Wintersun’s third album The Forest Seasons was released July 21st, 2017 after a five year lull in time from when Time I was released. Given the expectation that Time II would be released instead, concept album The Forest Seasons is musically a change of direction for the band, although it still retains the orchestrations from their previous album. The album goes through each of the four seasons, bringing a musical mood and theme to each one. The Forest Seasons also has a vastly improved organic sound when it comes to mixing orchestrations right beside and underneath the layers of droning guitar riffs, artificial drums (which still fit the nature of the album), tight bass lines and vocals that range from heroic to terrifying and include an ensemble of singers on “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)”.
The first track on the album, “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”, is an epic album opener worthy of placement in the halls of epic compositions of legend. After an atmospheric intro consisting of various stringed orchestrations and a high-pitched harp like instrument, a drum fill hits and the heaviness kicks in, going from 0 to 60 in volume and aggression. With a guitar that drones along a consistent, open chord progression, a tight bass that plays its own notes apart from the guitar, and drums that ride the ride hi-hats and ride cymbals like it owns the song, we get a brief intermission before the first verse. Jari’s typical growling and heroic vocals are introduced and sing of the awakening of the underground and how minds come to life. Lines such as “The mists were growing from the mountain/creatures were moving under the ground/the darkness fell from the sky/and then there was no light” transition midway through the song with “From the realms below we ride/and in terror they run and hide/from the shadows of old we rise/awaken from the dark (from the dark!) slumberrrrrrrr”. Indeed, this first track has the typical Wintersun moments of epic orchestras and heaviness, but it touches on important themes such as having an “awakening of the mind” as Jari said in his self-made documentary.
While “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)” is what begins the epicness that is The Forest Seasons, “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)” is what ultimately becomes the track that flies us through the tops of the trees. Beginning with a calm, picked acoustic guitar and fluttering synth noises that play a brief minute-long melody, the song, like its predecessor, descends into gracious heaviness, with guitar, bass and drums beginning the onslaught while an ambient violin fades in and out with single-note lines and melodies. Once the vocals hit, the feeling of summer really hits in, with the lyrics focusing on this entity known as “The Orchestrator of Life”. As his title implies, he brings life to the trees/causing grey mountains to sing a sad song of winter and the howling wind/visions of the past in the haunting dreams/under the dead sky, under the withered trees”. Due to the bands home country being the cold scapes of Finland, I imagine that even the summers there get cold and desolate, indicating the coming of an even colder winter. Regardless, with themes of shivering lakes, wild rives, and the coming of winter hinted throughout the song, “The Forest That Weeps” segues nicely into the next track, one that contrasts our “Orchestrator of Life”.
In “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)” we have a dark, brooding presence that develops from an ominous, liquid-like state of sound, followed by the sudden wave of a black metal-style guitar part. This ominous intro then gives way to an explosion in volume as the black metal guitar part becomes more prominent, followed an introduction into blast beat drums that ride throughout the majority of the song except for the parts before and after the guitar solo. The guitar solo comes disjointed and disorganized, a malicious jumble of notes that comes and goes like the birth and decay of the forest’s life. Opposite from the “Orchestrator of Life”, “Death is the anti-hero in this track, as Jari sings from death’s point of view, seeing all life as a mistake in the Universe. This same point of view is really what drives the song, beginning a few lines in with “The evolution of the forbidden birth”, as if life isn’t meant to exist. As the song climaxes, the words “I am DEEEEEEEAAAATH!” are growled from Jari, and the song abruptly ends. No epic outro. Just ends at DEEEEATH, and then STOP.
The last track on the album, “Loneliness (Winter)” is the slowest track on the album for good reason. The track begins with light, light strings and a soft-synth melody. Throughout, the track has lonely and deprecating themes. The mournful guitars, the shift in orchestral strings from a depressed sound to a more somber and sad tone, the short guitar solo that leads into the “Devin Townsend” part as Jari describes it. Throughout the track, there’s this growing sense of finding home through travels in the snow, a metaphor for someone lost in soul and sight. A great last song for the album, it ends where it began; with quiet strings and a soft synth melody, or as I shall close this review out,” The trail in the snow disappears, am I finally home?”
Throughout the concept album The Forest Seasons, Wintersun paints a majestic transition of the seasons as they come and go, as they sway to and fro, creating an epic tale of awakening life, boding life till autumn, seeing everything die, and then watching as the seasons fade into the cold and barren wasteland that is winter, before awakening again the next year and constantly making a go at things.