Review Summary: Victim to overhype
Another month comes, and yet another album that falls victim to being subject to too much hype has been released into the metal community. This particular album, Wintersun's Time I, has been many years in the making, with recording starting as early as 2006. This had been hyped up as being an epic album, with insane degrees of complexity, that would seamlessly fuse intricate symphonies with brutal guitar work and drumming, coupled with Jari Maenpaa's instantly recognizable vocals, both screamed and cleanly sung, to make the ultimate in symphonic metal releases. Unfortunately, things did not quite work out that way, and in my opinion, this is a poor release, which spends too long messing around with strange structures and the orchestral arrangements, and in this sense the songs became too over drawn out.
This album is five songs long, with a hidden track at the end, with two epics each lasting more than eleven minutes. The former of these, Sons Of Winter And Stars, is divided into four parts, each progressing the story a little more. This is the best of all the songs on the album, showcasing some gorgeous instrumental work, packing a real punch to it when it truly kicks in. The screamed vocals on here, however, are dreadful. They are overly raspy, and highlight the real problem with this release. Given that this is partially a melodic death metal album, one would expect at least a fair degree of heaviness. However, this album proved only one or two moments that are truly heavy and have a lasting impact, with many of the guitar riffs in particular feeling lackluster. The emphasis of this album is clearly on the symphonies themselves, as the true metal instrumentals are very weak and half formed. The drumming is sub-par, with a few quick beats that are bland, and the slower beats being a discredit to Kai Hahto's name, especially given how solid his performance on their self titled debut was.
The real success of this album is that it truly has an atmosphere of a land completely left to decay. Many of the songs have suggestive themes in their titles, such as Darkness, Snow, Frost and Sorrow, and all of these are fully realized within the overly complex instrumentals. Once again, it is the symphonies that hammer home these feelings, clearly having had a lot of time put into them. They are nothing when compared to such classics as Ride Of The Valkyries, but they are powerful enough in their own sense, with each instrument to be included having a good sense of depth to it. However, they are far from perfect, and are often far too long, impacting on the song's abilities to leave a lasting memory. The first listen to this album will almost certainly blow the listener away, but they just grow tiring upon multiple listens. Compare this to another band that has crazily long songs and a huge amount of style changes, such as Opeth or X Japan, and it becomes painfully obvious where the weakness lies. The songs on this release are, for the most part, overly long and never get straight to the point. No amount of precisely written symphonies can take away the fact that songs such as Land Of Snow and Sorrow or Time are just too long. Even Sons Of Winter And Stars tends to drag on as it goes through, without ever having a real feel of progression. They are good and epic enough in their own merits, but this does not make for a good solid investment in time, as proven by releases such as this one.
When Time Fades Away is, in my opinion, the worst track on this album, for the fact that it is not a song in its own right. This just feels like an introduction to Sons Of Winter And Stars, which really does not need a four minute instrumental introduction to it, as it takes long enough to build up on its own. No amount of Japanese culture influenced melody can really take away from the fact that this song is pure dull, with no real sense of accomplishment behind it. This is a song that feels to have just been slapped on the album as an introduction, a way to build an atmosphere before the coming storm of the 13 minute epic that follows it, but surprisingly enough, this is the one song that FAILS to create any form of mood to it. This is the absolute most pointless song on the album, not fitting in with the categorization of metal that this album has had slapped onto it at all. This album has two instrumental songs, both of which really fail in their aims to create any form of atmosphere or sense of desperation that should accompany an album like this.
This is just another album that has suffered from being over hyped. By its own merits, this is a good enough album, possibly a 3. However, the fact that, going into this release, the listener expects one of the finest albums of the year and then are underwhelmed is just too great to ignore. The symphonies drag on too long, and the metal sections are just not enough from what the band's previous, self titled album would lead the listener to expect. This is the first in a two part release, with the second part due next year, and hopefully that will be a huge improvement, and focus more on the actual metal side of things than spending too long with symphonies. Even the soloing on this album is kept to a minimum, with there only being one memorable one throughout the entire album. This truly was a disappointing release, that is underwhelming in nearly every sense of the word, no matter how many glorious instrumental sections penetrate the listener's ears.