Wintersun (album)

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Wintersun
Studio album by Wintersun
Released September 13, 2004
Recorded January–May, 2004 at
Sundi Coop Studios
Tico-Tico Studios
Genre Melodic death metal, power metal, folk metal, melodic black metal
Length 54:09
Label Nuclear Blast
Producer Jari Mäenpää
Wintersun chronology
Wintersun
(2004)
Time I
(2012)

Wintersun is the debut self-titled studio album by metal artist Jari Mäenpää of Wintersun. The style presented is somewhat of a departure from the more folk-oriented sounds heard on Ensiferum, the band in which Mäenpää was previously a member, though traces still remain. Instead, Wintersun's approach is more rooted in melodic death metal, mostly through the genre's inherent harmonies, mixed with the blast-beating speed and atmosphere of black metal and the riffing approach of power metal.

The Japanese edition of the album was released with the original three demo tracks used to obtain a contract with Nuclear Blast.[1]

History[edit]

Wintersun was a project eight years in the making. Jari Mäenpää began writing the music for Wintersun in 1995,[2] before joining folk metal band Ensiferum in 1996 as lead singer and guitarist. In 1997, Mäenpää served in the Finnish military as part of his national defense duty, during which he contracted tuberculosis. The diagnosis was late, and Mäenpää required surgery to remove part of his lung, hospitalizing him for months. The song "Beautiful Death" would later be inspired by this event.[3]

In 2003, Mäenpää hired Kai Hahto as a session drummer and, after sending newly recorded demos to Nuclear Blast, was offered a record deal.[4] After returning from Ensiferum's Iron recording sessions, Mäenpää began arranging the compositions of the future Wintersun tracks.[3] Despite intending to keep Wintersun as a side project, a scheduling conflict between booked studio time for Wintersun and a tour promoting Iron forced Mäenpää to request time off from the band,[2] which resulted in him being forced to leave Ensiferum.[3]

Production[edit]

Several recording studios were used in the making of the album. Kai Hahto's drums were recorded at Tico Tico Studios in January 2004. Vocals and the majority of the guitars and synthesizers were recorded at Sundi Coop Studios in April. Additional synth and guitar solos were recorded at Mäenpää's home on his 16-track.[2]

Mäenpää, used to multi-track recording his music for years, was comfortable performing vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards on the record.[3]

The lyrics are considered to be an integral part of the album's thematic structure, although they can be interpreted on varying levels.[4]

Lyrically it's quite a personal record, but there's a little bit of fantasy also. Actually, you can understand the songs by many ways and meanings, which is great. But underneath all the metaphors to stars, space, vast and cold winter landscapes, it's all about my personal life: my feelings, emotions, thoughts, dreams, visions and hallucinations. [...] Every song is a highlight and important to me in their own ways. "Beautiful Death" and "Battle Against Time" were therapeutic to write, because they deal with the negative sides of my life and it was good to get those feelings on paper and into music. "Death and the Healing", "Sleeping Stars" and "Sadness and Hate" are very old songs that still live on, so they have sentimental value.

—Jari Mäenpää, MetalEater.com[3]

Nino Laurenne, guitarist for Thunderstone, mixed the album at Sonic Pump Studios. Mastering was done by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios. The album was released on September 13, 2004.[5]

Artwork[edit]

The cover artwork was commissioned from Kristian Wåhlin (who works under the name Necrolord). Mäenpää had already worked with Wåhlin on the artwork for the Ensiferum albums, but Mäenpää was inspired by the work that delved into colder, majestic landscapes, including Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse[4] and Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane. In addition to Mäenpää's idea for the cover, Wåhlin was given lyrics to read and samples of music to listen to.[6]

Mäenpää compared the artwork to the song "Death and the Healing": "The man fallen into the snow could represent 'death' [and] 'despair,' and the light between the trees could represent 'home' [or] "birth/healing.'"[4]

"Beyond the Dark Sun" music video[edit]

Concept[edit]

The music video for "Beyond the Dark Sun" shows Jari Mäenpää immersed in ice and frost

The video begins with two shots of steel doors opening, revealing Mäenpää thrashing with his guitar in sharp silhouette against a single source of light, fog simulating the cold swirling around him. During the introduction portion of the song, the video cuts quickly between the contemporary band line-up, each member performing solely against a black backdrop: Mäenpää on guitar, Hahto performing on drums, Jukka Koskinen on five-string bass, and Oliver Fokin on rhythm guitar.[4]

The first visual effect is introduced with Mäenpää superimposed over the moon. The moon effect is revisited several times throughout the video, usually with varying backdrops that simulate galaxies, stars, and asteroids. When Mäenpää begins singing in clean voice, the motif of ice is introduced. A plane of white-blue tendrils of frost and frozen smoke separates the singer from the viewer; slight overexposure and pale makeup on Mäenpää's face increases the overall effect of coldness.

The shots cut sharply to Mäenpää quickly stepping into the camera's focal plane, singing with harsh vocals into an upright microphone. Meanwhile, the video continues to cross-cut between the other band members. The music video eventually cuts between each of these established motifs for the remainder of the song, expanding on a few ideas, including the thawing of the frost; several shots of Fokin and Mäenpää playing together, each lit by their own spotlight; shots of Hahto's double mallets hitting the bass drum; and a single, dark shot of the entire band playing together. The final few shots of the video show Mäenpää being blinded by a brilliant beam of light.

