Review Summary: Losing the forest through the trees.
At the beginning of the year, Jari Mäenpää announced to the shock of many that it would not, in fact, be another decade before a new Wintersun album was unleashed upon the world. No, a new full-length was coming in July. Though, not the much-anticipated Time II
, as many had expected, there was, at least, a guarantee for fresh material with no delays or setbacks. The announcement for this entirely new and different release, The Forest Seasons
, came with a crowdsourcing platform to help the band fund their own personal studio (complete with sauna, naturally) so that future projects might be undertaken more smoothly and efficiently. Despite much outside criticism, the campaign went better than expected, raising hundreds of thousands of Euros, proving just how loyal and dedicated a fanbase the group had amassed. The reward for their patience and loyalty, however, is less than remarkable.
Those expecting Mäenpää to answer their pleas of abating some of Time I
's orchestral-plugin-centered composition with The Forest Seasons
are in for a sore disappointment. Gone completely are the rich guitar melodies of the Ensiferum days and the eponymous Wintersun debut and with them the dynamic and succinct songwriting that accompanied them. And while the release does boast some solid riffs, they often overstay their welcome and get lost in a forest of programmed over-indulgence. Time I
, at least, in all its over-the-top cheesiness, did much to supplant that focus on guitar with strong and memorable vocal melodies. Plodding, predictable major chord progressions, however lushly layered and accompanied, are not suitable replacements. When fans are finally treated to some guitar wizardry some thirty-five minutes in, it only serves to prove that this is Jari's strongest suit in both writing and execution.
The one element that has been retained from the first two records, however, are the trite and cliche lyrics revolving around the same four or five themes those familiar with the band might expect, finding themselves much harder to overlook and forgive this time. Competently delivered as they may be, one can only take so many lines about "winter" and "wasting away" and such, especially when the music does so little to distract.
The addition of another guitarist in the live lineup speaks volumes: The Wintersun of 2004 that captivated so many as an original voice in the realm of melodic metal is now little more than a vanity live karaoke outlet for Jari, with heavy backing tracks rendering his extremely talented lineup as little more than an afterthought. Drummer Kai Hahto's playing does so much to bring Wintersun
the album to life, but now, with the drums just another punched into the computer like so much of the rest, they're just another soulless cog in the overblown, overwrought ProTools affair. And while credits explicitly name bass guitar, there may as well not be any.
The most devout fans of Time I
may find a bit more here to relish in in The Forest Seasons
, but devotees of the debut will surely find themselves with little to rejoice over in this new effort. In an attempt to deliver an epic metal symphony, the end result is little more than generic, forgettable symphonic metal. But, hey, maybe with that much needed personal recording space and steam room, Time II
or whatever Wintersun tackles next will be a much-needed return to form.