Metal

Like Summer 2018 Music to Your Ears playlist + Music Quickies

Like usual in the summertime I have not looked out for that much new music but focused on… Just summer I guess. I dunno where it went. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been new tracks on my playlist. Not all of the chosen music is summery, in fact most isn’t. Instead of idiotic hip summer music, the playlist has plain really fucking good tracks.

Metals of summer 2018

-6122529-1411671592-2798At The Gates published their new album To Drink From The Night Itself in 2018. It’s a pretty good effort with some memorable tracks (To Drink From The Night Itself, In Nameless Sleep, The Mirror Black) but most of all it made me retry their previous album At War With Reality (2014). Somehow I had skipped it altogether and it proved to be a mistake, it’s an extremely solid melodic death metal album that only loses a bit of punch by the end. And I don’t get excited about melodic death metal easily. Circular Ruins has a grandiose last half, great chorus, lovely guitar harmonies and fierce vocals (even the Crawling Chaos from H.P. Lovecraft gets a mention), what’s not to like.


Slugdge-Esoteric-Malacology-e1519751375282Slugdge – Spectral Burrows. Esoteric Malacology is probably my favourite album of 2018 so far. Cosmic progressive death metal with a gimmicky lyric theme, that does not reflect to the overall quality of the music. How the hell a band that sings about snails makes lyrics and music this good.

 



R-10663576-1501951371-9132.jpegMagoth – Requiem Deus (Anti Terrestrial Black Metal, 2017). So, there’s these rare songs that starts with a chorus. Really untypical but you find them sometimes. Requiem Deus is one of those but on top of that, the chorus is instrumental! That’s even rarer I guess! The basis is a strong as shit tremolo melody. I bet a lot of black metal bands could have composed this tremolo but how the track is arranged brings so much more power to it.


R-12160526-1529516094-5694.jpegCraft‘s 2018 album White Noise and Black Metal does not seem to be as strong as Void (2011), but Void was ridiculously good. Cosmic Sphere Falls is right there among the best tracks of Craft’s career. Summer and black metal baby.

 

 


102919-awakeningAsunojokei – Spring of Passion (Awakening, 2018). Combining black metal, post-hardcore and Japanese anime music melodies. How can it not fail? Asunojokei’s compositions sound so logical that on paper they sound much more weird than what they actually sound!

 


homeland

My Reflection – Homeland (single, 2018) Out of the blue My Reflection published the best song of their career. Extremely symphonic melodic metal with a graceful music video that was shot in a time span of one year to portray Finnish nature and the seasons. The track celebrates the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. Homeland should satisfy the fans of bands like Wintersun and Nightwish. The 2 minute intro already cuts the mustard and it warms my heart that the soaring female vocals are paired with strongly grunted, black metallish rasp and some good ol’ blast beating sections. I also just published a short article about the track: https://likemusictoyourears.com/2018/08/10/my-reflection-homeland-epic-symphonic-melodic-metal/


leprousLeprous – Stuck (Malina, 2017). Leprous gig in Tuska was among the best of the festival. The band looks like school boys and at best sounds like jazz musicians doing their impression of catchy progressive metal. The weird drumming style and lots of rhythmic hooks have drawn me quite in to their style. The last 1.5 minutes of rhythmics on Stuck are such a bliss.

 


doomedDoomed – Our Gifts (6 Anti-Odes to Life, 2018). Death/doom. Strong album that might lack a bit of high-points but the overall quality makes up for it. Especially The Doors and Our Gifts are high class atmospheric death-doom tracks. Strangely the tacit and slow instrumental Layers (Ode To Life) has been playing in my head after waking up, I guess it’s beautiful enough. As a satisfyingly logical detail, it is also the 7th track of the record!

