Melodic Metal

Wintersun – The Forest Seasons

Wintersun - The Forest Seasons Cover mp3Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons might be the album that has split most opinions in 2017. Their Indiegogo campaign raised 464 330 euros (!) to be spent on their new headquarters that’d allow them to reach their “true vision” in future releases. As the frontman/main composer Jari Mäenpää stated, expensive limited studio time is not ideal for the massive compositions he wants to make.

The Forest Seasons represents a rawer sound that they can reach without the top notch equipment that is planned for the eternally overdue Time II. In fact, The Forest Seasons is almost completely a bedroom recording. All instruments are recorded by Jari Mäenpää.

The only reward level of the campaign was 50 euros and the reward: The Forest Package. It includes a new album, master files + bonus track, isolated tracks of the new album, live album from Tuska 2013, First album remaster 2.0, Time I remaster 1.5, Time I master files + isolated tracks, booklets, wallpapers, photos & instrumentals.

Some have praised the album, some accused Jari Mäenpää of being a conman before even getting the rewards. The truth is still out there, but following the whole campaign from the start till the end; I appreciated the honesty that they portrayed in a making of documentary. It was a good long watch in itself (1h 25min), and obviously free in Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MscAKtZt80I.

The Forest Seasons currently stands at 56 % in Metal-archives (19 reviews). I would say this is not based on just the music.

Wintersun’s first record (2004) has a special place in my heart though it has not lasted time (no pun intended) as well as some of the melodeath albums of its … Wait for it … Time… I did not think the second album Time I (2012) was much more than alright, 7-8/10. A lot of people are accusing The Forest Seasons of having bad sounds which is so puzzling considering Time I symphonics are at worst near frigging Casio quality. At times they are great, but the base level is not what I was expecting. I can totally understand Jari wanting to have more a bombastic sound in the future.

What bothers me about The Forest Seasons

I already thanked Wintersun about their honesty BUT one has to acknowledge that they did manage to kind of conceal the fact that drums are actually programmed. They are not played by the drummer of the band Kai Hahto. Obviously they never stated anything other. The drums are luckily very well programmed. The drum sound does not bother me at all, just the fact that they weren’t openly expressing that Kai Hahto is not going to play the drums. He is a drummer a lot of people rave about after all and made a lot of appearances in the documentary. Including appearing in the booklet as a band member.

I personally feel some cheese in the lyrics could have been avoided. At times the folk/viking metal aesthetics sound out of place on an album that is strongly based on the elements and seasons. Wintersun’s phrase book of cliche fantasy literature elements could have been set a bit farther away. Clear cut example of this is the last 7 minutes of power metal and viking choirs in Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring). I enjoy the end nevertheless, it just could have been less of a cheesefest. As an undermining factor, I rarely enjoy power metal. On the other hand I find the sing-along choirs of The Forest That Weeps (Summer) totally irresistible.

On with the good stuff

In short, The Forest Seasons is a damn good album, which is all that should matter. First three tracks are packed with memorable melodies, good song-writing and fine sounding symphonics. I really like bombastic elements, so for me the symphonics are a bit too much on the background. The guitar sound could have also been more powerful at times, but it’s a minor concern except in the last track. There’s a fine amount of details and stuff happening but also a great sense of progression present. For example how the Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring) meanders to small climax on 4.30. Slows down and finally gets to the chorus at about 7 minute mark.

The Forest That Weeps (Summer) has a similar meandering progression, the chorus comes early but it’s still not as climactic as later in the track. Some details like “I saw the lakes that shimmer” with echoing/airy keyboard melodies create images powerfully. It’s actually stunning how the track turns melancholic in the end. It brilliantly portrays a familiar August melancholy when the summer is almost at an end. This might be the best track of 2017 & Wintersun discography.

The 3rd track Eternal Darkness (Autumn) surprises with straight to your face fierce black metallish tempo. I didn’t expect Jari, a composer known for his power metal antics, to pull off black metal so well. Also, a fitting last.fm comment about the god tier solo at about 8.20:
wintersunsolo

Not all of it is of my liking

Wintersun succeeded in black metal atmosphere but the last track Loneliness (Winter) does not succeed as a doom track as well. The atmosphere is mostly there but the track fails to resound my nerves. First explanation could be the main riff that is quite buried, and not that special. Heavy guitars are quite instrumental in creating, umm, heavy atmosphere. Now the guitars are just a backing track there. I listen to a lot of melancholic doom metal and I just don’t get the feels from Loneliness (Winter).

The 8 minute acoustic version that’s a bonus track in The Forest Package is a bit more compact and a better version too. The c-part before the final chorus with its emotional guitar leads and vocal harmonies nearly gives me chills. That’s a lot more than what the distorted version does. The acoustic guitar sound is a bit steely, I’ve heard better and more natural sounds, it is not a huge concern nevertheless.

Short sum up

Even with skipping the last track, which seems to have its fans, the album still has 41 minutes of material that I’d classify great. Can’t complain too much.

