Wintersun – Time I
There was apparently a lot of anticipation for “Time I”, Wintersun’s second album; fans had to wait eight years for this second installment. I may have a copy of the first album somewhere, but I was oblivious to the anticipation until I started reading about it online. I listened to a couple clips and got the impression that this was just another power metal album of some kind. Apparently I did not listen to enough, because this is no mere power metal album. I have heard more than enough melodic death metal, but symphonic melodic death metal? I do not hear a lot of that. Main man Jari Mäenpää was once a member of Ensiferum, but I think of that as more Viking/Folk metal than symphonic.
There are only five songs on this album, and two of those are instrumentals, but the album still pulls out a forty minute play time. With the exception of the instrumentals, the tracks are pretty long. The first track, “When Time Fades Away” sets the symphonic tone (and made me itch to play Skyrim again.) I cannot be sure if I have ever heard an album quite like this one. It is huge and epic like symphonic and power metal, but the vocals range from clean to a harsh Alexi Laiho-like snarl. And then, of course, the songs are long as hell like black metal songs are sometimes known to be. I am sitting here looking around for the kitchen sink, because this album has everything.
The second track, “Sons of Winter and Stars” made my head want to explode. The sound is… Just. So. Monstrously. Huge. This does not sound so much like a band, but rather like a musical army. I’m serious, I felt like my brain was expanding trying to take it all in. The gruff vocals on “Land of Snow and Sorrow” made me think of Sweden’s fallen son, Quorthon. I think he would have totally dug this album.
Wow. Just wow. I am doing a one-man standing ovation for Wintersun. So when is “Time II” coming? Hopefully sooner rather than later. Pick this album up NOW. It is a masterpiece.
Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker
I almost feel cruel for making a band follow Wintersun, but Dragged Into Sunlight, from the UK, does a mighty job of it with their second album “Widowmaker.”
This is another forty minute album, but with only three tracks, minimally named “Part I”, “Part II” and…wait for it…”Part III.” “Part I” is an instrumental and put me in mind of funeral doom with its glacial and minimalist approach. The metal really kicks in on the second track, which was a real eye-opener after the trance I was left in after “Part I.” The first track lured me in; “Part II” locked the door behind me and beat the crap out of me.
There are parts of this album that are quiet and draw me in close like they are going to tell me a secret, and then they go all large and thunderous on me. It makes for a very interesting listening experience. I am going to have to come back and dig deeper with this album.
I am at a loss for an album to compare to “Widowmaker”, but if one enjoys a mix of death, black and funeral doom metal I think this will serve to please. Given the style and chaotic nature of these songs I am surprised by how good the production sounds. Having such a nice production makes it so much easier to enjoy the minimalist droning parts of these tracks and adds to the intimate feel of the album. Normally an album like this is drenched in so much reverb that it sounds distant; this sounds like it is happening right on top of me as I try to crab-walk away from it. I am very impressed by “Widowmaker.”
Deformity – When Tomorrow Comes
With a name like Deformity, I was very much expecting these Russians to be death metal. To my surprise “When Tomorrow Comes” turned out to be some very clean sounding thrash metal.
I am racking my brain trying to think of other Russian thrash bands I like, but nothing memorable comes to mind. I listen to a lot of Russian black and funeral doom metal (I just picked up Amber Tears and Revelations of Rain for cheap on Bandcamp, check them out) but I do not recall anything quite like Deformity.
With a sound that loosely reminds me of late 80s thrash (with better production), and vocals that have a Hetfield-like sound (though they remind me even more of seemingly defunct Massachusetts band Beyond the Embrace) I was quickly taken with Deformity. I love the clean and simple sound of these songs. This is a great example of a band that may not be breaking new ground, but they work so well within a tried and true style that I am helpless to resist their charms.
I recommend checking these guys out. The album may be somewhat hard to find, but you can find them on Bandcamp.
Here is the video for title track “When Tomorrow Comes.”
Maelstrom – It Was Predestined
Maelstrom was founded in New York in the late 80s, put out a couple of demos and then apparently disappeared for a very long time. In 2008 the three-song EP “It Was Predestined” was released. Now, in 2012, the EP is apparently receiving a digital release. So that is basically one song per decade. Talk about working at a glacial pace. Actually, that is less than a song per decade. Not overly ambitious are they?
Well, given such a small body of work, one would hope that those three songs are of such stellar quality that they will cure cancer and bring world peace. Nope, not really. But who needs that kind of pressure anyway?
These three songs are not bad, though. They are kind of thrashy with a power metal spirit. There is some crazy picking on here. Joey DeMaio would be like “Whaaaaa?” Seriously, though, these songs are pretty listenable. I just wish there was more of them. I don’t know that I can wait another 20+ years for another three songs, so best move things along and get writing.