Monday, 30 July 2012

The Dawn Will Never Rise Again for My Eyes - A review for Wintersun's self-titled

A furious, icy blizzard through space and time. Howling winds where there is no sound. Cosmic energies focusing around shining nebulas. Portals into unknown, hostile worlds. Galaxies weeping. Wormholes of pain and suffering. Beautiful death in -273,15 degrees.

What I described above are images Wintersun's critically acclaimed (or accused of being highly overrated) debut album (2004) evokes in my mind. For me, these visions encapsulate the essence of this masterpiece. Only a handful of albums have ever reached the level of uniqueness, richness of songwriting and pure, blazing intensity that Wintersun's self-titled holds within it. It is a phenomenal mixture of some of the best features of metal music, all of them incorporated together with no cracks or shatters whatsoever. The mastermind behind this album is no other than the famed Jari Mäenpää, former frontman of Ensiferum. He has done amazing job by using his admirable talents in different areas of expertise: with several instruments, in songwriting and as a lyricist. He makes brilliant use of the neck-breaking fury of melodic death metal, the soaring melodies of power metal, the grand vastness of epic folk/viking metal and the blistering speed of melodic black metal, all this smoothly interconnected and iced with formidable technicality. The album raditates despair, fear, hate, melancholy and sadness through images of cosmic proportions put inside the mind of a human being. The lyrics stem from this context, creating emotional surges of the deepest thoughts of man.

Wintersun is an ominous maelstrom that draws the listener deep into its bowels. It is also a representation of musical prowess that only a few can match in my books. From destructively fast solos to razor sharp riffing, from beautifully bleak and freezing keyboard melodies to impressive harsh vocals, from gloomy atmospheres to enchanting lyrics, everything is carved in the shape of colossal, ambitious and inspiring images. Winter Madness shows us perhaps the most technical and speedy side of the album with its hyper fast guitarwork and multi-layered melodies. It is a frosty anthem that paints pictures of merciless winters of the far north. Battle Against Time leans towards a different area of metal. The song's most remarkable characteristics focus around majestic, crushing harmonies of epic metal. Raging blast beats and ingenious guitar melodies are completed with bombastic clean choirs and the result is a massively cosmic sound. One of the high points of the album is also the slow, intriguingly wandering Death and the Healing. It features only noble, clean vocals and offers the listener fascinating visions. The lyrics are excellently supported by long, intricate lead guitar passages that are woven around the main soundscape. Truth to be told, in my opinion every single track on this album is a masterwork of epic, melodic metal but Starchild has always been my favourite. This song kind of compiles every best bit of the album and reforms them into a new entirety that surpasses the rest of the songs. It has speed, it has the most memorable melodies, it has in-depth, spacey lyrics and it has great, diverse vocals through which Jari truly shines. Listening to Starchild is like diving through planes of existence on a journey to discover something about oneself and exploring the mind-blowing depths of the universe. No doubt one of the best songs I have ever come across.   

Like I mentioned before, each song on Wintersun is a highlight in its own right but I'll leave the secrets of the rest for you to discover. The album is a complex whole of magnificent elements brought together by the creative force that is Jari Mäenpää. However, I also have to specificly mention the drumwork since it's the only thing not done by Mr. Mäenpää. While this album was being made, behind the kit sat one of Finland's most respected drummers, Kai Hahto. His superb skills laid down the spine for the grandiose structures summoned by Jari and that is no minor achievement. All in all, I reside in the camp of those who worship this album and who are awestruck by its elaborate world. The only things that don't quite live up to the rest of the album are some certain parts of Sleeping Stars that fall a bit short of the gloomy excellence that the song is mostly constructed of. Yes, it's that simple: the album has basically one little flaw. Thus it is almost as close to perfection as possible so reach out your hands and grab this album before the second one finally comes out!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Spell of Winter

Regrettably, I haven't contributed anything to my blog in a long time. But now, at last, I have a text I want to present to you. It sheds some light on how nature affects me and what kind of thoughts and feelings it evokes in me. Inspired by winter in general and walks in the night in my hometown Rovaniemi, it is a mixture of a couple of more specific experiences and some general impressions about nature. I want to open my mind a bit about what kind of things I love when it comes to winter. Ideally, I will write similar texts about other seasons too but we'll see whether I get into that or not.

So here we go:

The suburbs seemed to hibernate under the soft cover of snow. There were no shouts nor laughter of people returning to their homes, no cars driving in the distance, no miscellaneous echoes of urban life. There were no singing wind, no whispering trees. Only silence.
   The air was sharply cold, quietly sneaking into my throat and crawling down to make nest in my lungs. Its freezing embrace sent tingling waves over my skin and I felt like my senses were fed by it and grew keener to notice the small meanderings of the winter spirit that flowed through the night.
   My steps left traces to the powder-like snow. It was gleaming magically under the light from the lamps illuminating the road and the light turned the cozy way into one that would lead into a fairytale if one believed in such things…
   With the whole cosmos observing me through the glimmering stars above, I continued down the road with sudden joy in my heart. I wasn’t alone. Mother Nature was strongly present in everything I laid my eyes upon. Frost-covered trees, icicles hanging from the corner of a house, mesmerizing full moon. If there’s something magical in this world, it has to be ardent in those moments.
   I halted. A path so familiar and tempting was ahead of me. It led to a forest of shadows and dreams and on that wonderful moment I couldn’t help but to answer its call once again. I reached for my pocket and took my music player out. For a second I hesitated. Then I turned it on, placed the earphones to my ears and stepped on the path that would show me the way to who knows where if I wasn’t careful.
   It was amazing, fascinating and intense. Letting my gaze roam through the landscape while freezing, wintery anthems surrounded me in the form of Bathory, Moonsorrow, Immortal, Wintersun and the like. Urban interpretations of these primeval emotional surges blended flawlessly and overwhelmingly to the scenes of nature before my eyes. With the winter now within my mind and body, I walked deeper into the icy halls under the vault of the night sky…