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5 stars It only took 8 years and numerous mishaps for this album to see the light of day. Was it worth the wait? Well from the start we have a noticeable change in musical direction. Sure the speed and technical elements are still there, but its driving force is orchestral and choir arrangements. When Sons of Winter and Stars kicks in, you know you are in for a treat. One of the most epic songs of the year in any genre! Throughout the album I hear little nuances that reminds me of what makes Moonsorrow so amazing, and no Wintersun doesn't exactly sound like Moonsorrow, they just seem to know the right elements to put into a song to make it truly epic. And I'm not just talking song length. Although the majority of the songs are somewhat longer. Wintersun seems to have a great sense of when to back off and let the song breathe and when to kick it back up a notch and put the pedal to the floor. So was it worth the wait? Well that all depends on how long you think it should take to write and record an album on this level of awesomeness. For me it was worth the wait, but I wouldn't want to wait another 8 years for part 2 of this album. So they better get their crap together... Haha
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Posted Friday, November 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Time I' - Wintersun (9/10)

Unless the time comes where post-apocalyptic music scholars are reading this and all other mention of the arduous wait associated with Wintersun's second album has been erased, I don't think it's necessary to offer a pre-amble about the ridiculous anticipation eight years of waiting have wreaked upon fans. Suffice to say, after so many delays, "Time" became rooted somewhere in between the status of legend and inside joke. Of course, with such expectations, people can be led to say rash things; initial media reports of "Time I" as one of the greatest albums of its generation appeared well-aware of the hype. I've given myself a couple of weeks now to digest it in all of its glory, and while the success of the yet- upcoming "Time II" will ultimately decide where this project rests in history, Wintersun have offered one of the most intense listening experiences of the year with this one. It certainly deserves the polarized opinions it has met, but there's depth and detail here to merit however long we waited for it. Love it or hate it, "Time" is finally here.

The first thing that really surprises on "Time I" is how much Wintersun have developed and changed as a musical outfit since the debut. Although the debut now passes me as one of the finest of its style, it was still rooted in a style and sound that would have been familiar to any fans of Jari's previous band, Ensiferum. Wintersun's direction on "Time I" may still be described with the same melodic, epic, progressive and symphonic adjectives as the debut, but everything is now larger than its ever been, to the point where it becomes difficult to fairly compare the two. Whereas "Wintersun" focused on the quality of its hooks and riffs, "Time I" is painted in terms of orchestration and atmosphere. Jari and his mates fashion a vast folk metal symphony of sorts, not in the traditional 'symphonic metal' sense, but there's not really another word that can aptly describe the complexity and subtle flourishes throughout the album. In news reports prior to the album's release, there was word that "Time" would feature hundreds of tracks at the same time, and though that was enough to raise a few eyebrows, it's readily evident in the music. Wintersun's music is still led largely by guitars, but "Time I" makes its mark by the amount of time and detail invested into the background. Cinematic orchestral flourishes match the intensity of burstfire guitar work, and frequent folk roundabouts give plenty of space for Jari to sport his arrangement skills. Even within an intrinsic 'background' element like the orchestrations, there are plenty of levels to dive into. Even to the attentive listener, "Time I" is an initially chaotic and harrowing experience.

In what I can only imagine would have been a mixer's nightmare from the ninth circle of Hell, "Time I" demands a listener's full attention. "When Time Fades Away" is a remarkably beautiful way to open the album, gradually adapting the listener to a steadily more intense and complex palette of orchestration. There's a definite East Asian motif here- certainly not something you would expect from Finland- although a minute into "Sons of Winter and Stars", the definitive Wintersun sound is at full blast. The riffs are not too fargone from what Jari was doing on the debut; they are fast, melodic, and open to techniques from many sub- genres of metal. Below these guitar riffs are what sounds like a thousand other parts, each grasping for their share of the mix. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" and the finale title track follow in the footsteps of "Sons of Winter and Stars", although each of these three are memorable in their own right. The fourth (and shortest) piece, "Darkness and Frost" is an interlude that also functions as the extended intro to the song "Time", it begins as an acoustic bridge and soon finds itself in the same sort of cinematic orchestration heard on the rest of the album."Sons..." is arguably the best offering on "Time I", although the other two 'full' pieces are not far behind. "Sons of Winter and Stars" is a perfect manifest of where Wintersun are now as a creative act, throwing everything at the listener at full force, yet still finding time to offer a beautiful acoustic break towards the end.

