Wintersun - ST 2004 Nuclear Blast reviewed by: EC
|Track Listing1. Beyond The Dark Sun
2. Winter Madness
3. Sleeping Stars
4. Battle Against Time
5. Death And The Healing
7. Beautiful Death
8. Sadness And Hate
This is the perfect substitute for black metal. I've never fully bought into the whole black metal scene, finding the themes and musicianship something to be desired, however I've always liked the cold atmosphere created by those bands. The snowy, winter chill that those acts possess really hasn't drifted into any other genres, it has stayed within the black metal confines. Wintersun's debut has that cold atmosphere, that biting, frigid sound that really builds a certain mood for a winter day. This reminds me of Dissection's "Storm Of The Light's Bane", however where that album is pure speed and aggression, Wintersun take the same sort of themes and turns it into a listenable metal experience. This is a superb piece of music, and one that really masters all of the genres it represents. This is another example of the "genre blending" that I have mentioned in the past. This group absorb so many metal influences into their sound, from the cold atmosphere of groups like Rotting Christ and Dissection, to the fast, metal virtuoso of Finland's own power metal scene. Folk elements can be found deep under the band's resolve, when the songs take a new twist or turn, simple, classical acoustic numbers await, reminding me of bands like Opeth and even Blind Guardian at times with their heroic bard tales.
This Finnish masterpiece is created by two gentlemen, Jari Maenpaa (ex-Ensiferum) and Kai Hahto (Rotten Sound). Maaenpaa plays the part of mad scientist, taking on the experiment of playing all guitars, bass, programming, and vocals, while Hahto stays behind the drums. The end result of their busy work is one epic metal experience, a diverse musical that sets a new standard for the Finnish scene. Musically the power metal parts are very reminiscent of early Nocturnal Rites, with fast, razor sharp power riffs that drift into the progressive, neo-classical land of Sonata Arctica and Statovarius. Wintersun really build from the Finnish metal scene, incorporating all of the standard power metal tempos you find from this particular metal region. The black metal parts combine Bal Sagoth with Children Of Bodom, with the heavy keys way up front in the band's delivery. Maenpaa's vocals are very understandable, with his black metal shriek strong at mid-range. He also mixes his vocal stance up a bit, going from spoken word to clean vocals within some songs. He really uses his voice effectively to match the mood of each track, with his keyboards and guitars the driving force behind each track, with both mixed high in the recording, really calling all shots on the direction of the songs.
Stormy opener "Beyond The Dark Sun" is a smooth, quick power run, with blast beats, heavy keys, neo-classical guitar, and Maenpaa's different vocal styles. The opener really tells the whole story, with the starter track displaying all of the things this band can accomplish, and it really is amazing to hear so many things going on in each song. I've never been a fan of technical music, and from reading this you would think Wintersun are a musical mess, but in all reality they keep everything clean and organized, and never confuse the listener by sounding too busy. They create a diverse sound by not going too far over the lines, they keep themselves in constant check by keeping the same speed and tone for each track.
A long keyboard intro folds into "Sleeping Stars", a slow moving poetic tale that shows Maenpaa's dark romanticism writing, without sounding too gothic or staged. "Battle Against Time" is a rapid assault, with blasting fills and a comprehensive pattern by Hahto. He does a great job on drums, really showing off at times with his amazing musicianship when the song will allow it. "Starchild" would please fans of US metal acts like Iced Earth and Leash Law, with chunky thrash riffs that border on death metal velocity. Sometimes the tracks seem to have longer intros than needed, but that is simply a small problem that won't be a big distraction.
This is a wonderful debut, and rather surprising considering there are very few bands talented enough to pull off this type of record. For those of you looking for something more, Wintersun will be the perfect remedy. Again, the songs are filled with so many things, that it will take repeated listens to absorb it all. There has been a lot of great metal released this year, and I'm sure this album will make more than a few top 10 lists. For fans of Stratovarius, Children Of Bodom, Bal Sagoth, Dissection, and Sonata Arctica.