Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 10/22/2012
posted on 11/2012 By:
After eight years, countless delays, and a tremendous amount of both eager and aggravated anticipation, Wintersun's second opus is finally upon us. We'll just go ahead and bypass discussion of the almost unprecedented amount of backlogged drama that has gone into this album's conception -- chances are, everyone reading this is aware of it, and I'm pretty confident that most of you are just ready to listen to the damn thing and discuss whether or not Jari Maenpaa's return lives up to the hype.
Unfortunately, we still don't know if it does or not, because we're only listening to half of the album. As if Maenpaa couldn't infuriate and titlate his fanbase any more than he already has, his second work has been divided into two parts in a rather hilarious instance of stumbling and falling on your face as you finally cross over the finish line. The irony of the album being split into two halves due to the very grandiosity that made it so difficult to finish and release is pretty monumental, but it's hardly a real issue in the long run as long as it doesn't affect the impact of the music in question. Unfortunately, in this case, it kind of does.
Despite breaking the forty minute barrier, Time I feels very much like a glorified EP. And for a style of music as over-the-top and bombastic as Wintersun's, it just doesn't feel like enough. Consisting of three proper tracks and two rather meaningless interludes, Time I comes across as a padded stop-gap release, rather than the monumentous follow up to a debut that took the metal world by storm eight long years ago. It's tantalizing and dissappointing all at once, not too mention rather condescending -- did Jari and / or Nuclear Blast really think we couldn't handle a full album of this stuff? So yes, the amount of content here is a letdown, frankly. But I would be a lot more willing to accept this if the music that was here was more satisfying.
Despite overflowing with various instrumental textures and compositional turns, the three metal songs on Time I are simply not that engaging. There's plenty of quick flashes, but at the end of the day it's pretty hard for me to get too excited about anything that Jari has delivered on this release. There's been a lot of talk about the absurd number of different tracks and layers packed into these songs, but I don't even feel that overproduction is the issue -- it's the basic songwriting that doesn't live up to expectations. There's a serious lack of cohesive hooks and speedy, intense passages here, replaced by a healthy dose of meandering power-balladry and mid-tempo navel-gazing. Opening song "Sons of Winter and Stars" shows promise early with a bombastic volley of blasts and ripping, keyboard-laden grooves, but then wanders off into a melodramatic and wanky mid-section before returning to deliver a rousing but rather generic chorus as its finale. There's a lot going on, sure, but for a thirteen-minute-long epic there's remarkably little that actually sticks.
The other tracks don't fare much better. "Land of Snow and Sorrow" is an entirely mid-tempo affair, but it lacks some of the despondent majesty that made songs like "Death and the Healing" and "Sleeping Stars" so powerful on the self-titled debut. Maenpaa's multifaceted and emotional singing is well executed, but it isn't quite enough to push the rather sterile and fatigued guitar and keyboard compositions forward into your memory. Closing number "Time" follows in the same vein, but with marginally better results. The occasional bursts of speed do well to elevate the intensity level, and Maenpaa's heartfelt singing here is a high point of the album. But the track as a whole still feels a bit lackadaisical and sluggish, and it's because of the songwriting, not its length or slower tempos. I'm not bothered by the absence of solos and shredding as much as some people seem to be, but the basic lack of spark and energy to much of this music is a hard pill to swallow. It's rarely catchy, often unnecessarily technical, and can feel muddled under the weight of all of its competing sounds.
In spite of its problems, Time I isn't an unpleasant or grating listen. It's got moments that are pretty exciting, and the execution is masteful on a technical level. Jari's wide array of vocal acrobatics are impressive as always, as is Kai Hahto's superb drumming, which never fails to elevate the impact of the other instruments (though I wish he was a bit higher in the mix). And despite some rather corny choices for keyboard sounds, the overall production and presentation is pretty remarkable. It will take many listens to really get a feel for just how intricate and complex this music is -- all of the time spent behind the mixing board definitely doesn't go unnoticed here.
However, none of the above qualities are enough to compensate for songs that are rather uninteresting at a basic level. I admit that I was expecting Time I to be comprised of good material buried under too much cheese and fluff, but it really isn't that at all. It's an unsatisfying amount of average-to-mediocre material that attempts to rise to greatness through the sheer skill of its virtuosity and technical wizardry, and it doesn't quite get there. We'll see what Jari has up his sleeve for the second half of his magnum opus, but as of now, I know for a fact that at least fifty percent of the completed release of Time will be middling and disappointing.
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