For all of its cerebral orchestrations, the vocal melodies here are remarkable, and may be the most accessible thing on the record. Jari's black metal rasp is still used here, but there's a certain preference for clean singing here. Whether its for an epic chorus of pagan warriors or Jari's own lead voice, Wintersun's intense style manages to make room for these vocal arrangements. As may have been evident from the overblown production, Jari seems to be a bit of a Devin Townsend fan, and "Land of Snow and Sorrow" best illustrates this, occasionally featuring guitar and vocal elements that are virtually indistinguishable from Devy himself. It's a minor disappoint to hear a genius in his own right tracing the footsteps of another genius, but Jari's vocals have a great sound of their own. As a clean singer, he sounds much more confident here than he did on the debut. Thanks in large part due to the heavy symphonic focus here, his black metal rasps now sound less fitting, although it retains his distinctive snarl.

It's almost a granted truth by this point that Wintersun's musicianship is going to be through the roof. Besides Jari Maenpaa's not-inconsiderable skill with vocals and guitar, the rest of the musicians offer remarkable performances befitting a project of this magnitude. Special commendations go to drummer Kai Hahto, whose epic and aggressive technique backs up the metric tons of orchestration. Although the production is about as good as current technologies can allow for something of this density, some performances on this album can be difficult to hear. At its most symphonic, "Time I" pushes Kai's drum recording down to the level of the background, and bassist Jukka Koskinen can be even more difficult to hear, unless you know what to look for. There are times when I feel the debut's more concise and straightforward approach would have been better, but considering the scope of the instrumentation, it's no surprise that things get just a little murky on the production end. At only forty minutes, "Time I" is certainly shorter than most albums, although this slightly shorter-than-average length works to an advantage. Particularly on the first listen, it's quite a bit to take in, and it ends before the 'epic' atmosphere draws thin.

"Time"s complexity is both its greatest strength and most inviting vulnerability. Depending on your tastes as a listener outside the context of Wintersun's debut, it's likely most who hear it will either love it or hate it. Although the depth here is virtually unsurpassed by any other album of its style, that complexity can feel overblown for its own sake. "Time I" achieves the feeling of an epic atmosphere like few albums have managed to do, but there's the sense that some of the overbearing density could have been done without. With that being said, repeated listens only make the album more and more satisfying of a trip. The initial experience is bound to be fairly disorienting, but there's so much to explore here. As I said towards the start of the review, it's going to be up to "Time II" to match the par that's been set, but there's no doubt that the sweat and blood that's evidently been spent investing in this project has paid off. Only coming years will tell if this has the same lasting appeal as its predecessor, but the music speaks for itself; Wintersun are now among the elites of their style... whatever their style might actually be.

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Posted Saturday, November 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
3 stars Sometimes, things don't work out like you'd expect. There are albums that should appeal to me in every way, but they just don't end up jiving with me for one reason or another. Wintersun's highly anticipated release "Time I" is just such an album. On paper, this album has everything: soaring symphonic elements, technical drums, virtuoso guitars, and a deeply contemplative concept. However, I find myself coming away from "Time I" with a large amount of disappointment.

Wintersun has certainly crafted some fantastic components, don't get me wrong. The symphonic elements are truly amazing and fantastic (I can't stress that enough), and I am truly moved by the philosophical concept that they present: an exploration of human emotion in the context of mortality and the immensity of the universe. These two elements have really floored me, and I can certainly see why many reviewers have praised this album.

