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Wintersun: Wintersun

Don't be fooled by the cover of Wintersun's self-titled debut, which features a painting of a cloak-clad man lying face down in the snow. This is not fairy-tale power metal. Oh, no no no. Finnish vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jari Mäenpäa (ex-Ensiferum) and drummer Kai Hahto (Rotten Sound) have teamed up to give the world just what it needs: a neoclassical, progressive symphonic thrash/black-metal album. This is extreme stuff that nevertheless comes across as quite impressive musically, at least until Mäenpäa opens his mouth and lets his toxic voice spill out.

And that's too bad, considering there are plenty of quality progressive moments here, especially on the album's middle three songs: "Sleeping Stars," "Battle Against Time" and "Death and the Healing" (the latter on which Mäenpäa's voice seems to undergo some sort of transformation, emerging as deep, clean and majestic). Wintersun's folk influences come to the forefront on "Starchild," which unfortunately also marks the return of Mäenpäa's spewing vocals. The man's an excellent musician and obviously comfortable playing many instruments in a variety of different styles. His vocals, however, simply don't mesh with most of this music.

Wintersun is the kind of album you must be in the mood for, and even then, it may not satisfy. However, if Children of Bodom and Finntroll rock your world, this might be worth hearing.

Track Listing:
1) Beyond the Dark Sun
2) Winter Madness
3) Sleeping Stars
4) Battle Against Time
5) Death and the Healing
6) Starchild
7) Beautiful Death
8) Sadness and Hate

Added: August 3rd 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Nuclear Blast Records
Hits: 5871
Language: english

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Wintersun: Wintersun
Posted by Scott Ward, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-12-03 13:11:50
My Score:

Hitting you like a cold Nordic blast, comes the band Wintersun. Hailing from the ever growing metal mecca known as Finland, this brainchild of Jari Maenpaa is as good as it gets in the field of as Jari puts it, "Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal". I can think of no better way of describing the incredible music you will find on Wintersun.

The first thing that strikes you about the album is the artwork. Commissioned by artist Necrolord, it shows a man laying in the snow representing death with the sun shining through the trees depicting healing. The cold and magical aspects capture the music perfectly.

With a sweeping majestic feel you will be swept into the snowy landscape that is the basis for Wintersun's epic debut album. With each song, from the opening "Beyond The Dark Sun" not only does the length of each piece grow but also the complexity and grandiose texture of the music increases with each step along the way. By the time you reach the epic ten minute plus "Sadness and Hate", Jari will have taken you places that few metal masters ever dared to venture.

Drawing on such themes as Finnish folk music with just a touch of Slayer mixed in, this combination is as brutal at times as any death metal band but with a twist of his magic fingers, Jari turns on the melodic charm and produces a sound very unique. If you are an Opeth fan, you might get the idea of where this band comes from, but you still haven't heard a combination quite like this.

The grandiose style along with the superior musical ability makes Wintersun a treat that you cannot get enough of. They have such a unique way of combining all these elements into something that although might take a bit of getting use to, will grow on you and soon become something of a habit that you won't be able to quit.

The way that Jari can go from a growl to sweeping melodic vocal is something that gets under you skin. In a good way. Like in the song "Sleeping Stars" where his guttural voice turn majestic as the intense music swells to a fully orchestrated conclusion. The contrasts are a thing that set this band apart. It also is the drug that hooks you.

With each progression on the album the band brings you one step closer to becoming a full fledged junkie. The full out metal attack of "Battle Against Time" leads you into the hard core but still regal sounding "Death And The Healing", which carries you with its amazing melodic qualities to the furious "Starchild" and on and on you go up the ladder to the pinnacle.

This album is so well constructed and delivers such a dynamic tour de force that I do suggest you get a doctors consent if you have any type of heart condition. It is loud. It is epic. It is electrifying!

There must be something in the water of Finland. It seems that some of the best hard core music in the world is coming from this region. If you haven't taken a taste of it yet, then this is a great place to take a first sip. This band is one of the best so far and will be a force to reckon with in the near future. I see great things ahead for them as there is not many who can do what they do.

Wintersun: Wintersun
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-08-03 14:19:23
My Score:

Formerly of Enfiserum, guitarist and vocalist Jari Maenpaa has teamed up with Rotten Sound drummer Kai Hahto to form his new band Wintersun. Rounding out the lineup are Jukka Koskinen (Norther) on bass and Teemu Mantysaari (Imperanon) on second guitar. This is their first disc and expands on a variety of influences. Basically the music is mostly in a Euro power metal vein that utilises incessant double drum bass with highly melodic twin guitar lines.

However, there is also some Gothenburg style death metal riffing mixed up with subtle folky passages that Maenpaa seems to have carried over from his former band. Granted this is no where near as Viking-inspired or folky as Enfiserum, there is a good dose of extreme metal injected into their songs, mostly reminiscent of Children of Bodom and Norther. Maenpaa's extreme scream vocals bring to mind Alexi Laiho's vocals on the earlier Children of Bodom discs, but Maenpaa also uses some clean vocals employing a low, deep register. Best exemplified on their metallic anthem "Winter Madness", he lays down a clean vocal performance over a folky melody during the breakdown that wouldn't seem out of place on a Blind Guardian or Skyclad album. The way the drums and melodic twin guitar attacks blend with a symphonic keyboard backdrop give way to a neoclassical guitar solo with brutal scream vocals on top of it all. "Sleeping Stars" is another melodic metal number starting with deep clean vocals quickly shifting to the black-ish scream type of singing. The production on this album is mediocre, and it seems the song arrangements needed more work in the studio. This certainly lacks the pristine and smooth sounds of Children of Bodom and Norther, two bands whose fanbase Wintersun must have targeted to some extent.

"Battle Against Time" is one of the longer cuts, spanning 7 minutes. It has a long, drawn-out intro that is centred around fast guitar riffing and some background vocals humming a nice melody. As the keys make their way into the track along with the vocals, it becomes more interesting with nice shifts of melody and tone. The operatic clean vocals over staccato guitar riffs and pounding kick-drums is quite enjoyable and renders this one of the most diverse tunes on this disc. Blazing guitar solos, pulverizing keyboards and an impressive rhythm workout only serve to enhance the powerful chorus sung in a nice counterpoint style. No such album goes without power ballads. Check out "Death and the Healing" with tons of acoustic guitars, catchy melodies and a subdued folk sadness. The chorus of this song isn't their best, but works well nevertheless.

Wintersun's eponymous album is an average album. It sure lends itself to a multitude of genres from power metal to melodic metal to folk, but honestly, this is just a less successful version of Children of Bodom. Future releases will sure find them improving, but so far my opinion is that Wintersun needs to decide what they really want to focus on and take things from there. Otherwise, for the regular Enfiserum fan they won't be Viking-metal enough, whilst the average Norther listener won't find the guitar-keyboard duels as satisfying. On the melodic front however, this album will appeal to many fans.

» Reader Comments:

Wintersun: Wintersun
Posted by Micah on 2007-01-11 20:51:38
My Score:

is the thing about his vocals a joke? He has some of the best pipes in metal...

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