8+/10

10 Wintersun Forest Spirits Wallpaper

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Music quickies – Vektor, Current 93, Katatonia, Devin Townsend Project, Behemoth

vektor-terminal_redux Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016)
Vektor’s hyped 2016 release is astronomically progressive metal. Vektor was the best modern thrash metal band for years, it is about time for them to get recognition. For an album that sates me midway, it is astoningly good but it would be more enjoyable shorter. It’s really not a better album than their previous efforts but still ridiculously good and full of everything tasty.
9/10
Listen: Mountains Above The Sun + Ultimate Artificer

0Current 93 Calling For Vanished Faces Calling for Vanished Faces (I: Funeral Music for
Us All) and (II: Love, Sleep And Dreams) (1999)

David Tibet’s overtheateritical aesthetics drove this Sol Invictus fanboy mad for half a decade. “Maybe, I might finally appreciate something of theirs?” I thought. I: Funeral Music for Us All starts as an oddities collection I cannot recommend less but picks up on Coal Black Smith, staggers to its most annoying pieces and picks up decently at Hourglass (For Diana) soon to turn into 1 hour 30 minutes of pure neofolk bliss. Probably my favourite release on which I completely skip 1/3 of it.
I 7/10
II 10-/10
Listen: The whole second side, except the 4 ending tracks, is blissful.

570160Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts (2016)
Some outerworldly charm with heartbreaking atmosphere. Drags time to time yet still wrenches heartstrings every minute. Passer‘s descending scale should be obnoxious yet it is genuinely alluring. How on earth did they make it work.
Listen: Decima & Residual for angsting in a dark room, Passer for prog.
Grade upcoming

 

devintownsendprojecttranscendencecdDevin Townsend Project – Transcendence (2016)
Middle aged Devin is zen and re uses his components but those lures still amount some catch. Not bad, but I may have heard too much “c-grade progressive metal” (quoting their own making of documentary) to fully appreciate this kind of polished sound anymore. Danger lurks somewhere else. Here’s hoping the next album goes permanently Higher.

The second album is simply too much as can be noticed from the lack of recognition it has gotten. The (demo) titles are a very Devin Townsendish joke, the stuff is nearly as polised as the first. Love the commercial suicide though, it could have well been released it as a lone piece.
Listen: Higher
7ish/10

395440Behemoth – The Satanist (2014)
If you can think of a more epic way to start a track than in the title track of The Satanist please let me know. The track does not carry the weight of its beginning but the album does. The wall-of-sound production, mildly reminiscent of Emperor, gives it weight unlike many releases.

Incorporating a massive and satisfying finale that only runs through the last minute of Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel requires so much finesse. O Father O Satan O Sun! towers above the rest of the release with another finale, this time based on a monster riff and oration like an esoteric sermon. Here’s hoping The Satanist won’t be the last of Behemoth like Nergal hinted in the past.
Listen: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel & O Father O Satan O Sun!
Grade upcoming

Myrath – Legacy / ميراث – Tunis

555267Myrath is likely the biggest metal band yet to come from Africa. In their 10 years of activity they have released 4 albums of solid standard.

Myrath play melodic progressive metal but during the years they’ve calmed down on the metal and progressive and added more symphonic, almost bombastic elements. The latest album Legacy does not emphasize heaviness and the progressive elements are interwoven in the tracks. There’s no Dream Theater like instrument extremities that were present on their earlier years. It is still very much a metal album, even though the lightweight video track Believer might fool the unwary.

The musicianship and songwriting is top notch. The more crooked and catchy bits like the sudden rhythmics of Nobody’s Lives or the stadium chorus of Get Your Freedom Back are natural parts in the body of the tracks. Nobody’s Lives also includes one of the most notable choruses of the album where English is for a moment replaced with Arabic. The c-part of the said track has a mighty rhythmic groove and at the same time to untrained European ears sounds like a prayer call from a minaret!

The most thrilling component of Myrath are the middle eastern folk influences they augment. Singer Zaher Zorgati deserves a very special mention of his extremely pleasant voice and how he floats his voice in true Arabic fashion. I’ve never heard that being used in metal before and it sounds fantastic. Surprisingly Myrath also adds a few bits of electronic backgrounds here and there.

After the first 3 full tracks of near bliss the quality goes down, I noticed myself humming and sing-alonging way less to melodies and choruses of the latter part of the album. The Needle is a track that for the most part could have been made by any Western band and that is probably why it is less interesting. Duat and Endure the Silence also do not have as strong a melody and choruswork as the rest of the album. Through Your Eyes is a good track with mildly too sweet chorus (although it must be pointed out that it fits the lyrical theme) and Storm of Lies is a good track overall but just more of the same, failing to be the epic closer I was hoping for. Luckily The Unburnt and especially I Want to Die, with its touching lyrics, bring some top notch quality for the latter part of the album too.

The Unburnt’s lyrics surprise by showcasing the story of Daenerys Targaryen of A Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones if you prefer the watered down albeit still good tv-version). It encompasses such ethnic elements so naturally that in my mind it has already intertwined as a part of Daenerys’s character.

Myrath’s strength and weakness lay in the same area, accessibility. For a progressive metal album it’s song structures are too similar to each other to hold interest on top of the scale. However it is really hard to point out many wrongs in what they do. Picking up a single track from the last part of the album yields almost no faults. For someone who is looking for really challenging progressive music, Legacy is probably not ideal, but it has accessibility to spare for more lighthearted music fans who are not afraid of some surprising twists.

8/10