Yet, there is so much that is wrong with this album. In fact, I can narrow it down to three basic problems: the vox, the production, and the originality factor. First of all, the vocals are average at best. Throughout the album, I can't shake the feeling that I'm being yelled at, even though the vox never come off as being particularly powerful or forceful. I think the singer stayed at the top of his range the entire album, and melody and emotion are completely absent in his delivery. Also, the harsh vocals come off as pathetic. They aren't well done, and I really can't stand the rasp. Secondly, the production is terrible. This album took eight years to make, and it is claimed that new recording techniques were necessary to capture the awe-inspiring audio. I don't find this to be the case. The rhythm guitars are barely heard and become nothing more than distracting white noise. The fantastic symphonic elements come with a price as well: It is difficult to hear the lyrics most of the time and the drums fade into the background amid the chaos. I'm not sure what innovative techniques were utilized here, but they didn't work. Lastly, what good is all this technicality and innovation if there is nothing but standard metal here? The same riffs and ideas are played over and over for this short 40 minute album, and it even gets to the point where I can't call it progressive anymore for the shear lack of, well, progression. A hundred beats per minute don't get you anywhere if we've heard it all before and we've heard it composed and executed better.

Overall, I like this album: I really do. Yet, the hype machine blew this album out of proportion, and I can't hop on the train for this one. Wintersun crafted some mind-blowing symphonic elements and the concept of the album is truly moving to the core. Yet, the execution is severely flawed and the composition is lacking. What should have been the definitive metal album of 2012, or even the decade, has proven itself to be nothing more than a typical, solid metal release without any new musical ideas of its own to show. That's it.

Report this review (#851404)
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have noticed this record in the list of Top 100 albums of 2012 mostly because of album's cover: it's really beautiful, and I hoped to find in music something as great as its artwork.

I've never heard this band before, but I remembered Ensiferum's cover of 'Lady in Black', so I nearly understood what I have to expect here, though I'm not very familiar with that kind of death metal music, preferring heavier sounds of certain bands such as Opeth, Leprous and Edge of Sanity.

The music here is a crossover between symphonic metal, folk metal and melodic death metal. With mix of rough and clean vocals with heavy guitars, folk melodies and symphonic sounds, it seemed to be a pretty original thing to listen to, so I managed to get this album without any hesitations. But after a few listens I feel that it's very uneasy to judge the music here (especially after such a raptured reviews from other reviewers).

The album opens with beautiful slow instrumental 'When Time Fades Away' (at one moment I wish'd if the whole album could be the same as this introductionary track).

Then it rolls into first metal track here: 'Sons of Winter and Stars'. Consisting of few parts combined together, it is a kind of prog epic. It starts with further developing of symphonic intro theme, but then heavy guitars and screaming vocals starts to blowing the fuse. Some nice melodies here.

'Land of Snow and Sorrow' musically is a highlight here. Excellent melodies. After it, we're off into a short instrumental break 'Darkness and Frost', which is nowhere as good as opening track.

The final track (not counting untitled hidden bonus track) here is called 'Time', which is another 10+ minutes long epic here. Same formula as 'Sons of Winter and Stars', it provides some more nice melodies full of pathos. Some interesting pianos closer to the end.

After all, in genreral, I can say it's not a bad album, and it's gonna be excellent work in terms of metal music, and metal kids should be bonkers about it. But I don't feel this work as any kind of essential, esspecially in terms of progressive music. It's just a good album with some beautiful moments, but it's not a milestone work.

Thus, I would rate it with 7 stars out of 10.

Report this review (#851408)
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Unless you simply haven't been paying much attention to the metal scene recently, it's no secret that the wait for a new Wintersun album was long and torturous, to say the least. After initially being scheduled for release all the way back in November of 2006, a series of setbacks and recording issues delayed the album for nearly six years. What this meant is that fans of Wintersun's unique and masterful debut album had to patiently wait eight whole years to hear its successor in the form of Time I, the first release in a two part saga. Fortunately, Wintersun has returned with a triumphant observation that stands as one of the year's most breathtaking and original releases - the mix of symphonic power metal, folk, and extreme metal heard on the band's debut offering is still present on Time I, but it has been given a fresh coat of paint that makes for one hell of a listen. An intense, complex, and unforgettable album indeed, Time I is easily one of 2012's musical highlights.

