The Forest Seasons is melodic death metallers Wintersun’s third full length and also the product of as massively successful Indiegogo campaign that, whether you supported the idea or not, gave the band the space to actually create their own studios and mix and master the whole thing themselves. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the sheer length of the songs contained within the mammoth 54 minute run time, with the average track length being around the 13 minute mark – something you might normally expect of progsters Dream Theater or others of the ilk.
Opener ‘Awaken from the Dark Slumber’ opens slowly but surely, the band describing this as subtle forest sounds and given the title of the album and that each song is subtitled a season I’m inclined to agree with them on this one. The sounds are calming before the guitars and drums lurch into gear and things get a-moving properly. Vocally as always Wintersun employ a far more Gothenburg sound to the vocals as opposed to to cavernous bellows of other melodeath bands such as Insomnium. Instead clearly having more in common with genre leaders At The Gates and it certainly works for them. It’s also a star-studded affair, with the final chorus of ‘The Forest That Weeps’ featuring members of Ensiferum, Turisas, Moonsorrow and Tyr amongst others. The blackened blastbeats and tremolo riffing in ‘Eternal Darkness’ is a welcome change of pace given the middling pace of the preceding two tracks and is quite unexpected given what has come before and sounds far more wintery than autumnal.
A hallmark of the album is its quiet openers, with woodland sounds eventually giving way to Jari and co, though with an album of this scope it feels less formulaic than necessary. From the outset Wintersun set out to make a sprawling, epic, expansive record and The Forest Seasons absolutely delivers on this promise; despite being just 4 tracks, there are several movements within each track and various interludes that act not only as respite but a way of building through into the next act. This is particularly apparent on ‘The Forest That Weeps’, with the quieter passages toward the end repeating a simple pattern that is consistently built on, from humble acoustic beginnings to a mournful guitar solo that builds into the final chorus. Closer ‘Loneliness’ sees the album out almost as a ballad, with soaring operatic vocals and another change from the stomp and aggression of the first two tracks and the seething black metal of its predecessor.
The biggest fault of The Forest Seasons is that its utterly expansive approach is fatiguing; the album draws on for an almost unnecessary 54 minutes; a little self-editing would not have gone amiss but clearly this was not the intention with such a concept record, especially given the ultimate aim for Jari of building ‘Wintersun Headquarters’; just one glance at the original Indiegogo campaign and it’s apparent that this is far more than just wanton self-indulgence, not just long songs for the sake of writing long songs. There is a time and place for writing such lengthy material and The Forest Seasons certainly qualifies as that. Having been mixed and mastered by the band themselves, the production is excellent, warm tones where warm tones are warranted, as well as the bleak coldness of ‘Eternal Darkness’; the drums are crisp, the bass quiet but still present, with guitars and vocals being front and centre with orchestral elements sitting around the middle of the mix, neither so quiet as to be pointless nor utterly overpowering. If you’ve got the time for some truly epic-sounding melodic death metal, you could do far worse than giving just shy of an hour to Wintersun.
Check out: Awaken from the Deep Slumber, Lonliness (or just the whole album)