 


Meshuggah_-_The_Violent_Sleep_of_Reason

Meshuggah – By The Ton (Violent Sleep of Reason, 2016). Another high point of Tuska 2018. The rhythmic majesty combined with the supreme light-show at times induced a catharsis. For example the title track of the record had a super satisfying effect of white lights going down on rhythm and speed with huge downward slides of one of the central riffs (first appearing at 0:34). By focusing on the lights they brought a completely new visual rhythm element to the show. By The Ton is still my favourite track of the record.


Electronics of summer 2018

a0487580087_10Slipdrive – Nova Byzantium a Thousand Spires of Light (River of Heaven OST, 2014). A complete random find from a soundtrack of a pen an paper roleplaying game I’ve never played and probably never will. The soundtrack is lovely sci-fi-game music-chillout-electro. Nova Byzantium and The Coming Renunciation seem to launch the listener straight into space.

 


42084Vector Lovers – Monologue (iPhonica, 2013). Music that sounds like you were on drugs. Sounds that seem to come from an other dimension in surprising relaxing symmetry. Such weird sensations and damn if I like it!

 

 


glanko orvotGlanko – Orvot (single, 2018). Glanko’s progressive sci-fi IDM or what the heck it is always activates my synapses. Chillout electronic track with really strong astral spacey vibes. Ideal for watching a spacestation move slowly with a small beam drive, multicoloured star rings and nebulas shining around it.

 


Finnish music of summer 2018 (sad list)

R-12137234-1529049213-7911.jpegPaperi T – Muutos (Kaikki on hyvin, 2018). My mainstream sin. The flow and sound of Paperi-T’s vocals and the cunning punning lyrics are a joy to listen. Even though his darker compositions and lyrics seem to be in the past, when Paperi-T is at his darkest that’s when I enjoy him the most. One of those lyricists that makes you want to google what the hell he is singing about but can also surprise with straight-forward lines and stories. New album is quite uneven but has a really good starting trinity.

Aether Realm – Tarot

a4166387068_10-500x500After getting goosebumpy by the original sounding intro of the starting track of Tarot (2017), The Fool, the multitude of Finnish metal influences really caught me off guard! A lot of melodeath, Wintersun’s epic song-writing, combining clean, heroic and very Jari Mäenpää-style raspy vocals. Power metal elements and blastbeating with bright melodic backline are straight out of Wintersun’s repertoire too. Insomnium style very melancholic guitar melodylines pop up ever so often. There’s a huge folk metal backbone that could, logically after two such clear influences, be based on Ensiferum, but just as well to some other influental 2000s folk metal band. Then! All the sudden The Emperor is a pure Kalmah track! Have these guys from North Carolina listened to anything else except Finnish metal!?

And why would the Finnish metal influences be negative?

Lo! They are using these influences with a lot of class, Tarot is a really really solid album. The four above mentioned Finnish bands are huge influence on my metal background so it’s no wonder that I’m keen on placing them on Tarot. Upon further listens it is clear that Tarot is not a copycat but an original album and a great mesh. And fair enough, there’s technical death metal riffing, power metal (Tarot), flashy pure rock solo (The Tower), black metal intro and a flamenco break (The Devil), midi intro (The Sun, the Moon, the Star), melancholic acoustic material (Temperance)… I cannot place the backbone of the album anywhere else than on good old Finnish melodic death metal but it does not make the album any lesser.

On actual negatives and melodies

How many times have I stressed that an album that clocks 73 minutes is TOO … FUCKING … LONG. Sure enough, Strength is a filler track and The Chariot not much of my liking. Notable weaknesses are the very cheesy and unoriginal folk metal melodies in Strength‘s verse and chorus and The Chariot‘s chorus. The American groove metal vibe and attitude lyrics of The Chariot are not to my personal preferences either. However Strength does have a pre-verse that does some good old goosebumps and The Chariot a c-part that grooves like a moose. This package would be tighter without them even though these tracks are ok and especially The Chariot may interest a lot of fans. Better to have more material than too little i guess.