When the Time concept was still in its infancy, mastermind Jari Mäenpää said that this would be a very intricate album, and each song would contain around 200 tracks. Though this may sound far-fetched to the unsuspecting listener, this is an incredibly dense composition - vast orchestrations, multiple vocal melodies at once, huge keyboard tones, and pummeling guitar riffs characterize the music here, and it seems like every minute consists of dozens of musical ideas and melodic phrases blended into one coherent piece of music. The key word in that sentence is 'coherent' - although lots of things are always going on and most of the riffs are very death metal oriented, melody is the first priority here. Epic choruses and bombastic keyboards may not appeal too much to death metal purists, but more open minded listeners are likely to be amazed with the vast array of sounds that Wintersun has conjured. Almost as if a symphonic power metal band decided to up their testosterone level, Time I takes everything that's great about epic metal and makes it more heavy, progressive, and complex than anything I've ever heard before.

Beginning with the Tolkienesque intro "When Time Fades Away", Wintersun shows us right off the bat that this will be an epic journey; the intricate arrangement, touches of Eastern influence, and climatic final segment make this one of the best instrumental intro tracks I've ever heard on a metal album. It segues right into the thirteen minute behemoth "Sons of Winter and Stars", and this track immediately sets the stage for the rest of the album with its heavy riffs, multi-layered keyboard arrangements, and massive choruses. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" doesn't feature as many harsh vocals as the previous track, and it's also generally more mid-paced, but it retains the stunning keyboard work and strong melodies that made the earlier portions of the album so great. The main chorus has a Viking-influenced feel that showcases Wintersun's strong connection to Scandinavian folk music. "Darkness and Frost" is a short interlude piece that serves more as an intro to "Time" - it contains many of the same musical ideas as the following track, and also segues seamlessly into its successor. "Time" is the epic closer to part one of this saga, and features some absolutely killer riffs and some of the most technically challenging acrobatics heard on the entire observation. The album closes on a more atmospheric note, but that is certainly appreciated when one considers how bombastic the rest of the album is.

Time I is a short album by today's standards, clocking in at only forty minutes, but that is easily forgivable considering the depth and quality of the material offered. This is an example of 'all killer, no filler', and I would take that over a boring eighty minute album any day of the week. Wintersun is a group of musicians that have absolutely mastered their craft as artists, and the stunning vision of extreme symphonic metal shown on Time I exemplifies a band that has a burning desire to push music into uncharted territory - a professional, ambitious, and masterfully written observation, the first album in the Time saga stands tall as one of the year's best metal albums. Wintersun is back, and they have returned stronger than ever!

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Posted Sunday, December 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Time, what is time?" once asked Blind Guardian on their legendary Power Metal release "Somewhere Far Beyond".

Sometimes, good things need some time to be done but this is not the case at all for Wintersun's new output that has been released eight years after their first strike following many complicated recording sessions, lots of strange announcements and wrongful promises and more and impatiently growing expectations from critics and fans. The difference between Guns 'n Roses' "Chinese Democracy" and the new Wintersun record is that nobody really expected anything special coming from the one man project of Axl Rose but the record turned out to be quite decent without being a masterpiece while in the other case what has become a one man project of Jari Mäenpää was expected to be a masterpiece and is nothing but a big deception. After all the dramatic events over the last years, they could only fail. In the end, couldn't one have seen this coming?

"Only time will tell." realized the British Heavy Metal flagship Iron Maiden on its dark "A Matter Of Life And Death" release.

Jari Mäenpää announced in fact that his new material was so complex that it needed new and revolutionary recordings procedures. This complexion led to a quite predictable result as the new overhyped record turns out to be completely overloaded. The guitar riffs feel lackluster and are buried under a too big amount of symphonic elements. Despite the length of the single tracks, they show no progression whatsoever. The calmer moments lack of emotions, the louder parts lack of energy and the productions is without dynamics.

