Released: 2017, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Finnish melodic/symphonic death metallers Wintersun's long awaited third album is finally out, five years after the release of Time I. Many fans were probably surprised when the band in January announced that Time II would not be the next addition to their discography. Instead, frontman Jari Mäenpää has crafted his own version of Vivaldi's four seasons, paying tribute to nature itself. Four tracks, each taking on a different season, clocking in at 54 minutes is what The Forest Seasons has to offer. You can say what you want about Wintersun's crowdfunding and Jari's method of marketing, but the album remains a solid piece of epic metal.
The fans wanting a return to the raw sound of the debut album will be disappointed. But The Forest Seasons is not a continuation of the grandiose symphonic style that dominated the first Time album either. Instead, Jari has perfected his own sort of polished symphonic black metal style, with orchestration not being as prevalent as on the predecessor, yet still remaining a more passive driving force behind the music. The instrumentals are more pleasantly mixed this time, and drives the songs more than the orchestration.
"Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)" finally kicks off this flow of new Wintersun material, although fans have to endure one minute of ambient forest sounds before Kai Haito's drumroll commences the music. The song, split into different sections similarly to the previous "Starchild" and "Sons of Winter and Stars" is without a doubt the strongest track off the album. From the soothing transition to "Part II: The Awakening" to the epic 3-man choir singing the all too catchy "From the realms below we ride!", the song is a roller-coaster of highlights, and exactly the style of songwriting that proves to be Jari's strong suit.
"The Forest That Weeps (Summer)" was teased live first back in 2015. The song is the best example of how The Forest Seasons successfully conjures the feeling of actually living through a season in a forest, and not just the ambient background sounds accomplish this. The medium paced song features Jari's grand "expendables choir", with members from Turisas, Ensiferum and Týr among others. The clean break in the middle of the song, and the subsequent melodic section, courtesy of Teemu Mäntysaari, is extremely catchy, and makes the song reminiscent of early Ensiferum.
The second half of the album is unfortunately slightly less spectacular. "Eternal Darkness (Autumn)" and "Loneliness (Winter)" are by no means bad songs, but they fail to reach the high standard of quality set by the two preceding tracks. "Eternal Darkness (Autumn)" starts out aggressively chaotic and massive, before picking up Jari's specialty, melodicness, and features the most enjoyable of the albums (only) two guitar solos.
"Loneliness (Winter)", written as a tribute to Jari's father, is in many ways similar to "Land of Snow and Sorrow" from Time I, in that it's a slower paced song, filled with winterized imagery and deeply personal lyrical themes. Jari's vocal display is at its peak throughout, but the ballad-like song fails to grasp the listener and remain interesting for its almost 13 minutes of duration.
All in all, The Forest Seasons is a strong addition to Wintersun's discography, however it doesn't quite reach the "exceptional" quality-mark of the two previous albums. Still, as we wait for Wintersun HQ to (maybe) be built and Time II to be released, it is a pleasing gift to fans who have patiently waited over the years.
Review by Torbjørn 'Toby' Jørstad