Wintersun – “The Forest Seasons” (Nuclear Blast)
Often overlooked in favor of bigger Finnish names like Nightwish, Children of Bodom and Ensiferum, the talent of this band (for those who know) is easily on par with their nation’s best, and on this long awaited 3rd album, they amply prove it once and for all! Although formed in 2003, the history of Wintersun goes back to the mid 90s when founder Jari Mäenpää was guitarist for Ensiferum, and when he first started penning material for what was to become this band. Originally a side project, touring commitments, technical recording setbacks, recruiting line ups not to mention the complexity of the band’s material have all contributed to lengthy delays hence keeping the band in the underground. However, this release might change it all! Coinciding with the simultaneous release of “Live at Tuska Festival 2013” comes this blinding 3rd album which is inspired by Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concerto “The Four Seasons” – and epic it is too!! With 4 songs based on the seasons made up of multiple parts, the total run time is just under an hour, but it is time that is nothing short of melodic bliss, I mean, just wondrous beautiful music. Although described as a melodic death band, and I wouldn’t disagree with that when it comes to the harsh vocals (in places), double bass gallops and cacophonous (at times) Alexi Laiho-esque fretboard spins, there is so much more on show here with neo classical soloing, symphonic majesty in the form of power orchestrals contrasted superbly by heavenly backing choirs and sheer epic passion that I’m truly blown away – and all on just 4 songs – although it’s 4 incredible songs! Blasting in with the 14 minute ‘Spring’ like the blinding first rays of an incredible sun, the intensity of neo classical splendor driven by some sterling technical drumming doesn’t let up but its those rich melodies that soon grab you along with some dazzling keyboard laced melodies leading to a hugely catchy chorus. Just as it all ends resonating in your ears comes the 12 minute ‘Summer’ which is ironically dark, and very much reminiscent of Primordial’s strummed pagan style creating a bombastic soundscape with clean, powerfully sung vocals and ballsy backing choirs, again laced by diamond keyboard melodies and topped off by some subtle but no less dramatic strings – awesome and also my fave track! Again, as you’re still feeling the ecstatic waves, ‘Autumn’ comes in blast beating with evil black vocals, dark choirs and insane strings although commendably once again, still with a definite catchiness throughout its 5 parts that also includes a beautiful flowing piece thanks to the stunning neo classical guitars – truly a mesmerizing contrast between darkness and light!!! With the onset of the 12 minute ‘Winter’ the gloominess is brought to bear by a dual vocal growl and screamo along with melancholic piano on this slower piece that also takes in heart breaking clean vocals although by mid song it’s soon uplifting with the vocals reaching epic proportions in their passion accompanied by some incredibly heart breaking guitar work. There are few albums that elicit this level of emotional intensity leaving a mark long felt after their final tones, and I’m hugely pleased to say that Wintersun have achieved this in no small measure here. Well worth the wait.