VERSUS: Something Wild vs. Wintersun

VERSUS: Something Wild vs. Wintersun

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are looking at two bands who have changed what melodic death metal can sound like. Adding keyboards, impressive orchestration and impressive guitar work that would make any guitar fan squeal with excitement with every note. One band, who would influence the sound with adding power metal-esque keyboard solos that could almost be on the level of any great shredder. The other band, a band that took melodic death metal to a grand scale of orchestration with string sections, keyboards and just grandiosity with their debut. Let's bring this matchup into the ring with these two melodic death metal band's in a match-up I'm calling "The Reaper against The Cold Winter".

In this corner, we have Children of Bodom, with their 1997 debut album Something Wild. Upon its release, the album would receive critical acclaim and be the launching point for the band's unique take on melodic death metal. Incorporating classic heavy metal, along with power metal-esque keyboards into the band's already brutal and guitar-shredding sound. Showing off the impressive guitar playing of lead guitarist and front man Alexi Laiho. What does this album bring to the ring in this matchup?

The album opens with "Deadnight Warrior". With an explosion and building strings, create a dark and uneasy ambience. The blasting double bass and epic keyboard strikes of Janne Wirman start the song off strong and fierce. Guitarists Alexi Laiho & Alexander Kuoppala just deliver a chugging and heavy as hell opening riff. Jaska Raatikainen's double bass kicks and drums have so much reverb and punch with every strike. Laiho & Kuoppala continue the impressive speed, while Raatikainen matches the speed with ferocity. The song flies by in it's speed and intensity and before you know the song is over. An all-out thrash-heavy opening track. Next is "In The Shadows", leading the charge is the gritty and grimy bass of Henkka Blacksmith. Raatikainen delivers an almost black metal-esque drum opening. With Wirman's accenting strings to the pounding drums and driving guitars, into a beautiful atmospheric section with just Raatikainen along with him. We begin to hear the start of the band's evolution of incorporating power metal piano and synths into their sound. Laiho's vocals have tinges of black metal, with a little bit of just shouting/screaming vocals intermixed. The song does have black metal moments in its drumming, and in some of the tremolo guitar sections. With grander production in its instrumentation, the song sounds epic in its scale. We also see Laiho's guitar skills begin to shine with this song, beginning to show how impactful and influential he was in his thrash-tinged playing.

Next is "Red Light in My Eyes, Part 1". With heavy focus on the keyboards, and ambience, filling the space of the mix. Laiho's vocals are still high, but also include more deeper death metal growls before the keyboard strikes crank the speed of the track up. Wirman's harpsichord-like interlude before the song gets heavy and thrashy, with both Laiho & Kuoppala going for complex, intricate and faster riffing. The closing of the song almost has a punk-like aesthetic in the riff and drums before the strings come in, to bring it back to the band's trademark keyboard-infused melodic death metal sound. We then get "Red Light in My Eyes, Part 2". Opening with an almost Beethoven like piano/guitar hybrid, it mutates into a double bass heavy scream fest with the vocals. With a chugging palm-muted riff, into accompanying strings behind it. Raatikainen's double bass adds so much punch and vigor to Laiho's screams. Wirman's harpsichord returns again to the piece, melding the two tracks in similar moments. The riff at the halfway mark gets heavier and faster, with light pinch harmonics and pounding double bass behind it. "Lake Bodom" opens with an impressive guitar opening with underlying piano beneath it. As the rhythm guitar builds a nice chugging riff beneath it. Laiho shines again on his guitar ability as the drum strikes and rising guitars kick the song off. The riff with the drums following along instantly made me bob my head along. Especially as the keyboards began to rise and match the guitars. The dueling guitar solo into the keyboard solo is classic Children of Bodom and done so well as the song comes to a heavy and brutal close. My favorite track on the album.

