WINTERSUN and the Modern Recording Tech Conundrum: Why the F*ck Is “Time II” Taking So Long?

By now, unless you’re a Luddite (in which case, how’d you get here? Good on ya), you’ve probably heard about Wintersun’s divisive Indiegogo campaign. Hell, maybe you’ve even supported it yourself. Now, the campaign isn’t the focus of this piece or even something that irks me at all, but it’s an important facet of what I’d like to discuss and so bears addressing. I’ll summarize what I’m referring to shortly, with a quick foreword:

I really admire Wintersun and am empathic to the fan collective that’s been relentlessly teased by the Time project over the past decade; we’ve been in it together for way, way too long. But for the love of all that is frostbitten and lonely, we need Time II. Not The Forest Seasons (as dope as it’ll likely be), not remasters or live albums. Time fucking II. So what gives? Let’s investigate:

  • On March 1st, the band launched what was initially touted as the first of several, over the course of months, crowdfunding campaigns
  • The massive proceeds from the campaign(s) would be put toward building, from scratch, a private studio/rehearsal space
  • Said space would, in theory, “help [Wintersun] make more albums more efficiently and faster in the future.” Looking at you, Time II
  • At the time of writing, Wintersun’s first goal is 285% funded and has received a month-long extension (holy fuck)
  • Supporting contributors have purchased a “Wintersun Forest Seasons Package” containing the new (not Time II) Forest Seasons album with goodies galore; a Live at Tuska 2013 album; and, here’s where things get kinda funny: remasters of Time I and WintersunThe latter has also received a track order rearrangement that supposedly better suits the album; mind you, it’s already been out for 13 years at this point

Alright, so let’s think about this for a second. Wintersun finished a brand new album and launched a crowdfunding campaign to build themselves a studio with all the fancy gear necessary to spruce up, at this point, an old album (Time II). Bear in mind, the whole Time thing was conceptualized at least 11 years ago when recording for it began in 2006. Over a 6-year production period studded with setbacks (granted, some legit; most perfectionism-induced), the project was split into two parts, the first of which was released in October 2012. Mixing for Time II began in 2013 shortly after I‘s release, and was slated for a 2014 arrival that never came. From this, it’s reasonable to conclude that Time II is actually finished—has been finished—but the band just isn’t comfortable putting it out yet. Whomp, whomp.

This is where digital technology’s impact on the creative and technical processes of music production fascinates me. Musicians, producers, and engineers are practically unrestrained by track count, automatable parameters, or signal processing capability, among countless other factors, in the modern digital workstation. Rarely are we forced to make compromises or commit to certain choices that would move a project along to simply get it done. We have the “luxury” of sitting on what are ultimately completed projects for 10+ years pushing buttons and moving faders around here and there until it’s “perfect.”

In Wintersun’s case, opening up a 13-year-old session and applying 13 years’ worth of newly acquired skill and gear to it in hopes of achieving some unattainable standard of “perfection” is a reasonable thing to do. But it was fucking great before, and reflective of the period in which it was created. Continuous improvements in hardware, software, and individual ability mean that anything has the potential to become “better” at some ambiguous, future point in time. When it’s so simple to open up an old session and make adjustments years and years down the line, when, then, is anything complete?

Jari makes it seem as if the tools necessary to bring the sounds from his brain to DAW haven’t been invented yet. I mean, he said the following in the first minute or so of their crowdfunding explanation video:

As you might know, making our Time I album was a [w]ery long and difficult project. The reason was, we didn’t have the resources to complete the true [w]ision we had for the album, and we still don’t have the resources for Time II, or for the other massive Wintersun album projects we have in store for the future. [emphasis added]

OCD: It hurts more than just yourself. 

Somehow, though, Time I managed to sound fantastic, even if “the end result was a huge compromise from [his] original and true vision.” And somehow, The Forest Seasons is up-to-Jari’s-impossible-par? I don’t fault anyone for wanting only his or her absolute best work subjected to public scrutiny. But leaving the Time project half-finished for the last five years when it could have, and should have, all been released at once? Remastering a nearly 15-year-old record in your whopping two-album discography?

Wintersun exemplify what I believe is one of the most treacherous pitfalls of modern recording technology. “Good enough” isn’t good enough anymore. Compromises and commitments in the studio that allow a project to move on to completion barely exist. Sessions can be manipulated to no foreseeable end should the artist choose to do so, and their work ceases to be a product of the time and headspace in which it was created. It ceases to be art…

The way I see it, Time II is old news. The public may not have ever heard it, but it’s an old record that the band wants to rehash. Time I and Wintersun literally are old records that the band is rehashing—simply because current technology makes it so damn easy to fix any issues perceived in older work. Seriously though, at the Wintersun level, these “issues” hardly exist. These guys rip.

As a fan, I look forward to The Forest Seasons. I look forward to Time II, should it ever come to light. But do I think Time II will sound drastically better because it’s been obsessed over for five or more years than Time I? Not for a second.

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Gear Gods intern Maxwell studied English at Cal Poly Pomona and has since realized life ain’t all about semicolons and syntax. He’s studying audio now, and will probably judge your music taste before your grammar.