Wintersun – Time (Nuclear Blast Records)

Wednesday, 27th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

The reports of head-scratching delays, writer’s block, along with message board whispers that Jari Mäenpää had severe anxiety over releasing a follow-up to 2004’s self-titled album can now be put to rest. It may have taken eight long, arduous years, Time is here, in its bespectacled glory, divided into two parts just so fans can get more bang for their buck. The first installment is 40 minutes; same for the second one, due next year. It’s practical to ponder how an album could fall under the epic metal banner while being so short, and there’s definitely that “over before you know it” feeling upon completing Time. We doubt Mäenpää felt the same thing once he wrapped recording…

More dense than its predecessor, Time helps move Wintersun out of the melodic death metal field and into bloated, yet enjoyable arena currently occupied by any number of so-called “epic” bands. Whereas the debut was based around Mäenpää’s adventurous, mind-melting riff arrangements, Timegets run through the blender, as colliding keyboard and symphonic arrangements do battle with the band’s foundational structure. This might be pushing it, but Time has the same over-produced and over-idea’d feel that Emperor’s 2001 Prometheus swansong did. Only difference is that Wintersun doesn’t have the black metal backdrop to fall onto, thus letting it pinwheel down power metal paths.

Only five songs here, although “Sons of Winter and Stars” has four parts, so maybe that qualifies as nine. Who knows. At any rate, the pensive and Hollywood-styled “When Time Fades Away” has loads of bravado and extreme metal pinings, joined by Mäenpää’s clean vocals, which are far more prominent this time out. Designed as the album’s centerpiece, “Sons of Winter and Stars” is magnificent, with drama, keyboard spikes, and fantastic drumming courtesy of Kai Hahto, who also does time in Swallow the Sun. The closing title track takes the big screen hysterics to a new level, nearly forsaking Mäenpää’s folk/death roots (he got his start in Ensiferum, after all), for a wild rollercoaster ride of orchestral sword fighting and big-time arrangements.

One can’t help get the feeling that Mäenpää and crew short-changed themselves by limiting the album to 40 minutes. Time, for all its complexities and layering, doesn’t feel complete enough. This isn’t like Edge of Sanity’s Crimson where stopping directly at the 40-minute mark was worth it (and cute); Wintersun probably could have tacked on another song just to bloat the album even more. Surely that would have been appreciated…and made the wait even more worth it.

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