Mostly Aether Realm use their melodic patterns, if not originally, but well enough for me to enjoy them. It is not a melodic symphonic extravaganza like the fellow US band Wilderun, through which I found them. Aether Realm’s melodies are often folk but stellar enough to not slip into joyful major keys. The melodies have been used with good harmony. Symphonic sections and melancholic melodies, keep the folkish melodies fresh. An occasional less melodic riff-storm like The Devil is a very welcome addition.

I am very picky about folk metal melodies, I got tired of Ensiferum’sand Korpiklaani’s hip folk metal in about 2004.

Few more notable tracks…

Tarot does have major charm. Especially The Fool, hard-hitting and rhythmic Death (Only For The Weak in the beginning riff, anyone?) and the 19 minute opus, The Sun, the Moon, the Star which has some serious epicness going on. The Sun, the Moon, the Star is really hard to dissect into bits but it flows smoothly as hell from choir hits to electronic sounds, symphonic melodeath riffing with folk cleans to power metal riffing followed by straight to your face melodic guitar frenzy and black metallish blastbeating. Then a piano interlude! And this was just a 3 minute part in the middle of it!

Even the drinking song King of Cups does not fall into an unoriginal drinking song pothole but is genuinely a good track with mean vocal delivery, some killer fucking guitar work and lovely weird ass solo.

8½/10

Best albums and tracks of 2017

The best albums of 2017 contains 60 albums that I listened enough to warrant them a place in this list. Scroll further down for the best tracks as a Spotify playlist and a few pickups that I missed in 2016. Hyperlinks lead to reviews.


Best albums of 2017

Near perfect (9+)

cover-sm

Loss — Horizonless – funeral doom / deathdoom – Horizonless by Loss is a giant of a funeral doom album. It portrays a wide dispersal of moods, shifting between beautiful, crushing and ominous. The instrumentation and sounds are all top level, even the bass guitar comes to the fore time to time.
     Horizonless seeped among the best albums of 2017 slowly. I dare to say this is my favourite doom release from the US since Morgion’s criminally underknown Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth (2004).


Excellent (9)

R-10928436-1506685605-4925.jpeg

Nyss — Princesse Terre (Three Studies of Silence and Death) – atmospheric black metal – Fantastic atmosphere, riffs and use of effective repetition. Climaxes, build-ups, some melodies, backing ambience. Absolute top tier atmospheric and hypnotic black metal.


Very good (9-)

Grave Pleasures — Motherblood – death rock / post-punk – Everything that Beastmilk, who later renamed themselves to Grave Pleasures did right in the first album Climax (2013) also comes in place on Motherblood. The blasphemous lyrics, deathrock and catchy pop hooks groove together elegantly again.
     The album retains a strong base level through it’s length. Tracks like Joy Through Death dance between two worlds masterfully. It could be an eulogy or as well just a piece of dark humorous obscenity!

Hebosagil — Fortuna / Auta – noise rock / post-metal / hardcore punk – Bursting with melodies and aggression. I don’t think they’ve ever before had this many pop hooks. On the other hand, the 2nd track Auta still flirts with drone and noise rock with violently paranoid lyrics…


Good+ (8½)

Septicflesh — Codex Omega – symphonic death metal

Woe — Hope Attrition – atmospheric black metal – biggest grower of the year.

Oranssi Pazuzu — Kevät / Värimyrsky Psychedelic black metal / stoner doom – Pazuzu re-released their split with Candy Cane with the name Farmakologinen, it’s a 9+/10 album but also released a brand new great single. Värimyrsky is a welcome nod back to their old days.

Slægt — Domus Mysterium – black metal / heavy metal – I really liked the 2015 EP Beautiful and Damned so it’s really welcome to see they are as good a full-length band!

