Wintersun - Time I
Nuclear Blast
Jari's Symphonic (Melodic Death) Metal
5 songs (40'09)
Release year: 2012
Wintersun, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Chris
Album of the Year V2

Having the album in my hands feels nothing short of a small miracle :). This album has been pushed back so many times it ended feeling like it might never come. But the day has finally come and Time is finally here, although strangely we seem to get only half of the final product. Time part I. A little more than 40 minutes worth of music that translates into "only" three songs (two instrumentals). When one waits 8 years to get a new album, it sounds really thin, and I won't lie, when I first saw this I thought this had to be a fraking joke and I felt anger rising in me just thinking about it. Now I don't know if Jari decided to split it in two so we could get half the music already (so we don't need to wait another year for the whole thing) while he finishes part II, or if Nuclear Blast wanted to cash in the now legendary for it's absence album. In any case, after 8 years, 3 songs seemed really meager, the big question is, are these songs any good ?

The album starts with a 4 minute instrumental track, rich in Japanese instruments, mood and melodies. But soon Sons of Winter and Stars starts with raging double bass drums, while still having those Japanese strings in the back. The song is 13 minutes and a half long and split into four not-so distinctive parts where Jari treats us with both aggressive screams and very clean vocals, amazing riffs (be it heavy, melodic, crazy fast,...etc) and simply unbelievable orchestrations (there is so many layers to the music it's simply impossible to describe, you'll have to hear it yourself to get the picture). The choirs, the sopranos, background arpeggios, strings and other classical (virtual) instruments all blend to make this song (and album) a true metal symphony that can TRULY rival with Mozart or Wagner if you ask me.

But the entire thing also sounds like a Hollywood sound track sometimes, the best one to come out of a metal band mixing classical music and more electronic instruments to create this strange yet orgasmic fusion metal orchestra. This is without any doubt in my mind the ultimate sound I've ever heard in metal music, bar none ! It eclipses everything Rhapsody ever did and in one song makes their entire discography totally obsolete to me. And the thing Wintersun's debut album is a tough act to follow, as it was and still stands as one of the best melodeath albums of all time. I for one never thought that the song Starchild could be bested, but Sons of Winter and Stars not only improves on it but simply creates an entirely different beast all together, obliterating all my expectations in the most majestic and epic fashion ! Strong and fast parts, but also calmer moments in the middle of the song, that actually remind me of Sonata Arctica's The Days of Grays album (I don't remember from which song in particular but the resemblance, be it on purpose or not is there), and right after this calm moment enters the main chorus of the song, and then, my entire body entered into a trance, shivers were running throughout my body for more than 4 minutes (and are almost every time I hit this part, even after 30+ listens already), this is the best chorus of all times, it's powerful, it's epic, it blasts in your face, and makes you want to sing (shout) along ! At this point there are so many "tracks" in the background that you can only distinguish some of the instruments and would probably require a studio installation with very expensive headphones / reference speakers to hear every details (I actually intend to go listen to this album at one of my friend's studio as soon as humanly possible !). The guitars are majestic as are the vocal melodies. This song alone was worth the 8 years of wait, as it's the best thing I've ever heard and is without a shadow of a doubt my new favorite song of all times. If like me you thought Starchild was one of the best songs ever, then Sons of Winter and Stars will literally bring you to your knees with tears (of joy) in your eyes. This is no longer just metal it is a futuristic symphony and a metal sound track of cataclysmic proportions. The only thing that is Death metal here is the moments where Jari growls and screams I guess, other than that the music is too complex, too layered to be simply labeled melodeath.

I've read somewhere that Time would be Wintersun 2.0, and well, it's a great analogy, as it has evolved tremendously since the first album, into a different beast though, one that isn't straight up melodic death. If you excepted to find ultra fast songs that last 3-5 minutes like the first album you will be sorely disappointed though. Three songs, 2 long, epic and very progressive ones, and 1 mid-tempo borderland power ballad song called Land of Snow and Sorrow. It's an amazing song that also gets enriched by the same orchestrations, but it is a mid-tempo at heart. Vocals are half clean half screams, and I must point out that Jari's (and the rest of the bands) vocal performance is simply amazing, he's one of the only "screamer" that is actually intelligible where I can discern 95% of the lyrics during the harsh vocal parts. For many melodeath bands I simply have to look into the booklet to follow them, but not with Jari. While this second song is majestic and full of sorrow, it is not as much a surprise or highlight as Sons of Winter and Stars, and may I say that it is the problem when you write something so mind blowing as the 13+ minute epic opener song, the main problem is to manage to follow up and keep the expectations high. I won't lie to you, while I love Land of Snow and Sorrow and Time, they never reach the orgasmic, thrilling and magical heights of Sons of Winter and Stars (SoWaS), but no other song I've ever heard does, with Starchild now being a distant second :). Boy I would love to hear a re-record of Starchild with this new orchestral sound (idea for a bonus track for part II Jari ? :) ).

