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The Forest Seasons

21st July 2017 – Nuclear Blast Entertainment

01. Awaken From The Dark Slumber – Spring
02. The Forest That Weeps – Summer
03. Eternal Darkness – Autumn
04. Loneliness – Winter

As many of you will be aware, sporadically active Finnish group Wintersun‘s new album The Forest Seasons started out as a crowd funding campaign. A common tactic for raising capital these days, the band pooled together a handful of things that fans didn’t ask for – including isolated tracks and remasters of both their self-titled debut album and its follow-up Time I - in order to generate the funding to build their own studio; something Jari Mäenpää has wanted for years – with Nuclear Blast handling the distribution of the physical product; presumably as a way of recouping some of the money that they’ve poured into the band over the years.

The Forest Seasons clocks in at just under an hour, split into four tracks designed represent the forest through its seasonal changes. Beginning with Spring – or “Awaken From The Dark Slumber” if you want to make it all metal – the record begins with slow, synthy twinkles and sounds of the forest before leaping into pretty familiar melo-death territory. The bombastic orchestration that underlines the track feels more in line with a Nightwish composition with growled vocals and distorted guitars providing a good chunk of the Wintersun sound.

By the time Summer rolls round, the forest has thawed and things seem brighter. “The Forest That Weeps” is really the only track that seems to fully explore the alteration of instrumentation through the tonality of the seasons; Summer edges us from wintry melodeath bleakness into a vast folk metal monster, bringing in traditional instrumentation alongside deep clean vocals, but some unnecessary meandering into screaming vocals make for a disjointed listen.

After the halfway point is reached, the two remaining tracks feel very much the same; there’s an unnecessary tendency to extend the songs beyond their welcome through constant and tiresome repetition. The problem at the heart of The Forest Seasons is most certainly the production, which some might say justifies the bands’ claims that they are unable to create such textured soundscapes with the means they have. The counter argument here is that Time I is a vastly richer soundscape and doesn’t struggle with these production issues. This feels like it has been produced poorly simply for the band to add some provenance to their own claims; nothing on this record seems to fit right in the mix, the drums are both unimpressive and overly loud and the guitars lack any kind of clout.

Entitlement is the crux of the issue here. We have a composer in Jari Mäenpää who believes their final products to be paradigm-altering masterpieces, and a band and label who have consistently and constantly enabled him to make excuses for not delivering on time…or Time II, in this case. Wintersun have released a record that was never intended to see the light of day, in order to raise money for a passion project that will almost certainly take another decade for another note to be released – if ever.

The grandiosity that Wintersun insist upon forcing into their songs is the precise reason they don’t work; the convoluted mess that these compositions have become would make even Dream Theater cringe. I’ve no doubt that Wintersun will continue to hold Time II over the heads of their very dedicated fan base in order to continue to raise money to not just record this album but to BUILD an entire studio in which record it. The Forest Seasons isn’t without glimmers of hope, but there isn’t enough here for even fans of the band to cling onto – especially those who paid the 50 Euro price tag for ‘The Forest Package’.

Wintersun genuinely have it in them to record a truly brilliant record if they just breathed for a moment and hacked away to the root of each song. This is but a pipe dream of course, as they’re seemingly vehemently against the concept that “less is more”. This isn’t a case where the ends will justify the means…eventually. This is just insulting.

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