Production[edit]

The music video for "Beyond the Dark Sun" was shot over a period of two days, on July 3 and 4, 2004. It was produced and directed by Maurice Swinkels[7] for LowLifeMedia.[8] The official video can be viewed here.[9]

The cameo lighting technique is used almost exclusively to separate the band members from the black background or frosted foregrounds, and, paired with overexposure, is effective at making Mäenpää appear deep within an ice encasing. Two spotlights are used at times to separate band members appearing together.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5 stars [10]
Metal Storm 9.4/10 stars [11]
The Metal Observer 8.5/10 stars
The Metal Crypt 5/5 stars [12]

Eduardo Rivadavia of Allmusic calls Wintersun a blend of "the hyper-fast precision of Yngwie Malmsteen-like guitar playing (witness the speedy "Beyond the Dark Sun") with the melodic sensibilities of post-Helloween power metal (see the more diverse "Winter Madness") and a homegrown passion for folk-styled songwriting descended straight from trailblazing compatriots Amorphis," describing Mäenpää's album as "jaw-dropping," "pyrotechnic," and "a stunning (if quite morbid) black metal tour de force."

Mike Stagno, staff member for Sputnikmusic, praised Mäenpää's Wintersun and called the band "stronger" than Ensiferum. Stagno emphasized the connection between the music and the album's cover artwork, both of which are depicted as "bleak and cold" while retaining a "mystical attractiveness." Stagno's only problem lay with Mäenpää's clean vocals, which were "passive sounding" and weren't "quite as refined" as the harsh vocals.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jari Mäenpää

No. Title Composed[5] Length
1. "Beyond the Dark Sun"   1998 2:38
2. "Winter Madness"   2002 5:08
3. "Sleeping Stars"   1995–2003 5:41
4. "Battle Against Time"   2002–2003 7:03
5. "Death and the Healing"   1996 7:13
6. "Starchild"[A]
  1. "Wanderer of Time"
  2. "Burning Star"
  3. "The Creation"
  4. "The Sea of Stars"
  5. "Finale"  
2000–2003 7:54
7. "Beautiful Death"   2003 8:16
8. "Sadness and Hate"   1996 10:16
Notes
  1. ^ The five sections within "Starchild" are not listed on the back of the album, but the lyrics within the liner notes are segmented with the titles of each "part".[13]

Personnel[edit]

Wintersun
Production

Wintersun: Special Tour Edition[edit]

Wintersun: Special Tour Edition
Live album by Wintersun
Released September 29, 2006
Label Nuclear Blast

On September 29, 2006,[15] Wintersun released Wintersun: Special Tour Edition, a live album. The tour edition is a Digipack that includes the original version of the album Wintersun and a live DVD from Wintersun's performance at Summer Breeze Open Air in 2005.

Track listing[edit]

Disc 1 (same as Wintersun)

Disc 2: Official Bootleg "Live & Raw"[15]
No. Title Length
1. "Beyond the Dark Sun" (Handycam sound) 5:01
2. "Battle Against Time" (Handycam sound) 7:50
3. "Sleeping Stars" (soundboard sound) 7:19
4. "Beautiful Death" (soundboard sound) 8:46
5. "Death and the Healing" (soundboard sound) 8:21
6. "Winter Madness" (soundboard sound) 7:00

Release history[edit]

Version Region Date Label Format
Original release Finland[citation needed] 13 September 2004 Nuclear Blast CD
United Kingdom[16] 27 September 2004 CD
United States[17][14] 5 October 2004 Nuclear Blast America CD, digital download
Tour Edition Germany[15] 29 September 2006 Nuclear Blast Digipack CD+DVD

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wintersun CD Japanese Import". CD Universe. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Sandvall, Anders (2 October 2004). "Jari from Wintersun". Metal-Rules.com. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Meeks, Ciaran (29 December 2004). "Jari Mäenpää". MetalEater. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Stefanis, John (2004). "Interview: Jari Mäenpää (Wintersun)". Get Ready to Rock!. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Releases > Wintersun - Jari Mäenpää". WinterMadness.net. Archived from the original on 7 December 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  6. ^ EC (November 2004). "Interview With Wintersun's Jari Maenpaa". Maximum Metal. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Official Homesite". WinterMadness.net. 10 September 2004. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  8. ^ Lowlifemedia's channel on YouTube
  9. ^ Wintersun - Beyond the Dark Sun on YouTube
  10. ^ a b Stagno, Mike (4 February 2007). "Wintersun – Wintersun review". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  11. ^ Metal Storm Review
  12. ^ Metal Crypt Review - Wintersun
  13. ^ "Wintersun > Tracklist". Discogs. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Wintersun – Wintersun > Album Details". Nuclear Blast USA. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c "Wintersun - Wintersun (Special Tour Edition)". Discogs. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  16. ^ "Amazon.co.uk > Wintersun". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  17. ^ "Barnes & Noble > Wintersun". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 12 February 2010.