Wintersun  — The Forest Seasons – symphonic metal /progressive metal / melodic metal – Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons might be the album that has split most opinions in 2017. It currently stands at 56 % in Metal Archives which cannot be based on music alone. For the musics in this music album are mostly solid as heck.
     First three tracks (clocking over 40 minutes) are packed with memorable melodies, good songwriting and fine sounding symphonics. Wintersun is not a one trick pony solely based on power metal and melodeath. The album has a few aces up its sleeve. For example, most melodeath bands might not try their skills in black metal or melancholic doom.

Heptaedium — How Long Shall I Suffer Here? – electronic metal / breakcore / nintendocore / progressive metal

Glanko — OsmosiSci-fi IDM – Dark toned themes with sci-fi elements. Glanko has matured and found great melody lines to accompany beats more diverse than ever. Perfect music for reading sci-fi like Dan Simmonds Hyperion quartet! You can add / remove half a point depending if you are reading sci-fi or not!

Sun of The Sleepless — To The Elements – atmospheric black metal


Good+ (8+)

Vallenfyre — Fear Those Who Fear Him – oldschool death metal with connections to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Abhorrence. Not surprisingly, the best moments on Fear Those Who Fear Him are the slower doomier bits. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

The Moth Gatherer — The Comfortable Low – post-metal / post-rock

Wear Your Wounds — WYW – slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze – side-project of Converge’s Jacob Bannon. The highs are really high if you’ve always digged the slower tracks of Converge. WYW strips down almost all heavy guitars and is quite a melancholic slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze album. Unsurprisingly the heaviest moments rank among the best.
There’s over 20 minutes of boring material in the midst of 63 minutes so I’m ranking it more for the good points than for the bad. Just skipping the last two tracks already makes it great. Still difficult to get into. 

Ayreon — The Source (album 1) – progressive rock / musical

AlNamrood — Enkar – Middle Eastern blackened deaththrash – one of the biggest growers of the year, initially I did not even like Enkar it as it does not repeat the mystic and even majestic atmospheric tricks of their 2015 album Diaji Al Joor. Enkar is quite a punk album compared to Diaji but after over 10 listens the Middle Eastern instrumentation, nuances and straightforward fierce song-writing started to really feel like a tight package.


Good (8ish)

Over the Voids… — Over The Voids – black metal

James Elkington — Wintres Womasinger-songwriter / acoustic / folk – At best Elkington channels Nick Drake’s gentle guitar virtuosity. Fortunately he is not a one-trick pony but I admit I’m a sucker for the more complicated pickings.

Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar – avant-garde synthpop / experimental

Converge — The Dusk In Us – metalcore / hardcore / post-hardcore

WÖYH! — KRTKRTK – progressive rock / children’s music for adults

Janne Westerlund — There’s a Passage singer-songwriter / folk / acoustic / experimental

Au-Dessus — End of Chapter – atmospheric black metal / post-metal

The Faceless — In Becoming a Ghost – progressive death metal – Half really good (Digging The Grave, The Spiraling Void, Shake The Disease, I Am, half of Black Star), the rest is filler. Extra points from how the melodramatic intro sets up Digging the Grave. The jumpiest album start since Ghost of Perdition by Opeth!

Pryapisme — Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium – Avant-garde metal / experimental metal


8-

Ochre — Beyond The Outer Loop – idm / downtempo / ambient

Troldhaugen — Idio+syncrasies – avant-garde metal / humour metal – Half funny, half annoying, half great. This is a true love it or hate it album, yet I am inbetween because the compositions are mostly great but vocals oft times annoyingly over freaky. The metalcore / crabcore influences aren’t that much of my liking either, some of the avant-garde elements are outrageously good and only a few outrageously annoying (the rap part of It’s Morphine Time, yet the chorus is a hilarious stadium rock sing-a-long). The album has hints of Crotchduster-like greatness. Bullseye track has the best track title of the year: I Ordered A Taxi Driver Not A Taxidermy.

