Sweet Release: Wintersun – The Forest Seasons (2017)

I promise I won’t make any jokes about “time.”

‘Tis the season for the forest, if Jari Maenpaa has anything to say about it. Assuming the album doesn’t get delayed and comes out sometime this year, as the band asserts in their Facebook post, what the fuck will it sound like?

What do I want it to sound like?

Wintersun’s 2006 debut was a formative album for me. It helped me bridge the gap from soaring, melodic power metal to soaring, melodic power metal with death vocals and blast beats. But seriously, Wintersun helped get me acquainted with more extreme metal, which few other bands or albums had been able to do at the time. Time I was a step back in the extremity department for sure, but a leap forward for the kind of band I think Wintersun is currently becoming. Which is a band that doesn’t release albums for years and years (damn it, I blew it!!).

Wintersun's forthcoming 2017 album The Forest Seasons features folky album art, depicting a lush forest with a winding river in its center.

I think The Forest Seasons will be a blend of both Wintersun’s ferocity and Time I’s more cinematic soundscape. A name like “Forest Seasons” almost sounds like we could get some grampa’s guitars, yes? Not to mention the gnarled wood frame of the album art. That’s some Blind Guardian/Elvenking shit. If it were any other band, I’d expect this release to be folk as fuck, but I somehow think they’ll resist the temptation to go all slide whistles and washboard spoons on us. Maybe we’ll get that with Time II.

I don’t think Jari and Co. are writing an album “for the fans” by any means. But I’m guessing the album will be more or less a return to form, for better or worse. Believe me, I want bands to change their sound over time. I love it when they get fucking crazy. But frankly, I don’t think the time for that is right, not from Wintersun. I’m fully ready to embrace The Forest Seasons as a safe, comfortable album for fans and newcomers alike.

If anything, The Forest Seasons has my curiosity piqued. Lemme follow that breadcrumb trail, already.

How Being a Dad is Like Being on Tour

Touring is a grind. To say you’re out of your comfort zone while out on The Road (Bob Seger’s, not Cormac McCarthy’s) is a serious understatement.

You’re miles from home, severed from the ones you hold most dear, trapped with who can only be politely described as volatile company. But when you’re on that stage, you have to put your game face on, night after night. The show must go on.

Basically, it’s a lot like being with your kid in public.

The Essential Salts

Since I entered Dad-dom, I feel obligated to fulfill a certain set of social expectations. I don’t think these expectations are entirely different from playing live music before a crowd of strangers. In both music and parenting, you have to be able to handle your shit, or the curtain is ripped back, and the magical immersion is broken. The jig is up.

I’ve already spoken plenty about my many insecurities. But what I’m talking about here aligns more with good ‘ol common sense. Forget making a good first impression — when you enter a room in Dad Mode, people will expect you to have read the instruction booklet.

Does he know how to hold the baby? Does he know he has to hold the baby rightside up?

See? Basic shit. You’ll notice I didn’t say anything like “how often does he defer to Mama to tell him what to do?” I can’t assume the complex relationships parents have with each other. Maybe Mom doesn’t want your clumsy-ass handling the kiddo, I don’t know. But if you are holding the kid, then you’d better damn well know which way is up.

Same goes for playing live while on tour. 

Does he know how to play his instrument?

There’s no “right” way to deal with mistakes (but there is a “wrong” way, as Mariah Carey has recently proven), but it’s not too much to ask that you know your own damn songs before you make people pay to see them, yeah?

Basically, this all amounts to “you bothered to make the damn kid, so you’d better have at least the bare minimum skills to support her.”

Giving ‘em a Good Show

Some parentals have a natural talent for showmanship. Not everyone does; some of us have to fake it. And fake it you must to protect the credulity of your station. I’m a dad, and even if my kid is acting shitty, how I react will affect whether people are happy to see us enter a room or if they’ll break out the fake china versions of their smiles.

In musical terms, this translates to who will come out to see your shows. It’s all about putting on a good public face and being a good sport.

You smile. Wave at your adoring fans. Sign an autograph or two. And when the meet-and-greet is over, you’re back to screaming at each other about who pooped where.

See, unless I tell them, no one knows Gorgonna can be an absolute terror when being put to bed. They only see how lovely my daughter is and how proud I am to be her dada. Those aren’t untrue by any means, just more a matter of good showmanship.

Some Final Thoughts and Shit

One thing is for sure: you should never hesitate to go socialize. I find that being a dad in public makes me feel equal parts accomplishment and anxiety, but that the highs far outweigh the lows. Social interactions are healthy for kiddies; you can’t keep ’em out of the spotlight forever.

Same with touring/playing live — the positive feedback from the crowd and satisfaction of a show well-played more than makes up for any mid-song fuck-ups or petty band spats.

I’m sure there’s an argument buried in this post about how we shouldn’t give into societal pressures. But you know what, I just have to ask myself how I want (that’s ME, personally) to have people see me as: a confident human being, capable of taking care of his child, who wants to show the damn thing off because I’m proud of her. That idea drives me toward self improvement, and I can’t really see that as a bad thing.

Parenting and playing music are things you should do, should you have the opportunity. They have their challenges, but the worthwhile things on this earth often do, don’t they?

The show must go on.

Sweet Release: Zeal & Ardor – Devil Is Fine (2/24)

Bands have been inventing new, creative recipes for black metal for years now; we’ve now an impressive array of diverse cream filling flavors in our devil’s food cake. While the variety is refreshing, some flavors have become championed by the internet elite, while others are relegated to gas station desperation. Nevertheless, I’m always, always pleased to hear any attempt to spice up Grandma’s kvlt-ass formula, and Zeal & Ardor is poised to be the next big thing.

Ignoring the hype (and occasional hyperbole) already surrounding this release, I imagine Devil Is Fine really will sound like nothing the metal community has ever heard before. Comboing off on African slave chants and black metal is pretty daring — the kind of off-the-wall union that demands passion and authenticity to pull off.

And I’m a little worried.

Album art for Devil Is Fine by Zeal & Ardor.

No, not that the artist’s grand vision won’t connect with me. I’ve already heard several songs, both from the upcoming Devil Is Fine and a few select tracks from their SoundCloud, and the sound Zeal & Ardor achieves is nothing short of remarkable. In the title track, band mastermind Manuel Gagneux’s soulful singing voice drifts hauntingly across a backdrop of clanking chains and muffled tremolo guitars. On “Children’s Summon,” his screams rattle with the pain of the Old South against hypnotic, melodious synths and rapid-fire blast beats.

But is the song any good?

I’ve eaten up the offerings presented to me, but they ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled. The influences — or ingredients, to continue the analogy — are so expertly blended, but only come across as the very best standout pieces of songs. They feel like inspired ideas for experimental black metal of the highest caliber that have, tragically, not yet fully formed the ideal shape and consistency that are its due. The sound and concept are so fresh I’m willing to forgive quite a bit, but… we’ll see.

But who am I to say what’s good or not? Why allow experimentation with influences but not song composition? Black metal will always end up doing its own thing, so regardless of my shithead opinions I think Devil Is Fine will be one of the year’s most talked-about releases. Certainly it will be one of the most unique. My mouth is watering in anticipation for it, but whether the whole thing satisfies as much as the smaller samples remains to be seen.