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Wintersun | ‘The Forest Seasons’

The story in a nutshell: he wanted a sauna. He wanted a studio. And he wanted you to pay for it.

But there’s a crucial part that’s left out by a lot of those left incredulous.

Wintersun’s Jari Mäenpää might come across daft as a brush, but he is tunnel visioned in his determination to craft a boundless musical fantasy.

He wanted to live out his creation in the most comprehensive and immersive way possible. I mean, if there’d been the possibility of a Virtual Reality version of this album, he’d probably have made it; it has almost everything else.

And so there are the battle lines around Wintersun’s grand project, whether you’re a lover or a hater.

‘Time II’ may not yet be here, but the promised ‘Forest Seasons’ most certainly is. And no matter what you think of his approach to business, the quality is undeniable.

The Crowd Funding Thing

I’m going to pin my colours to the mast here and say I actually admire his chutzpah.

His ask of €50 a throw for a digital download was audacious, of course, but take a moment to think.

He asked this of, presumably, true fans of underground music – the types of people, like you and me, who’ve fought frantic late night bidding wars on eBay for vintage shirts (I personally paid $70 for a Spiritual Healing shirt that never left the drawer) and long out of print albums with sums that probably dwarfed his pricetag.

No-one had their arms twisted up their backs to hand over their money.

Everyone knew the dream they were supporting, even if all they were going to get out of it was the music.

He wants to build a Tolkien mancave and get you to pay for it? Fine, scoff, just dont shell out.

But the market, and no small amount of heavy metal philanthropy, has spoken.

Those throwing money at Wintersun are giving direct to an undoubtedly talented artist – only to be criticized by others who maybe don’t even pay money to go to gigs, download all their music, or generally do much else to support the underground artists they so cherish.

Who’s doing the greater service?

And I’m ten times more embarrassed by pitiful meet ‘n’ greets, summer camps, branded wines, signed drum heads, guitar fire sales and microscopic inlay credits than I am at the promise of an album whose every note has been pored over and the satisfaction of supporting the lad that made it.

So it’s horses for courses, isn’t it?

So The Music Then

Well, it’s nothing if not Wintersun. A wall of sound, bathed in an ethereal half-light.

They’ve changed significantly over the years, and in truth I did rather prefer the fleeter of foot, Borknagar and late period Abigor leanings of their earliest material.

This one veers much more to the folkloric and magical, and the bombast is of course off the scale.

I suppose the biggest criticism must be it’s pomp and density. It’s taken me weeks to even figure out divisions between tracks, so huge is the commitment to getting into more than two of them in any one sitting.

But you can’t but be astounded, and indeed swept along, rocked even, by the energy and fantasy of ‘The Forest That Weeps’. It is nothing short of immense, with Jari’s powerful clean sung and rasping vocal just perfect for the pictures he’s painting. The opening even harks irresistibly to Primordial – that’s how strong it is.

Much of his justification for asking for shedloads of your filthy lucre was about the quality of the production he wanted. You just cant get it on the cheap, he’s said. Poor production almost wounds him, he says. And yet he’s managed to pull off this, worthy of Devin Townsend’s most ambitious projects, with just a home setup. It is boggling.

The guitars are among the biggest you will hear anywhere, while the depth and warmth of the bass is ominous and enveloping.

‘Eternal Darkness’ has everything you could have wanted from when Dimmu Borgir were still a force to be reckoned with – speed, sweep, majesty unbounded and absolute black folkloric drive, worthy even of the best Arkona.

It’s extremely hard to fault, other than the demanding length of the songs and the air-sucking density of their layering. Some on MI’s forums have criticized some of the production choices, and to an extent I’d agree – but that’s a choice, not a mistake of any kind.

And yes, maybe Jari hasnt quite been able to see the wood from the trees in this particular Forest Season.

But these are pretty minor complaints set against the quality of the rest.

It’s Basically Like This

Few acts, even few driven mainmen, those genii artistes that lead bands to greatness, can pull off this kind of shit at the time of writing.