Riitaoja — Täytettyjä lintuja – experimental indie rock / art rock / folk

Wvrm — Can You Hear The Wind Howl – grindcore / death metal – 10 minutes is just the right length for this kind of furious album. 6 tracks with a 3 minute doomy headbanger in the midst. Epic track length in their standards.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana – garage rock / psychedelic rock

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Gumboot Soup – garage rock / psychedelic rock – The rest of the 5 (!!!!!) albums they released this year I did not check properly yet. Quick check on Polygondwanaland sounds like another real quality effort. It’s concept would also be worth a mention. Here’s a great Youtube video sumup of their 5 album plan. King Gizzard is probably the most innovative rock band at the moment. Maybe one of the albums will match their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity.

Hanging Garden — I Am Become – atmospheric rock / doom metal – Blackout Whiteout was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, the first tastes of I am Become were great, yet it did not have the growth of the last album. The best bits Kouta and Our Dark Design are top class and the album does not really have bad sections either.

Lantern — II: Morphosis – new wave of Finnish oldschool dark death metal in the vein of Demigod and Convulse


Kardinaalit — Primus Culpa experimental / rock / humour – Primus Culpa demo should be annoying but mostly it is actually funny. These guys also have some high class material in their soundcloud (also a lot of junk), eagerly awaiting if they piece their shit together out of humour terrains and develop their stronger tracks. At least 3-4 are already fully ready and would be a backbone of a very strong release

Enslaved — E – progressive metal / viking metal / black metal – possible grower

Eneferens — In The Hours Beneath – atmospheric rock / atmospheric black metal

Wolves in the Throne Room — Thrice Woven – atmospheric black metal

Fen — Winter – atmospheric black metal – possible grower

Vulture Industries — Stranger Times – progressive metal / avant-garde metal – The first three tracks of the album are really fucking good which is why it’s such a shame that the rest of the album is strangely mediocre to almost useless. Three other tracks do stand out a bit. Something Vile’s last half is driven by good lead guitars and heavy drum pounding, matching the beginning. Midnight Draws Near and Screaming Reflections do have great vocals and good dynamic going on but constantly slow paced pretty good compositions fail to resonate much after the beginning of the album does everything a few notches better.

Pillorian Obsidian Arc – atmospheric black metal


7+

Ne Obliviscaris — Urn – progressive metal

KANASHIMI — INORI depressive black metal / funeral doom / japanese pop influences – yes you read right, Scar of the heart is a bullseye of a track, a nicely unique dsbm sound. Then the one man project repeats it nearly all album long… Classic one man band problem really.

Havukruunu — Kelle surut soi – pagan black metal – hello Moonsorrow, these guys are pretty good in their own right too. Bullseye track: Kelle Surut Soi.

Inferno Requiem — Nüwa 女媧 – oldschool black metal / atmospheric black metal

Igorrr — Savage Sinusoid – avant-garde metal / breakcore / electronic

Skyclad — Forward Into The Past – folk metal / heavy metal – metal-observer’s review seemed to sum most of my thoughts. I just have to add the best track “Change Is Coming” is at part with almost any of their tracks and “State of The Union Now” a fresh reminder of their thrash past. Judging by the 2015 album Atom by Atom, Steve Ramsay might just leave his best tracks for his other project, Satan.

Myrkur — Maredit – black metal / indie rock / dream pop – fantastic beginning then the mediocre but well sung indie / dream pop elements come to the surface. Most of the metallish tracks are slow, doomy and boring. The blastbeating chaotic atmosphere appears too scarcely. Luckily there’s Gladiatrix.


Okay (7ish)

Falls of Rauros — Vigilance Perennial – atmospheric black metal

Planeetta 9 — Koivut – Finnish metal / rock / doom

Falaise — My Endless Immensityblackgaze

Akercocke — Renaissance In Extremis – avant-garde metal / black metal – Possible grower, ~8 listens doesn’t seem to be enough

Alfahanne — Det Nya Svarta – post-punk / death rock – One track miracle Satans Verser, probably the best rock track of the year, there’s a good mellow post-punk atmosphere but Avgrundsgravitation and Det Nya Svarta are the only tracks that completely succeed in tension. Mitt mörkär är mörkäre än ditt is weirdly catchy, I can’t quite put my hand on it, if i like it or don’t. Same catchiness goes for Även an Hund Har Sin Dag. For a while I thought the album is great until it crashed down to mediocre. I admit I might like it more if I bothered to understand more of the lyrics.

