Fire up your home heaters and stock up on necessities. Bring the dogs and cats in and shutter your windows. Make sure you have enough food and water to last your family for the imminent Ice Age. This autumn, the grand Wintersun shall freeze the world over again after an eight-year absence from the extreme metal scene. Be prepared for the frigid beauty of Time I.

The hype over Wintersun’s sophomore full-length album is well justified. The self-described, “Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal” Finnish band cited complex mixes for each individual track as a main reason for the long delay of the follow-up to their 2004 self-titled debut. But the huge amount of time invested into the recording and mixing process was not in vain. Unlike Guns N’ Roses’ overhyped Chinese Democracy, which was a release that did not live up to its expectations after a long wait of 15 years and having production costs in excess of US$13-million, Wintersun’s Time I is a fantastical sonic tale that sets angelic, new heights for the epic folk metal genre.

The massive-sounding orchestral accompaniment provides musical bedrock for frontman Jari Mäenpää to build his soul-rousing electric guitar melodies upon, which recreate the feeling of marching into an epic battle at times (at the 5:09 mark of “Sons of Winter and Stars”), and mostly complement and enhance the patriotic vibe of Mäenpää’s anthemic clean singing throughout the record (“Land of Snow and Sorrow” and “Time”).

It is obvious that Time I eschews the stronger melodic death metal sound of the self-titled Wintersun debut in exchange for a focus on elements of symphonic and folk metal, but some remnants of the band’s melodic death metal roots are still present in the form of the savage guitar riff that kicks off at the 2:34 mark of “Sons of Winter and Stars”, and Mäenpää’s occasional death growls.

Dimming the spotlight on speedy and melodic guitar playing (as heard in “Beyond The Dark Sun” on Wintersun’s self-titled debut) and Mäenpää’s decision to relegate the electric guitar to more of a secondary role this time round are the two things that are preventing this record from getting a perfect score. A balance between orchestral grandiosity and straightforward melodic death metal would have been perfect. But perhaps Time II might be different from Time I in this aspect when it gets released next year.

As the most awe-inspiring metal record to be released in 2012 thus far, Time I seems set to be a strong album-of-the-year contender. Its symphonic majesty and folkish vibe is rivaled only by Eluveitie records, but too bad Eluveitie’s harsh vocals sound jarring against the band’s instrumental music; Mäenpää’s harsh vocals fit Wintersun’s instrumental music perfectly and hence, allows Wintersun to emerge as the overall victor of “Epic Folk Metal Band of the Year”.

Time will be frozen when you dive into Time I’s alluring sonicscape, and you will resurface in the waters of reality to gaze at the star-filled night sky in stunned silence, wondering if such a celestial experience can really exist in our mundane, three-dimensional physical universe.

Track Listing:

01. When Time Fades Away [4:08]
02. Sons of Winter and Stars [13:31]
03. Land of Snow and Sorrow [8:22]
04. Darkness and Frost [2:24]
05. Time [11:45]

Run Time: 40:07
Release Dates: October 23, 2012 (USA), October 22, 2012 (UK)

Check out the song: “Time”