Sunday, 18 March 2012

The title was ironic about four years ago.

I´ve been mixing my ass off and things are going smooth and steady now and the
album will be released late summer. Stay tuned for bigger updates about the
album (or should we say "albums", wink wink!) -
Jari Mäenpää, Wintersun

It may have been a while since my first run at this blog, but at least two things haven't changed: Wintersun still haven't released their almost impossibly hyped sophomore album Time after half an eternity of delays and setbacks, and I'm still waiting for it with bated breath. I can't think of a single other metal band who have had a eight-year gap between two albums without having split-up and subsequently reformed; the closest I can come up with are the seven years between Judas Priest's Painkiller in 1990 and Jugulator in 1997. As such, it speaks to just how much goodwill Wintersun's self-titled debut generated back in 2004 that there are still people on tenterhooks to hear more, although Jari's claims that the delays are partly due to the album's insane technical specs (500 tracks per song is the soundbite - for reference, Nightwish's Imaginaerum had about 350) haven't hurt either.

But it looks like the 'Sun is finally being glimpsed after a very long night. As you can see above, Jari's now saying late summer this year, and although deadlines have been broken numerous times before, the signs are positive that this time it's for real. Mixing is apprently going smoothly, they're slated to play a headline European tour in autumn which I doubt organisers would go for if there wasn't a long awaited album release to support it, and "late summer" is only five and a half months at the absolute most. A promo track or a compilation of samples would really seal the deal, but it seems that at long last the planets have aligned.

That sly little "or should we say 'albums'" is interesting in its ambiguity. Has Time filled out to two discs in the process of mixing and the term "double album" just doesn't exist in Finnish nomenclature? Or is a follow up already on the cards. Enticing stuff in either case.

As to what we should actually expect... well, as much of a fiasco as the creation of this record has been, and in spite of the tendency of media with really overlong gestation periods to end up exhibiting a kind of "Spruce Goose" effect, I'm still optimistic. Based on the numbers Jari's been throwing around for years, the album sounds like a behemoth of unprecedented proportions, and with the music made as massive and epic as possible being the subject of some one-upmanship in metal these days (see: Blind Guardian, Nightwish, Therion, Epica, Rhapsody of Fire, Virgin Steele, and pretty much the entire prog metal scene since Images and Words), it should be something to see a record that takes this tendency to its remotest extreme ever if nothing else. That, and the live bootlegs of the track The Way of the Fire that surfaced last summer were incredible. Even with awful sound quality, the song is a joy to listen to, and hearing it with crisp, heavy, clearly distinguished production and orchestration that's more than a semi-audible aural smudge ought to render it easily the best thing they've ever done. Yes, I realise that includes both Starchild and Winter Madness. I love the debut album, but in some ways it feels like a proof of concept for bigger and better things. Wintersun's sound is overwrought and over-the-top by nature, and as long as Jari embraces that sound and channels it correctly, he only stands to gain from making Wintersun more massive, glossy and grandiose.

It's unreasonable to hope for any album to bear up under eight years of expectations, but I can't help but set the bar high. Worst case scenario (other that another delay), Time ends up being an elaphantine monument to creative hubris that buckled under the weight of its own ambition, which still sounds more interesting than the workaday bullshit which makes up 95% of the Nuclear Blast roster. Best case, it tears the universe a new arsehole and leads us to a brave new world of epic melodic death metal. Either way, it'll be a day one purchase for me, and if you love metal, it should be for you too.

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