Ayreon — The Source (album 2) – progressive rock / musical

Paradise Lost — Medusa – doom metal / death doom


Okay- (6½) aka class c black metal

Fleurety — The White Death – One track miracle The Ballad of The Copernicus, few ok tracks besides it (White Death, Future Day). Special credit to the worst riff of the year in the peculiarly, chosen single track Lament of the Optimist.

Ajattara — Lupaus – black metal – One track miracle Saatanan Sinetti, few good tracks besides it (Sinä, last half of Lupaus). Most lyrics a bit stupid: Pimeä, pimeä, kuolema, kuolema blah blah blah.. Special credit to stupidest choruses of the year in Ristinkirot and Machete. Too bad as Machete is musically quite a great headbanger.

Charnel Winds — Verschränkung – Avant-garde metal / black metal

Asagraum — Potestas Magicum Diaboli – black metal


Best tracks of 2017

Best tracks arranged to a playlist in quite random order. Playlist in text-pdf format + a few tracks that aren’t in Spotify: Best_tracks_of_2017


Bubbling under

Brilliant tracks just below the first category. Except on a good day…


2016 reprise

Bunch of interesting 2016 releases found too late

9ish

Downfall of Gaia — Atrophy – atmospheric black metal / post black metal

W. Iivarinen — Melankolia – Finnish metal / rock

8ish

Blood Incantation — Starspawn – Progressive atmospheric death metal
Jpefmafia — Black Ben Carson
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Cantique Lepreaux — Cendres Célestes
 – atmospheric black metal
Ultha — Converging Sins – atmospheric black metal / post-black metal
明日の叙景(Asunojokei) — 過誤の鳥 (A Bird in the Fault) – post-black metal/post-hardcore

7 to 8-

Khid — Ohi – experimental rap / trap
Baptism
— V: The Devil’s Fire – black metal
Jpefmafia — The 2nd Amendment
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Saor — Guardians
– atmospheric folk / black metal
Radiopuhelimet — Saastan Kaipuu
– melurock / finnish rock
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra — Broken Lines
– alternative metal / alternative rock

Loss – Horizonless

cover-smThe second album of LossHorizonless is more melancholic and melodic than most funeral doom / death-doom bands from the US. Horizonless has gotten plenty of fine response and is destined to become Loss’s breakthrough from the funeral doom underground.

The soothing melody lines of All Grows on Tears switch fluently between sorrowful and life affirming, reminding of very melodic death-doom bands like Swallow The Sun. At times Loss broods on dark riffs and the melodies are more nihilistic serving in a supporting role. Loss doesn’t go as far as all encompassing heaviness of Evoken although the first halves of Banishment and the title track Horizonless seem to seep from same sources.

There are plenty of small sections that are not from a playbook of a layman doom band. For example the acoustic guitars in the beginning of When Death Is All, or the little jazzy bass lines that at times heighten into leads riding over the dark wave of The Joy of All Who Sorrow. I have come to know – THE JOY OF ALL WHO SORROW! Then… How about the last 20 seconds that goes black metal? It’d actually be a really fucking good ending track. Too bad Loss didn’t ask me before they released the album ;).

I first thought the album to be a stellar but not superb that has an incredibly strong starter in The Joy of All Who Sorrow. After such a great track the rest of the album feels a tad stale. Also let’s face it, When Death is All is not the epic closer a masterclass album should have. It does have a pretty outro and good elements but as an entity it sounds a bit pieced together. The rest of the 5 main tracks that clock around 10 minutes are more fluent.

