Wintersun – The Forest Seasons

Do not buy this

I’d like to clear something up right away – under no circumstances should you buy this album new. Even if it was a good album I’d be saying to pick it up used or pirate it, because by buying it directly from the label you are supporting the petulant, entitled manchild Jari Mäenpää and all of his ridiculous antics. Buying this new means you are saying that the very notion of releasing an album purely out of spite because you couldn’t have your own studio built for you, or releasing half of an album after 8 years, or refusing to release the music you promised until a studio is funded by your fans is somehow acceptable.

Bringing up non-musical matters in this case is not only absolutely fair but also completely logical, necessary and above all, honest. To ‘focus on the music only’ is flagrantly disingenuous, as this album exists entirely because of Jari’s unbelievable sense of entitlement. He had no intention of recording this originally, but made it only so he could fund the construction of his own studio. Make no mistake people, this album is a stopgap released only so Jari could make more money to fuel his delusions. It is a piece of commercial fodder, and examining its musical contents reveals just how lazy and effortless it really is.

This album is in a similar style to his last album, that being fairly standard melodic death/power metal with a lighter but still prominent usage of synthesised orchestrations and an attempt at an epic atmosphere. This in theory is a good blend but it simply never comes together whenever Jari has a stab at it, because he never sticks to what he’s good at: high tempo short songs loaded with excellent hyper-melodic riffing, blasting drums and incredible guitar soloing with an optional usage of keyboards as a background instrument. He can’t pull off anything lengthy, slow or atmospheric because he can’t write good riffs in a slower, more grandiose style or compose keyboard parts that are interesting enough to be the focus of the music, and these songs are no exception.

Every song plods along with below average and sluggish riffs that are totally boring and unmemorable, with similarly bland drumming. The attempt at a darker and more stripped sound here means virtually no good soloing, removing the only saving grace of his weaker material. This also means that Jari’s substandard riffing has taken centre stage, compounding the issue of dull music by making its core completely unengaging. To make matters worse, while the keyboards are dialed back to a tolerable level they’re never used to great effect, with very few notable melodies or effective attempts to accent the music, instead chiming along with no consequence. The vocals aren’t up to the task either, as he sounds very bored when singing or growling. Even the worst of the last two albums had a better vocal performance from him, and it is a suitably boring performance for such boring and empty music.

In spite of the totally boring performances what kills this album is the approach to the songwriting. Given the mess that was Time I it is safe to say that Jari believes in the principle of ‘more = better’. This seems to be the only way he can work a climax into a song, because to do so he’ll just throw in some choirs and have more keys chiming. There’s no actual dynamics here, at least not in the sense of building and releasing tension through appropriate usage of instruments. He just increases the volume of all the bells and whistles, and it doesn’t work at all, as the music feels flat and dead whether it is loud or quiet. It’s a completely artificial approach that demonstrates why more layers and gloss can’t make up for good songwriting and atmosphere. There in fact is no atmosphere as a result of all the instrumental and structural deficiencies. The songs don’t even feel evocative of the seasons they represent, which is simply laughable.

Another issue is that the songs are *far* too long – each song could have each section cut in half and the effect would be the same. To compound this issue, riffs are repeated too much and not varied enough and songs ultimately go nowhere by the time they finally end, because they don’t conclude in a resounding or interesting way. However, the worst part is that it sounds as if each section of any song is just there so it ticks off a checklist. This is down to the fact that Jari can’t actually write long songs, because when he does he throws any idea he can think of into a song without making it all flow properly or fleshing each idea out, and the end result are songs that feel like a collection of unrelated ideas. There’s no rhyme or reason for a quiet bit or a choral part to be in the songs at all, other than because songs usually have them. Nothing really stitches them together, it all feels bizarrely disjointed and makes the songs tedious to listen to as they arbitrarily run through a set of tropes.

Ironically this album benefits greatly from not being recorded in a world class studio, because unlike Time I this isn’t completely drenched in overdone keyboards and the music doesn’t sound anywhere near as processed, digital and hollow. Instead it sports a typical modern sound, with slightly clicky drums and a fat and crunchy guitar tone. While the production means that the music doesn’t jump out at the listener at all, by the same token it isn’t obnoxiously noisy and actually has a relative sense of dynamics, which in turn makes it a little easier to take in. It must be stressed that this is all relative however – this is still a chore to sit through on account of the boring music as well as the abysmal song structuring. The album still has no dynamics in terms of mood or tension, only in terms of pure volume and layers.

I think Jari has his priorities all wrong. Given the decent production achieved on this album a new studio isn’t needed. Instead, Jari should use the money he extorted to hire some session musicians who can actually write some good music, because he clearly can’t anymore. It’s either that or he really didn’t try with this album because as mentioned previously it exists only so Jari can take more money to release music he should have released 5 years ago, and that is perhaps the most revolting thing about this album. It is one thing to make an album that is a cashgrab, but it’s quite another to make a cashgrab album that sounds like a cashgrab. It’s completely dull and effortless music by a spiteful, bitter man. Hopefully after this dreck and the entire crowdfunding fiasco we can forget about this idiot forever. What a colossal waste of time this album is – avoid.

Rating: 20%

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