Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wintersun - Snowfairies of the Brightmoon Faire (2010)

It's been sort of an in-joke for years among my esteemed co-bloggers that the follow-up to 2004's Wintersun album was simply not going to happen, so you can imagine how my eyes and heart lit up when this promo arrived in my post box recently. Yes, in the biggest surprise since Summoning announced they were switching lanes from Tolkien to explore C.S. Lewis' world of Narnia on their next album Long Lost to Where No Wardrobe Goes, Jari Mäenpää's Wintersun have finally released their sophomore effort. And there was much rejoicing. But don't get ahead of yourselves, folks, because this is not the frenetic, epic melodic metal that graced the s/t debut all those years ago, but another beast entirely.

Has Wintersun sold out? Not exactly, but in a bold maneuver, they've managed to acquire Tarja Turunen into the ranks, whose career has steadily taken a slide into the shitter after her split with black metal mavens Nightwish. It seems at first like it could be a natural fit, since both bands are regularly featured on Christmas Hits compilations and those exclusive radio playlists used in shopping mall verandas, in Finland and beyond. But this brings an end to the focus on Jari's vocals and synthesizer work, moving the focus of the band into a new, cringe inducing operatic realm which would make Diamanda Galas take her own life with a shotgun if she hadn't already worked out a few dozen other ways to do it.

This new sound manifests itself most clearly in the opening track "Crash of the Sugarplum", in which Tarja tells the tale of a heroin addicted Russian fey who must eke out a new living as a prostitute for the Brownies who use and abuse her worse than her own veins. Gone are the frantic, Dragonforce-meets-Children of Bodom explosions of prowess that dominated the debut album, replaced here with moody 'gothic' four-chord rock reminiscent of Green Day and Lacuna Coil. I'd like to think this was an anomaly, but before I can resolve that, the band surges into their next song, a 12-bar, 12-step interlude called "Winter Gheyness" in which the Joss Stone guest vocals are used more as a narrative to lead into the crushing ballad "I Left My Wallet at Hot Topic", which in an ironic twist, ends with an extended sample of Turunen counting her money aloud...
I swear I won’t tease you
Won’t tell you no lies
I don’t need no bible
Just look in my eyes
I’ve waited so long baby
Now that we’re friends
Every man’s got his patience
And here’s where mine ends
The nerve of this fucking band! And yet, for all my disappointment, I would have forgiven them if they would simply include a few fucking metal songs. "Starchild II: O Cum All Ye Faithful" is yet another droopy gothic ballad built for the airwaves, but with "Harry Potter and the One That Got Away", you can finally here an eruption of half-plagiarized Sonata Arctica riffing. It's not much, but at least you can thrash your girly locks out here. And the rest of the album hesitantly continues this pattern of ballad to rocker ratios, rounded out with such sadly forgettable fare as "Attention Deficit Dreamer", "I'm Too Sexy For My Chain Mail", and what is probably my favorite on the album, and the only GOOD song here, the closing epic "Victory Song from Afar (Since You Been Gone)", which ends with a mug-swilling folk swagger the likes of which Korpiklaani couldn't compose in their wettest dreams.

After six years of hanging by the suicide hotline, I was very relieved to see that the band hadn't given up their dreams of pursuing fame and glory and possibly even the European leg of the next Gigantour, but fans are very likely to be disappointed by the shift from uninspired, insulin starved virtuosity to a more radio friendly fare courtesy of new co-vocalist Tarja. Did Wintersun really need two chick singers? I'm not sure. The album has top of the line production, of course, you can nary hear a single cricket or untoward breath in the microphone, and the ballads here will probably see some rotation, but they've got nothing on "Silent Lucidity". But with Turunen locked into a 5-year contract and the band headed for the next season of American Idol as the backing musicians, it seems that you'll either have to accept this new direction or quit being a poseur already and listen to Darkthrone.

Highlights: If you have light brown hair or even dark blonde hair, blonde highlights can add a ton of depth to your hair. You can weave in up to 3 different types of colors. Ask your stylist about lowlights as well. If you have blonde hair, darker lowlights add more contrast.

Verdict: Epic Tailfeathers [2/10] (Yes, Captain Gray Matter. It was an April Fool's Joke.)

Wintersun Central


Walri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhan said...

Oh dear, should've stayed with just one chick singer. Two's trouble.

Narian said...

I heard this album was on par with the new DragonForce. Can't wait to hear it myself!