"The Nail" starts with similar ambient and an unknown-feeling like build in the opening track. I love the crust-punk/black metal type riff in the opening with the choir vocals behind it. The driving kick drum of Raatikainen, leading into the double bass, builds as the riff intensifies and the choir leads the vocals amongst Laiho's snarls. The keyboard solo, with intermittent guitars and double bass, takes the lead of the track as Laiho & Kuoppala follow along. Raatikainen leads again with black metal-like blast beats and Blacksmith's bass keeping the heart of the track going. Laiho's fretboard playing speed and accuracy is so good, all while delivering his trademark snarl vocals as the track heads into an almost breakdown section at the halfway mark, with heavy bass by Blacksmith. Wirman's piano solo, transitioning into Laiho's guitar solo, was PERFECTLY blended and mixed. Along with the nice accompaniment of strings behind both of their solos. The band's marriage of power metal, neo-classical, and melodic death/black metal is on point. The album closes with "Touch Like Angel of Death". Guitars are way higher in the mix, with a driving snare strike by Raatikainen and choir like vocals from Wirman. The energy of the song is so upbeat, while adding the music-box like piano and synths, creates a sudden shift in the song. Creating an almost theatrical build. Pummeling double bass breaks the build up and the band goes for thrash and melody throughout the complex arrangement of the strings, choir and the band itself. Raatikainen pummels his drum kit at the halfway mark as the riff comes back swinging. Laiho shows off an impressive and technical solo near the three quarters mark, as the song comes to a grandiose close to the album.

Their opponents are fellow countrymen Wintersun with their 2004 self-titled debut. The solo project of Jari Mäenpää of Ensiferum, the band debuted to critical acclaim with the release of their debut, like their opponents. Described by some as neo-classical & power metal, mixed with folk & melodic death metal. The album would launch the band into the melodic death metal lexicon. With many critics and fans comparing them to their opponents today. Does their debut stack up or defeat their opponents?

The album opens with "Beyond The Dark Sun". With it's rising, fast-paced opening guitar, the band joins in with accompanying strings and choir accents behind it. The riff is intense, especially with the driving snare hits and double bass in the production. Blasting beats over spoken vocals by Mäenpää delivers that high shrieking death/black metal vocal style. With clean, almost operatic vocals beneath it, and rising/descending bass underneath, instantly makes it a heavy riff. Kai "The Grinder" Hahto's drums are fast, technical and strong. The song flies by in it's pacing and speed. Following that is "Winter Madness". With driving drums by Hahto, the song has a almost folk metal sound. Especially with the sing along parts going into the chorus, trying to ring true amongst the blast beats of Hahto. Mäenpää has so much snarl and visceral aggression in his vocals, adding to the ferocity of the music and the guitars. The scale of the production really showcases on this track, with an almost cinematic mix. Along with so many layers of instrumentation and vocals. Mäenpää also showcases an impressive guitar solo near the three quarters mark, showing off the neo-classical influence in the band's sound.

On "Sleeping Stars", we open with a slower tempo. Heavy reverbed drums, emotional strings and ringing guitars bring the pacing of the record down a bit. Showcasing a sorrowful tone to the track. The theatrical arrangement of the music, with acoustic sections, twinkling strings and choir is a beautiful touch. Then, the double bass breaks up the mix, and the song comes into fruition. With clean vocals and accompanying chorus, the song still continues the grandeur amidst the double bass and gravely screams. The sweeping strings during the vocals is a nice touch to the track. I would love to see Wintersun perform these songs with an actual orchestra. With the scale of their sound, it would just be amplified to eleven with a real orchestra booming behind them. "Battle Against Time" opens with a thrash-heavy riff and blast beats by Hahto. Continuing the folk metal influence in the vocals and sing-along style, it transitions to a spoken word section before the unrelenting drumming just bashes the listener over and over. The riff intensifies along with the vocals, that sounds straight out of a Blind Guardian track. Keyboards begin to show up to break the mold as the drumming and riffing intensifies as Mäenpää's snarly vocals join the party. It's an audio journey in its sonic soundscape and complex layering. From so many vocal layering, to strings, to ambience and background filling, it is such a large scale track in the entire seven minute runtime.

