Sweet Release: Mors Principium Est – Embers of a Dying World (2/10)

Yeah, yeah, I know Embers of a Dying World came out last Friday. But I’m not going to listen to it until after I talk about how excited I am for it, dammit!

At some point, I don’t know when, Mors Principium Est became one of those bands for me. You know the ones — class acts like Amon Amarth, who consistently put out quality tunes without ever messing with their formula. For MPE specifically, not even a major roster change in 2011 did much to steer them off course the familiar Finnish waters of melodic death metal. In fact, with their new multi-national lineup, they’re at their Mors Principium Best. For reference, I’ve been spinning …And Death Said Live on my Zune (what the fuck year is this again?) since it came out.

But since this Sweet Release column invariably becomes about what I want most from new releases, I’ll throw my lot in for this: I want MPE’s heaviness back.

Album art for Mors Principium Est's 2017 release, Embers of a Dying World.

Don’t get me wrong — MPE, in all their forms, always handle their sense of melody with the skill of veteran songmanship. Like, that’s never a thing I have to worry about with them. I know they’ll treat their skeedle-dees and their chugga-wuggs with equal importance. But!! I can’t help but listen to songs off The Unborn and wish the band’s new blood would throw my subwoofer a frickin’ bone. Gimme some of that bottom end, knowwhatimsayin?

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor nitpick. After all, what other nits can I pick? For years now, MPE only ever does what they do best, and that usually lines right up with what I want to hear from them: catchy, kick-ass melodic death metal. Regardless of whether they don’t give me what I want or not, I’m sure Embers of a Dying World will have some of the year’s most memorable tunes.

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.

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.