"We got a little time to make up our minds." stated the pioneer band of European Power Metal Helloween on the first part of their legendary "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" trilogy.

During the whole process of that difficult birth that Jari Mäenpää gave to his new baby, he seems to have either worked too much on the tracks as they feel very complicated and inaccessible or not worked enough on them as they lack of consistency. The whole record has no catchy moments even though the same patterns are heavily repeated. Apart of the instrumentals, all songs vary from calm ambient or folk rock introductions to extreme symphonic metal or melodic death metal parts to calmer folk metal sections before the entire circle is repeated again and again and soon starts to get quite predictable. The few new elements such as the Japanese folk parts are overused in the genre and don't fit at all to the topic of ice and snow. That being sad, the song titles lack as much of originality as the tracks themselves do.

"I've been here before, was it all just wasted time?" questioned the German power metal band Edguy on their "Rocket Ride" release.

In the end, there is nothing left to say but that this record collapses under its own pressure and feels directionless and overloaded. Maybe the sound would have been more mature and natural if the release would have taken less time. I can understand that the band finally wanted its material to be released but maybe they should have worked on something completely different and new as time went by. The plan to make two records out of one is a good commercial idea but artistically, it just stretches the whole chapter and people like me are not looking forward for the second part of this release at all. But maybe time will change things again and the band will actually revise its initial decision or work on their songs to make them sound more natural. As most of the reviews on here are surprisingly positive, they though surely don't feel the need to improve so that my expectations are very low for the upcoming release.

"Tears of time ? just an illusion." concluded the legendary German gothic metal band Crematory on their well entitled "Illusions" release.

Originally published on the Metal Archives on November, 26th of the year 2012

Report this review (#896728)
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
3 stars Wintersun's debut album came out in 2004, but it took until 2012 for the follow-up from band leader Jari Mäenpää (vocals, guitars, keyboards, ex-Ensiferum) and drummer Kai Hahto. This was more of a band album that the debut with Teemu Mäntysaari also on guitars and Jukka Koskinen on bass along with various others making up the choir. One problem with reviewing music is how to convey what is being listened to so that someone reading the words can get an idea. Jari helpfully has described the music "Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal", but what does that actually mean?

If you were going to take some musical reference points then start with Devin Townsend, throw in Nightwish and Opeth and then mix it all up and start to layer it. Then add some more layers, and then some more. It's just as well that the production is as good as it is as otherwise this could easily come across as a bucket of mud, the number of tracks being used is incredible. The person mixing this must have been an octopus in a previous life, even with Pro Tools. This over the top use of instrumentation is one of the delights of the album, but also one of the downfalls. At times it is possible to get somewhat overwhelmed by all of the aural delights being thrown, almost as if the piece of chocolate cake is too much as it is so rich. That is somewhat mitigated by the length of the CD which is much more like an old vinyl album at 40 minutes long.

There are lots of musical ideas being used, as the music moves from full-on over the top bombastic symphonic to plain and simple oriental ideas then we get loads of death metal elements thrown in for good measure. I enjoy it while I am playing it, but always find that when the album finishes and the next one starts that it is like a breath of fresh idea. Overall a good album, but best sampled in small doses.

Report this review (#912772)
Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent.

I have spun this album many times over the past month. As well as being exciting and (with the exception of "Land of Snow and Sorrow") fast paced, the album is colourful and atmospheric. The band seems to have a little more direction than in the last album and their sound brings colour into the metal scene.

"When Time Fades Away" is a very nice instrumental introduction, though at times a little lengthy feeling. "Sons of Winter and Stars" is a truly magnificent piece of music. Musical, exciting and just brilliantly performed. Some of the greatest metal screams I have ever heard are in this track. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" I can't help but feel is inferior to the previous track, and it seems to drag. "Darkness and Frost" and "Time" are also incredible tracks, continuing the excitement of "Sons of Winter and Stars" with a more sorrowful feel.

What I feel lets this album down a little is the fact that it revolves too heavily around the synthesised orchestra. While I do like the sound of the orchestral parts and think they fit the band well, I think that they should have held them back a little and bought out the guitar parts a bit more. But as I have said before, the band have found a unique sound and they have many years to develop it.