Next is "Death and The Healing". Another slow start like the previous track. With angelic choirs as the guitars ring in the mix. The clean vocals of Mäenpää start the song off as the drums and guitar continue the simple but effective sound mixed with the choir. Acoustic guitar pops in and adds to the emotional feel of the track. Very folk/power metal in its sound. There is also no growl vocals on the track. Mäenpää shines on the guitar again at the four minute mark, delivering a unique and intricate layered guitar solo. The riff does get heavier after that point, with more double bass accenting the riff's heaviness and palm-muted sound. The guitar soloing is impressive on the track and shows Mäenpää is truly talented with the instrument. The pummeling double bass opens "Starchild", with a matching palm muted riff. I like the almost galloping like guitar playing into the verses. It's heavy, fast-paced and upbeat. The plinking strings and keyboard during the vocals are a nice addition to the depth of the production of the track. Mäenpää's vocal mix of clean vocals, almost operatic highs, and visceral snarls are layered and mixed well. The medieval, Baroque-era acoustic section with rising and fading strings, adds that power metal/folk influence that the band does so well on this album. With the clean vocals section at the halfway mark, instantly channeling an ol' timey drinking song in the singing style, and sway of the beat. "Beautiful Death" has a darker tinge to the opening compared to the other songs on the album. The riff starts out low and heavy, potentially in a lower tuning. Vocals are more guttural and evil, counterbalanced by the clean angelic choir vocals. Hahto is again blasting his heart out and destroying the kit as Mäenpää's snarl and gritty vocals are more visceral and furious. The song continues the beautiful vocal mixture of cleans, growls and impressively fast guitars and drumming. The album closer is the ten minute "Sadness and Hate". With acoustic guitar and ringing bass beneath it, the song begins to pick up and escalate after it's build. Hahto's drum mix is punchy and he is front and center with every snare hit and double bass kick. Mäenpää's vocal talent is on point on the track. His snarly, screaming vocals have so much distortion and grit to it, I wouldn't be surprised if he was sore at the end of recording the track. The arrangement of the song has so many interludes and musical breaks throughout the runtime, it's almost symphonic in its arrangement. A truly grand conclusion to the debut of this Finnish death metal act.

After listening to both of these epic melodic death metal records, which record do I declare the winner? In my opinion, the winner is Something Wild by Children of Bodom. For me, Wintersun's self-titled was a good combination of folk, classical and power metal. But, I also think there could have been some moments where they could have reigned it in a little bit. There were some moments I did listen to the songs and after awhile, I was checking how much time was left on the track which is not a good thing. With Something Wild, the songs were consistent, they got in/got out, and there wasn't any bloat or any moments I wanted to skip or had that feeling of "when is this over?". Wintersun is still a good band, but in this matchup, I have to declare Something Wild by Children of Bodom as the winner of this matchup.

Children of Bodom would go on to have a string of successful albums following their debut, becoming one of the best-selling artists in Finland. Releasing a total of ten studio albums over the band's lifespan. Tragically on January 4th, 2021, Laiho had passed away from health complications at the age of 41. The metal community was stunned and saddened by Laiho's passing. The band's final concert with Laiho was released as a live album called A Chapter Called Children of Bodom – The Final Show in Helsinki Ice Hall 2019 in 2023. Following his passing, a short-lived project of Bodom called Bodom After Midnight was formed and released the EP Paint The Sky With Blood. Consisting of three songs recorded during the making of Bodom's next record before Laiho's passing.

Wintersun wouldn't release a new album until 2012's Time I. The album was received with positive reviews and feedback from fans. Mäenpää had begun work on Time II following the release, but due to many setbacks, the sequel had been delayed for quite awhile. In 2017, Wintersun would release The Forest Seasons while Mäenpää was working on Time II. It was announced this year that Time II will be released on August 30th through Nuclear Blast.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Something Wild vs. Wintersun - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Something Wild, Wintersun…

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