Wintersun - The Forest Seasons
Nuclear Blast
Epic Symphonic Metal
4 songs (54' 0")
Release year: 2017
Wintersun, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Andy

Oh, what is Jari up to now? Wintersun mastermind Jari Mäenpää, that is; the one some would consider responsible for Ensiferum's best material, known for two brilliant albums following his career with that band. Known also for other, less pleasant things: The Kickstarter campaign that looked suspiciously like a mass blackmail attempt of the fans, the lame excuses, the label fights. It'd be hard to find a more controversial figure in metal at this point (sorry Varg, even you can't generate this much Internet hate), so about a quarter of listeners will probably claim The Forest Seasons as a masterpiece simply because it's a Wintersun album and they'll take anything they can get, while the other three-fourths would rate it as crap just because of Jari's antics. If so, like the extremists on either side of most debates, they're probably both wrong. Listened to with an open mind, The Forest Seasons isn't a terrible album, no matter how firmly ensconced Mäenpää's head may be in his rectum. But it's a stopgap measure to satisfy demand at short notice, and it doesn't have a prayer of living up to the hype.

This has the Wintersun name on it, but really it's a Mäenpää solo album. Only two other members are credited, and only for vocals. Mäenpää performs on all the instruments, does all the songwriting, production, everything. Even on drums: Kai Hahto gives way to a drum machine on this one, which is too bad, because the machine, programmed by a guitarist, ends up rather flat and lifeless, as such things tend to be. The album, a concept piece about the four seasons, dips deeper into a black metal vibe than the earlier albums, but occasionally shows flashes of what we expect from such a band. Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring), with its mid-tempo gallop, sounds very early-Ensiferum, but Jari's screams do give it the proper flavor. The Forest That Weeps (Summer), on the other hand, is more of what I think of when someone mentions Wintersun: A big, bombastic folk saga with keyboards turned up to eleven and repetitive guitar riffs with different inflections, first with individual instruments and then as a unified, symphonic sound. Jari seems to know this, since he throws a Who's Who of the Finnish metal world at the choir on that track. Some of the moments on the Summer track are the best on the album.

But where's the guitar work? If you're listening to a Wintersun album, it's not like you're going to be asking for restraint in any way, but that's what you get -- at least in the guitar department. Instead, especially on the colder seasons, Mäenpää goes for darkness and atmosphere, giving the electronics the lion's share of everything; half of the Autumn track sounds more like atmospheric black metal from a previously unknown band than anything else. To make up for that, there is some of the guitar noodling Wintersun is known for towards the end of the song, and it is as good as ever, making the listener wish there was more of that and less Norway-style blastbeating, something that is an uncomfortable fit here. Despite the drawbacks, I'd only put Loneliness (Winter) up as a track that is truly a miss, though: The emotional clean singing on it is overly long and aimless, a boring indulgence that comes as a surprise given Mäenpää's past talent for turning the potentially tedious into the epic.

The Forest Seasons is an average album, neither great nor crappy, that is fated to be collateral damage of the Wintersun hype machine. It wouldn't look like such a paltry offering if it wasn't being turned out to the fanfare of being a Wintersun album, and if it wasn't being released in the place of another album. But the florid bombast of the hype combines with the underwhelming nature of The Forest Seasons to give the impression that it was pulled together out of formerly-rejected ideas to temporarily satisfy exasperated fans. It is unlikely to accomplish this goal. After all, who would be content with a few Seasons when they've been promised the rest of Time?


Killing Songs :
The Forest That Weeps (Summer) is the best
Andy quoted 74 / 100
Other albums by Wintersun that we have reviewed:
Wintersun - Time I reviewed by Chris and quoted 97 / 100
Wintersun - Wintersun reviewed by Jason and quoted 96 / 100
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