"Time I" is a strong album and and excellent addition to a progressive music collection. I feel that this album will always be recognised as a classic.

4 stars.


Report this review (#917986)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Wintersun's 'Time I' had a very long and, some fans might argue, torturous path to being released. It took the band over 8 years to get this record out after their hugely successful self titled release from 2004. I remember buying their self titled album when it was first released and being utterly blown away by the musicianship on display. It was enough to make me want to burn my guitar and eat the ashes - such was the talent of the guitar playing on that record. I was in such awe of Jari Maenpaa that he quickly displaced both Michael Romeo and Jeff Loomis as my guitar hero and favourite heavy metal musician.

But 8 years is a long time to wait for a follow up album. The delays in recording and releasing this album stemmed from the fact that Wintersun were (and still are) a small, relatively unheard of progressive metal band with only a small following. Nuclear Blast, their record label, understandably didn't want to commit the advance of money that it was going to take to produce 'Time I'. The production standards and absurdly high level of electronic orchestration that the Wintersun front-man and lead composer, Jari Maenpaa, wanted to put into the 'Time I' album were beyond the financial reach of the band, and also beyond their technical reach. Simply put the computer technology at the time just couldn't keep up with all of the VST synths that Jari wanted on each track. His reach exceeded his grasp on the technical side of things.

But it didn't stop them - it just took the band a lot longer to record and produce 'Time I' than it should have done. So, was it worth the wait? We've had 'Time I' for a few years now (at the time of writing this review) and its an album which has received a lot of attention from me. But I can't help thinking is this really 8 years worth of material? After all the disc length is only 40 minutes, and there are only 3 lengthy songs on the album. And really there are only two excellent songs and one, dare I say it, fairly average song, at least by Wintersun standards.

The opening 20 minutes of music, specifically the tracks 'When Time Fades Away' and 'Sons Of Winter And Stars' are utterly sublime. The last 10 minutes of music with the track 'Time' is equally great. But somewhere in the middle of the album it loses me a little bit.

So what about the music? Well, we have highly orchestral progressive death metal with an oriental twist. The album is utterly polished, which doesn't surprise me considering how fastidious the band have been in recording this album. The production is good, if a little sterile at times, but everything is in its place. There are a lot of layers to this album, a lot of synths and under-currents of melody which aren't apparent upon the first few listens. This is an album which takes time to absorb and learn. In the vein of other progressive death metal bands there are a mixture of extreme metal vocals, screams and cleanly sung parts. No disrespect to Jari Maenpaa but I consider him a better guitarist than a vocalist.

Wintersun told us at the time of release that this album would be the first of a two-parter, and that we couldn't judge this one without hearing the second part. But as of mid-2015 we have no signs of the second part to this so we have to judge it on its own. Its good, polished, highly technical and progressive. But when I think it took 8 years to produce I have to wonder is this the best it could have been? This is definitely somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I think I'll round it down to 3 stars. Don't get me wrong, I love this album, but any more than 3 stars would be too many.

Report this review (#1434234)
Posted Friday, July 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars The second Wintersun album was a long time coming, and what we get on this release is very much Jari Mäenpää's show, with his distinctive keyboard style being a key feature of the album. It's not that the keyboards dominate the album's sound exactly - although they are quite prominent in the mix - so much that the approach to playing them is so different from other symphonic metal bands that the sheer novelty of it rather distracts from everything else that's going on. With plentiful influence from Japanese music acknowledged by Jari Mäenpää creeping in, it sounds like a symphonic metal band trying to do a soundtrack for a high fantasy anime series - and if, like me, that sounds like an awesome idea to you it might be worth checking this one out for at least a cursory listen. That said, to me it seems somewhat overproduced, with bombast standing in for an absence of depth, and Jari's long struggles to get the album finished and released don't seem to have yielded results commensurate to the effort put in.
Report this review (#1538299)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2016 | Review Permalink

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