Review Summary: “Destined to disappoint”
Surely it couldn't have been done, not after such an unmerited wait met with the ever increasing impatience of fans. Having been left in the dark for so long and enduring countless frustrations, it is understandable that fans expected this album to have been something truly special. Indeed, Jari had his fair share of setbacks, both artistically and financially, and so it would be unfair to lambast him as if he’s been diligently tinkering with his own formula over the course of eight years, that’s simply not the case. However, the way he practically reduced his fans to mules eyeing a dangling carrot well and truly exceeded the definition of teasing and almost bordered on torturous. So unless Wintersun’s sophomore effort turned out to be the next The Dark Side of The Moon, it simply wasn't possible to live up to the insane level of hype. Destined to disappoint, this was a case of where delivering an excellent - though not ground breaking – album sadly equates to failure.
Eight years in the making and it’s finally here, a smidge above 40 minutes in length. It’s slightly shorter than what one would expect of something a little under a decade in the making, and predictably, the album begins with an acoustic instrumental. It is difficult not to be overcome with cynicism at this point, but if one can brush off the conviction that this album will follow in the vein of every other folk metal release before it, listening on will dispel any feelings of pessimism for most. The opening track can be described as nothing less than spellbinding. It’s apparent that Jari, in his absence, has put a painstaking amount of thought into how every note and chord could flow from the next with maximum emotional impact. As the thickly mixed background synths and tribal drums are gradually trickled in to compliment the traditional Finnish melodies, the mood of the track shifts though the power of the crescendo effect from sorrow and grief to one of jubilation; good start.
Indeed, while retaining some of the hallmarks of the original Wintersun album, it becomes obvious early on that the musical direction has shifted quite dramatically from a simpler, guitar-centric, melody-laden sound to a much more atmospheric, symphonic one. The traditional Finnish melodies and chants are still there, but they’re almost invariably accompanied, if not dictated by a thick layer of electronic orchestration and a hefty dose of choir vocals. This is undoubtedly a polarising aspect of this album, while many will eat up the myriad of layers and carefully constructed harmonies, others may be deterred by them. It would be incorrect to call this album “bloated” as the instruments and synth layers are fairly audible and work well in conjunction with each other, but those who simply wished to hear a metal album without a load of bells and whistles attached will have to search elsewhere.
In addition to the musical direction, Jari’s vocal performance is also quote peculiar. His signature banshee-like rasp is no longer a prevalent aspect of the music like it was on the self-titled, and instead it takes a back seat to some vastly improved cleans. However, just like the synth patterns, his vocals are layered and unobtrusively linger somewhere in the middle-ground, comfortable in their position as but another element of the music as opposed to any kind of driving factor. This dedication to unity over flamboyance means that the album suffers on an instrumental level. Excluding the second track, there are no songs with an abundance of memorable riffs and the bass resembles but a faint hum. While the drumming wasn’t a highlight on the self-titled, said performance here almost seems complacent; perfectly happy to just keep pace with everything else but never daring to steal the spotlight for even a modicum of the 40 minute runtime.
It’s as if there is nothing in particular on this album that really reaches out and grabs you; everything just sort of melds together and works as one big well-oiled machine. Some will view this as a con, and yet, the new formula works well. If you’re a fan of atmospheric music, this album will not disappoint. While sacrificing some of the debut’s ferocity, Jari has succeeded in creating an album that fits the description of perhaps the most hyperbolically overused word in artistic media, “epic.” Using said word to describe this album will probably result in eyes rolling, as it seems to be tossed around so liberally these days that it’s lost meaning. But no,Time I’s
atmosphere encompasses the feelings of heroism, sorrow and triumphs under adversity on such a grand scale that use of the word “epic” is well warranted.
If there’s one thing about this album that was genuinely magnificent, it was the song-writing. That these songs would be well written was pretty much on the cards given Jari’s past achievements and the time he had at his disposal for this. The way each musical sequence shifts into another is seamless. While this album definitely does demand your attention, there is not a single ounce of filler, and nor should we have expected any. The varied and unpredictable song writing is exemplified no better than on the 4-part, 13 minute, larger-than-life marathon that is Sons of Winter and Stars
. Building upon the mood set by the instrumental opener, this track comes in firing on all cylinders, with tremolo strumming and loud, bombastic, orchestral synths as it proceeds to take you on a roller-coaster ride through every human emotion imaginable. Countless tempo shifts and breaks ensure your attention is firmly retained, as the song swings in and out of styles including symphonic, melodic death, traditional Finnish and even some ambient black metal.
Inevitably, the album was going to receive criticism whether it turned out to be the self-titled part 2 or if it deviated from what people expected, and so you have to give these guys credit for attempting to stay fresh in such a precarious genre. Jari’s ambitions are obvious, and it’s clear that after 8 years he didn’t want to release a carbon copy of the debut, and while the new effort may be an acquired taste, it’s a rewarding listen when approached with an open mind.
When Time Fades Away
Sons of Winter and Stars