Wintersun
Time I

There is ‘hype’ and then there is the ridiculous levels of hype that has followed former Ensiferum frontman Jari Mäenpää and his post-Ensiferum project Wintersun around since their self-titled debut, 8 years ago. Numerous delays, supposed deletion of material and a few teasers later, we are finally given the follow-up to one of epic metal’s most critically acclaimed albums, and despite what the actual quality of the material was going to be, there was always some sense that there was going to be a let down. Considering the said 8 year build up. And Time is just that: A bit of a letdown, though ultimately due to the wait and expectations placed on it. Also, splitting the album up into two pieces makes part I seem incomplete, further enhancing the album’s unfulfilled results.

The real downer is that when Jari and co. hit on all cylinders, as they do on only one of the five tracks on Time I, they really  hit it. But unfortunately, there is also a lot of filler and superfluous fluff to make Time I feel like a preview, or filled out EP of sorts as there are only 5 tracks and only three are songs. And we waited 8 years for those three (albeit fairly long) songs. That being said, the core sound of Wintersun is still here, possibly even more grandiose, epic and busy than on the debut, often bordering on Dol Ammad levels of orchestral and choral scope, mixed with Dragonforce pacing. But those gripping, rousing moments of musical perfection seem buried in too much instrumentation and atmospherics, even if I was thinking of Transiberian Orchestra much of the time while Time I was playing (I imagine Jari could make a sweet metal Christmas album).

Of the five tracks on Time I, the second, 11-minute affair “Sons of Winter and Stars” seems to be the release’s centerpiece, and like I said, when Wintersun hit it, they really hit it. This utterly superb track is pure bombastic, epic bliss, showing how fucking good Wintersun is capable of being. But that’s the only track on the release that seems to fulfill the promise of the debut. The other proper songs, “Land of Snow and Sorrow” and closer “Time” are both slower, snooze inducing, ballad-y tracks that feature lots of clean singing and really never go anywhere. However, stick around a few minutes after “Time”  for a short hidden choral reprisal of the chorus from “Sons of Winter and Stars” that’s pretty rousing. The rest of the album is instrumental orchestral filler with “When Time Fades Away” , “Darkness and Frost” not really adding anything to the release and seem merely to flesh out the playtime of the release, so it can be released as a full-length album instead of an EP.

You could argue that Time I is overproduced and that it essentially comes across as a Protools-made, soulless  musical version of a Final Fantasy game where the outward appearance is utterly gorgeous, but feels a little too busy, synthetic and overdone. However, I personally think the production is fine; it’s huge and often the symphonics are truly captivating, if a little overbearing, forsaking the actual metal side of things.

The 8 year wait for this release, hangs around its neck like an Albatross, and while there are hints of greatness, Time I will be and should be construed as a bit of let down by all but the most ardent Wintersun fans. “Sons of Winter and Stars” hints at what Wintersun is capable of, but also hints that Jari and Wintersun might be a one trick pony. However, I’ll be very interested to hear what Time II has to offer and if this is a mere preview of something hopefully very special.

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Written by E. Thomas
November 21st, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Facial La Fleur

    Wintersun Christmas Classics dropping December 2020.


  2. Commented by: Deepsend Records

    I disagree with the production. I think it’s overproduced to the point where the music is soulless. Nothing sounds real musically. Sounds like a Skynet produced orchestral mess.


  3. Commented by: Storm King

    This CD might be my biggest disappointment of 2012. Admittedly I wasn’t hyping it massively for the past few years, but I liked the debut and figured that this would at least be a good album. It’s not. I agree that it’s utterly SOULESS…it feels like it was recorded, performed, and produced by machines. There’s no joy to it, nothing that makes the heart sing, so to speak. It’s just a wall of sound where you can see precisely where every part went. And it does feel more like a padded EP than an album. Utter disappointment.


  4. Commented by: Shane

    Yeah I was on the Jari boat. I was expecting this to be really amazing. The first record was great. There’s just not enough guitar here. He needs to being the riffs and forget all that symphonic shit. That’s suppose to be sutble atmosphere.


  5. Commented by: GodIsAnAutomaton

    Apparently part 2 is where the shred/solos will feature prominently.


  6. Commented by: shadow vier

    Yea this is a big damn disappointment. The first album had some of the coolest fast as fuck riffing that really blew my mind at the time. There is only small blurbs of that at moments that are way too few and far between on this album. And I knew that the blackened vocals were really gonna be toned down for this one. This is Bombast in its greatest form which is not a good thing. However when one’s first album is so damn good how could you ever top it? The first album will now be a classic that will never be touched by anyone including Jari himself, its sad to say. I really hope I am wrong but the second part of this is gonna suck as well. All I wanted to do while listening to this was throw on the first album to hear the true brilliance of Jari Maenpaa and Wintersun. I really don’t see these guys getting together and saying, “lets put all our crappy material from this split album together and release it all on the first half so everyone will anticipate the good material and buy the second half 2 years from now”


  7. Commented by: DK777

    ET, you’re a better person than I: you found some merit in this mess!

    Said it somewhere else: this is “Finnish Democracy,” an album arriving on the shoulders of too long a wait and too big a set of fan hopes… and then proving to be its own kind of disappointment, not just a victim of the hype and the hopes.

    I took my break time at work and went to buy this on its release day; didn’t even need to hear a note in advance. When the next one comes out, I’ll be a lot more careful and will do a lot more to check into whether or not this is the 2004 or the 2012 Wintersun. The former I’d welcome back gladly; the latter can find new fans.


  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    the new Ensiferum smokes this. better songwriting, better hooks, better and more fist-pumping Viking metal. even the orchestration, which seems to be the big focus here, is better and more moving – the opening track on Unsung Heroes is just godly, and the bridge on the title track almost brought me to tears. I can’t say the same for anything here.


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