday, September 7, 2013

Time I | Wintersun

I've been desperate. I've been hopeless. And then I finally ran into the Finnish band Wintersun.
Allow me to explain. I've spent much of my symphonic metal fandom on bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, and Epica. These bands have spoiled me by being so over the top and so different from one another. I love them all dearly; I admire their music so much that I can't really listen to other symphonic metal bands. I'm not saying that all other symphonic metal bands other than those three are bad, because I haven't found any bad ones. The problem is that a lot of them just don't stand out to me. They blur together. But I've been searching on Amazon for (new to me) bands I might like, which has led me to several dead ends until discovering Time I, Wintersun's latest release and the first of two albums in a planned musical chronology (the second is to be released in 2014).
As one may assume from all that, Time I doesn't have the blandness I've been coming across; it has a very unique sound that I think many metal fans could enjoy with its undeniably fantastic songwriting, execution, and differences from other bands in this subgenre. In fact, I truly believe that this band could be a gateway for fans of general heavy metal to get into symphonic metal.
The album begins with an instrumental, acoustic, and not to mention adventurous track called "When Time Fades Away." This is a masterpiece. It's classical, it's cultural, it's a song that grows and grows until the end, eventually thickening with more percussion and intensity. It is by far one of the most beautiful and epic album openers I've ever heard.

That impressive first piece leads into the first electric song on Time I, "Sons of Winter and Stars." Once again, I was floored. Right when the heavy guitars and drums make an entrance, I could hardly believe I'd finally found something so good. The boldness of it made me so excited; I knew I was witnessing something great... But then lead vocalist Jari Mäenpää began to scream/growl/however you want to say it (it's like a higher-pitched form of grunting). I am personally not a fan of his specific vocal style (but only in those types of sections), and I was afraid it would put a damper on everything from then on, but it didn't. The music behind his voice is so big and epic; I particularly enjoyed the choral parts that were occasionally intertwined with riffs. And his voice doesn't always sound like that. He sings as well, with a metal roughness in some parts, but with clarity in others - thus communicating the otherworldly lyrics effectively. Besides, it was quite intriguing to see how Wintersun breaks the symphonic metal tradition of having an operatic female vocalist.
But anyway, to put it in a nutshell, that song is about thirteen minutes long, and I only complained about one element. There is seriously never a dull moment in "Sons of Winter and Stars."

 "Land of Snow and Sorrow" is the third track, opening silently with electric guitar, strings, and a pretty piano line before the full instrumentation is realized. By the time Mäenpää is singing, I'm reminded of Metallica's "The Unforgiven" in terms of the melody and his style of singing. It's much more relaxed than "Sons of Winter and Stars," and it almost feels like a power ballad in some ways, but it's not really a ballad. Either way, I'd say it's a great song for the average new listener to try first.

The next song is significantly shorter than the others, and it's called "Darkness and Frost." Some synthy electronic elements are found in this song amid the relaxing guitars, and somehow it's assembled in a very folky way. It's definitely a likable little track, and is indeed small but powerful.

"Darkness and Frost" leads into "Time," where the music picks up more than it has since "Sons of Winter and Stars," and Mäenpää's form of grunt-screaming returns (but, as usual, he also sings, and quite effectively at that). Lyrically, this song can be taken the most literally from the entire album and musically, it's just as huge as "Sons of Winter and Stars." (Those two songs seem a bit similar to me in a few ways.) "Time" ends the album with a semi-long outro, which pays tribute to the first song's cultural influences.

And believe it or not, that's where it ends. While there are only five songs, three of the five are unusually long and Time II will be released next year, which I will definitely listen to. Time I has intrigued and impressed me, and it's been too long since I could say that about a band I newly discovered. It's refreshing in both musical and lyrical senses. Plus, (as I've mentioned before), it's something that fans of any type of metal can find some happiness in, and the same can be said for fans of classical elements.

But if you're one of those people who seem to believe classical music is dead: Once again, I must redirect you to the genre of symphonic metal. There are geniuses in this realm. An album like Time I will help you see that.

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