What he must have lost in the almost insane act of layering all this, as well as the digital artwork he partly made, and then the business side of things, I daren’t even guess at.

But then he’s an “individual” kind of guy, as many of us who’ve clocked his Youtube teleprompter rambles have no doubt concluded.

It takes that to be a stubborn genius, and that he is.

You see, Jari’s done it: he’s made the money, AND he’s made an absolutely cracking album that is infinitely more artistically satisfying than the slew of banality on 90% of the release lists this year. He cares, way way too much, about the fantasia he obviously lives in and wants to make into music.

You cant fake that kind of maniacal attention to detail.

Would I pay €50 for it? Well no, I don’t think I would.

Would I pay a tenner like any other album for it? Yes, I’d be screaming at you to take the money from me for it.

Like all the other shit I love, just cause of the place and time I come from, it harks back to a still mystical and still magical ability of extreme metal to take you away to other worlds. It’s in most precious and short supply nowadays, but this creation sits at the very summits of its kingdoms.

It’s an incredible achievement, and worthy of a hell of a sauna party round at Jari’s new gaff.

Forget the controversy – just hear this, and gawk at its powerful metal grandeur. Because you’ll hear precious little like it.

4.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 22/08/17

  1. To be honest I could never really get my head around the people that had a problem with the crowdfunding. They put out a product, name their price, then it’s up to the consumer if they think it’s worth it or not, and clearly a lot of people did

    As for the album, you hit the nail on the head about the production, it really does make you wonder why the studio is needed, but why use programmed drums when you have Kai Hahto at your disposal?

  2. spoderman01 Says:

    Think his argument was that he could get albums out quicker with a studio as he wouldn’t have to worry about disturbing neighbours if he fancied recording in the middle of the night.

    I reckon it was the sauna bit that put most people off (myself included). People are willing to fund his immediate need i.e. a studio, just seemed a bit dickish to start adding extras on to it. Not like it would have killed him to NOT have a sauna…Finnish tradition or not.

  3. Meshuggah have programmed drums in the past while having one of the best drummers in the world.

  4. Caught them at Summer Breeze, hadn’t slept for 2 days, it was after 1am and had been battered all day by wind and rain and everyone freezing their asses off – but these guys blew me away even more. So strange to see Jari without a guitar in hand but concentrating on vocals made it even more intense.

    Eternal Darkness live, is something to behold.

  5. I have to admit that i was sceptical about the whole crowdfund aproach to this from tje start but credit has to be given where it is due, he did record one fucking amazing album. I will eat my humble pie… and enjoy it.

  6. True about Meshuggah, but doesn’t Haake program the drums himself? Small gripe either way, because the album is still deadly.

  7. My Morning Song Says:

    I love this review. Very well written.

  8. Jesus_Phish Says:

    “To be honest I could never really get my head around the people that had a problem with the crowdfunding. They put out a product, name their price, then it’s up to the consumer if they think it’s worth it or not, and clearly a lot of people did”

    The thing you have to remember with crowdfunding is that there is no product.

    People are giving the funders money on the “idea” of a product. There’s no reviews at the time, there’s no track listing, there’s no promise that it will ever even materialize, let alone be good.

    This could’ve turned out to be an absolute pile of shit and everyone involved who gave him money probably would’ve been very upset.

    That’s why people are skeptical of crowd funding. But everyone is within their right to do whatever they like with their money.

  9. Ivan Drago Says:

    Yeah I can understand the scepticism for crowdfunding, especially when you hear the stories of people signing up for something and being shafted

    Think this was a bit different though.They had the album complete before launching it, so there was a product, it was essentially just a well publicised, expensive pre order. StilI could have ended up being shit though

  10. Nice review.

    I presuming Jari is the main songwriter and lyricist on this, haven’t seen the credits, maybe he programmed the drums and put the entire thing together himself so the money/studio would remain solely his? Didn’t wanna risk having to split things up they fell out or members left!

    Just a thought.

  11. Grainygaming Says:

    I also think he may be streaming the full album on youtube for nothing.

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