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Wintersun - "The Forest Seasons" (CD)

Wintersun - "The Forest Seasons" CD cover image

"The Forest Seasons" track listing:

1. "Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)"
Part I: "The Dark Slumber"
Part II: "The Awakening"
2. "The Forest That Weeps (Summer)"
3. "Eternal Darkness (Autumn)"
Part I: "Haunting Darkness"
Part II: "The Call of the Dark Dream"
Part III: "Beyond the Infinite Universe"
Part IV: "Death"
4. "Loneliness (Winter)"

Reviewed by on November 28, 2017

"“The Forest Seasons” is a fine return to black metal base for Mäenpää and company. But it’s an awful long way to travel to get back to the place we deliberately left oh so long ago."

Wintersun and band leader Jari Mäenpää took six years to write “The Forest Seasons”’s predecessor, “Time I”. And it shows. “Time I” is meticulously fantastic. The songs are so intricate, so layered and so complex that Mäenpää needed a more powerful computer just to finish the compositions. (Note: if that last sentence turns your metal meter to zero, then go read something else. It’s a fantastic album, ok?) But therein lies Mäenpää’s magic – at no point does “Time I” feel overwrought or overbearing. Instead we are dropped into a mythical place where ancient China and modern Finland intertwine into one super realm where we get to go adventuring among the stars.

“The Forest Seasons” is much, much different. Still strong in theoretical theme, Mäenpää has forsaken complexity for much more straightforward symphonic black metal music. “The Forest Seasons” is still undeniably Wintersun, but it is a different Wintersun that inhabits this single forest.

Clean main and backing vocals, Maiden-esque gallops and big crescendos of crashing strings, guitars and drums mark album opener “Spring” and make it a good ride through the trees. Mäenpää does bring back some of his eastern influences back on “Summer,” but pairs them with straightforward power riffs and yelling, and they, and the corresponding interest, get lost. None of the three core band members – Mäenpää, Teemu Mäntysaari and Jukka Koskinen – wanted to be credited as “Summer” in the liner notes, belying the song’s overbearing blandness.

“Autumn” and “Winter” have more of Mäenpää’s compositional attention; fittingly, it is in “Winter” where Mäenpää returns to the style that what made “Time I” triumphant. Even so, both seasons hew closely to black metal’s tremolo’d and blast-beaten heart.

We’ve heard all this music before, but Mäenpää is too good of a musician to have written crappy or reductive fare – “The Forest Seasons” is well written, performed and produced. But it lacks the centering theme that demands the attention to detail that took “Time I” to such dizzying reaches, and in that loses what makes Wintersun masterfully unique. “The Forest Seasons” is a fine return to black metal base for Mäenpää and company. But it’s an awful long way to travel to get back to the place we deliberately left oh so long ago.

Highs: "Autumns" crashing long passages of temolo, blast beats and harsh vocals.

Lows: "Summers" melodies getting drowned out by power chords.

Bottom line: Just fine symphonic black metal that doesn't equal Wintersun's past.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)