Before the album jumps to another long epic song (Time, almost 12 minutes long), it interludes with another great sounding (yet shorter, around 2+ minutes) instrumental track called Darkness and Frost. Time is another very complex song writing wise, just like SoWaS, and I must insist on this part, the usual verse, bridge chorus, repeat and put a solo in the middle type of song writing doesn't exist on this album, songs are not structured as such. Like a true symphony songs evolve, have some crescendo moments, some calming ones, and change in tempo, speed and mood during their unfolding. The album is so complex in his writing that it takes a good 10 listens to really catch most of the subtleties while the first listen will simply feel like a nuclear blast (pun intended). Time also contains some more of the Japanese touches than where already present in the other two songs and is my second favorite track on the album, even if it doesn't attain the ultimate heights of SoWaS; however it's very emotionally filled and a powerful track nonetheless. Time middle part (which is a bit slower mid-tempo like) is very reminiscent of the V2 project (albeit with better sound / orchestrations) and I wonder if Jari ever heard it, V2 is a side project involving Yoshiki (X-Japan's mastermind) and Tetsuya Komuro (if you don't know V2 but like X, you may want to look into it, especially the crazy drum solo that Yoshiki performs there !). So in the middle of Time there is a very V2 moment in my opinion.

I've purchased the digipak edition with bonus DVD (and I MUST congratulate for delivering it to me on release day !) where we can see bonuses like Jari explaining how he did all these orchestrations (respect dude, you're a musical mastermind !), actually showing you by disabling and enabling tracks on different parts of the song (that's such a cool thing to have and to be able to see !) and also see the band rehearse for the live shows. Speaking of the live show, there is one (Heindenfest Festival) tomorrow not too far from Geneva (Friboug), at a little more than an hour drive, so my brother and I will attend, even though I'm totally under the weather (Flu), I don't care, I have to see Jari play this masterpiece live ! (I might make a review of the show next week). Hopefully I can do it without dispersing too much phlegm during the head banging parts of SoWaS (sorry for the mental image :) ). The album should be out today or tomorrow for most of the world but it was released on 19th in Switzerland, for once we get something early here.

The wait for Time has undoubtedly been long, Jari suffered many technical issues (but seeing the bonus DVD and seeing how many tracks, plug-ins and virtual instruments were used to achieve this is somewhat understandable) while trying to create this masterpiece and he must be even more happy having finally released it than we are listening to it. The thing is that this is so complex that it must have taken many times more to compose something so epic compared to simply more "raw" songs on other melodeath albums. So was the wait worth it ? Definitely ! This is amongst the most complex and original album I've ever heard in my entire life, and while there is one song that absolutely obliterates everything else, the album has a whole is fantastic from beginning to end. The only problem is the length, with 6+ minutes in instrumentals, you get barely 34 minutes in actual "songs", and while SoWaS feels like three different songs (Time like two), it's still one song. I would have preferred having listened to all of it at once, instead of having to wait for part II myself, but if part II contains the same level or even better material (I don't know how it would be possible to make something better than SoWaS, but I thought the same of Starchild before so you never know :) ). An impressive technical and majestic album that only a musical genius could have achieved, and to me Jari Mäenpää is nothing short of a Mozart of modern times. Quoting this album is a difficult task, when I first listened to it, I said OK, 100 out of 100, this is the best thing ever (and somehow it is) ! I didn't really change my mind and SoWaS is worth 100+ out of 100. But the album is kinda short, and it took 8 years to reach us, and I miss some of the more aggressive, straight (if not raw) in your face melodeath tracks of the first opus, like the opener that was so fast it was simply an insane (Beyond the Dark Sun) start of the album. And while I love this Hollywoodian, heavily infused metal orchestra (note that the orchestra is completely virtual, another technical feat !), I miss the raw sound of some of the debut album. Anything under 95 would be an insult to the album as far as I'm concerned, so I've aimed somewhat in the middle :) (I would totally see this deserving a perfect score for some though as it is how I felt upon first listen). An album that feels a little too short, but yet is epic like nothing I've heard before (in SoWaS at least). It is every bit the masterpiece I was waiting for and more. Can't wait for part II, hopefully in a year max, but like Time I it will take the time it needs to take to be ready I guess. Maybe put together Time I & II would sound like a Legendary 100/100 album, I sure hope so. In any case, an album that defied any expectations I had about it and that is truly epic, majestic and plain beautiful !

Killing Songs :
Every minute of it but Sons of Winter and Stars is the best most epic song of all fucking times !
Chris quoted 97 / 100
Milan quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Wintersun that we have reviewed:
Wintersun - The Forest Seasons reviewed by Andy and quoted 74 / 100
Wintersun - Wintersun reviewed by Jason and quoted 96 / 100
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