The album was on hiatus from my playlist for a few months after which I decided to move The Joy of All Who Sorrow as a last track and LO! Imminent new charm skyrocketed Horizonless among the best releases of 2017. I.O. serves as a fine intro but Moved Beyond Murder‘s 2.44 of ambient humming I removed altogether. Besides these 2 there are also two other semi-intermission tracks that serve well in their place. Almost 15 minutes of intermissions is still too much. (See the bottom of the post to listen the Like Music To Your Ears version of the album).

Naught deserves a couple of special mentions. The beginning clean guitars twinkle like the stars in the cover of the album and its last 3 minutes have the most chilling and indulging vocal lines. The vocalist Mike Meacham sounds to be committing an auditory seppuku with output of pure suffering and contempt. His usual vocal style is almost comically low growling, but the moments when he ranges to high screams and clean vocals are all highlights.

I dare to say this is my favourite doom release from the US since Morgion’s criminally underknown Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth (2004).

9/10

Bandcamp: https://loss.bandcamp.com/album/horizonless
A good interview about the themes of the album: http://newnoisemagazine.com/loss-self-reliance-exceeding-horizons/

Fixed track order to maximize The Joy of All Who Sorrow:

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

Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

vallenfyreforthosecdOldschool Death metal from Gregor Mackintosh (founding member of Paradise Lost), Hamish Hamilton Glencross (ex-My Dying Bride 2000-2014, Ex-Solstice) and Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost, Abhorrence & bunch of others).

Not surprisingly the slower doomier parts are the most memorable bits. And boy are they macabre enough! Vallenfyre has two sides really, the slow tracks and oldschool death metal, both are performed with a very crusty guitar sound.

The video track An Apathetic Grave hits the right notes instantly, with the catchy guitar leads on the chorus, joined by powerful raspy vocals far removed from the seeming apathy of the track title. The Merciless Tide took more time to fruition as the best track of the album with its slow, ominous guitar leads that weave throughout the whole track. How much more doom than this can you be:
In a second
The life I knew
Existed no more
The cold hands
I could no longer warm

Third doom track (11th on the record), Cursed From The Womb feels like the lyrical centerpiece. It took even more time to grow than The Merciless Tide with an undertone a notch more ominous too. The tempo is the slowest with plenty of air between the hits. Lovely use of repetition and heavy beat invites for serious…slow…headbanging.

The only killer death metal track of the album is Soldier of Christ. Juicy guitar leads keep popping up and finally lead to the outro which is probably the most striking individual moment of the album. Powerful articulation and slow riff create a macabre image:
Abused by the protectors
Baptised in the filth of mankind
Behind the glorious curtain
Maggots feast
On the blood divine

I admit it, I am too much of a sucker for Vallenfyre’s slow and methodical sound. Their 2014 album Splinters is very similar in really fine slow tracks (Bereft, Scabs, Splinters). On Splinters the band really found the lovely crunchy, crusty guitar sound that they utilise so well on Fear Those Who Fear Him. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

Oldschool death metal usually bores me, but when you sprinkle killer doom tracks in the midst it is very tolerable indeed. Unfortunately I cannot say many of the tracks besides the mentioned rouse notable interest. Classical gig-starter Messiah and really fast and aggressive circle-pit / track Nihilist perhaps most so (simple enough for a good sing-along too “Nihilist, Nihilist, Nihilist – Nihilist, Nihilist, Nihilist”!).

It is such joy to behold how well the drummer W. Väyrynen adapts between slow and fast tracks. It is quite natural when you think of his previous history though. Vallenfyre has a fair bit of old Paradise Lost in the slow tracks and the faster ones do remind of Abhorrence (oldschool death) and Rytmihäiriö (thrash / death / hardcore punk).

Fear Those Who Fear Him is going to be found in many “best albums of 2017” lists. For people with more liking to oldschool death metal than me, you can easily add half a grade more.

8+/10