A look back at Wintersun’s epic metal music

Finnish heavy metal band from Helsinki originally formed as the sideproject of Jari Mäenpää, then vocalist and guitarist of folk metal band Ensiferum.

The Finnish heavy metal outfit Wintersun turned out to be quite a surprising band. Death metal is a genre that this writer is still discovering and understanding, but one that has proven to harbor many unearthed jewels; this group was one of them, and what a surprise they were!

The story begins in July 2004 with WINTER MADNESS, a demo highly infused with speed metal on its three tracks, prioritizing harsh vocals and mythological sound. There are touches of folk that make for an interesting mix on this sort of album, and gives a proper first impression of Wintersun and its music to come, along with a wild style that honors its title and poetic lyrics that aren’t what one might expect.

September of the same year saw the release of WINTERSUN, with the same type of speed metal and harsh vocals, interspersed with sweet, melodic interludes. There’s no folk included, sadly, but given the furious guitars and riffs, the drums and the over-soulish vocals, the listener won’t even notice. The three original tracks, reworked with an electronic touch and mad mood, are the best part of this disc.

Two years later, the band released a special edition of the same album packaged with a second disc, WINTERSUN: SPECIAL TOUR EDITION, which includes the audio files of their first DVD, LIVE AT SUMMER BREEZE 2005. Although Wintersun tried to put the best of themselves and impress with their energy in each of these tracks, the poor-quality sound is dull and raw, which might appeal to some but probably not most listeners. The second track, “Battle Against Time,” is probably the best one.

It was in 2012 that the guys released their most ambitious project to date, which would be divided into two parts due to the complexity of the songs and the amount of work required; not surprisingly, they’d been toiling on this project since 2007. TIME I saw the light in May 2012, once again demonstrating their folk roots, infused with untamed doses of power and speed metal and Jari Mäenpää’s unmistakable harsh vocals. Guitars and drums blend together with an Asian influence to create a marvelous work of art, with memorable tracks such as “Sons of Winter and Stars” and “Darkness and Frost.”

A deluxe edition of this album includes an instrumental disc, featuring all of the tracks with not a single voice to be heard—only some chorus for orchestral touches, which reveal a hidden, cinematic side of TIME I. It’s clear why it took so much (appropriately enough) time for the band to wrap up this project, which raised expectations for both their next project and the sequel.

Wintersun’s third full-length album THE FOREST SEASONS, based on Vivaldi’s THE FOUR SEASONS, hit the scene July 21, and a second live album, LIVE AT TUSKA FESTIVAL 2013, arrived July 28, making this a huge summer for the band. Both discs can be ordered from Nuclear Blast’s on-line store, and below, you can watch a documentary on the making and crowdfunding of THE FOREST SEASON.

Alan D.D.
Writer and Journalist.

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