This is more or less an incredibly lengthy essay on Wintersun’s 2012 Time I. That’s all I really have to say about it. If you’d like to read it you can. It’s somewhat personal as well, so go easy on it. If you have any opinions on the matter, feel free to input them.
Wintersun’s 2012 album Time I has recently hit a certain point with me where I feel what the lyrics and the instruments are trying to convey emotionally and thematically. I’ve been listening to it and trying to make something out of the album by having a giant long-form analysis prepared, but it’s clear that my approach felt off. As a result, I’m going to write a long-form analysis on the album (yes, I contradicted myself). On another note, this also happens to coincide with the philosophy I have been reading and the theme of time depicted throughout the album.
This short series will be two parts, one dealing with philosophy and one dealing with magic. This is the philosophy one.
Okay, so what’s the big deal?
Nothing, really. Except for the fact that the music is on a scale of grandeur greater than most bands put out over multiple decades. The “controlled chaos” on the album, as Jari describes it, is a great description for the strange, clashing harmonic conflicts between the stringed instruments, guitar parts, vocals, and the wind instruments. The wind and stringed instruments are diverse enough to bring together multiple cultural influences to the music. Each song is “spacey” and played almost entirely in 3/8, resulting in an album that’s incredibly difficult to clap in time to.
What about the lyrics, though? Lyrically, the album depicts time in its clearest form. While it is told through three lengthy songs (alongside two instrumentals), it’s about the time that fades away for our “Sons of Winter and Stars”. They are a group of individuals traversing the snowy lands of Finland (or some fictional world with “snow and sorrow”), where as time fades away, they lose who they are. Lyrics such as “… The land of snow and sorrow, carry me away from the cold,” and “Frozen lake, the dancing spirits” allude to the band’s homeland throughout. Time itself is a character within the story, playing the role of a martyr…
…So what though?
That’s a great question you might not be asking, and it’s here that I’ll finally get into my explanations for describing the album and what it depicts, as well as why it emanates a familiar feeling. We must first start with Albert Camus’ writings on suicide and the meaning of life. Camus explains the absurdity of life as a human with aims and desires in a world fraught with chaos. The life of the absurd is a life of revolt. It’s about conscious living vs. living unconsciously for years without bothering to ask “why?” or “who am I?” philosophers Camus and John Dewey emphasize that even though life has no true meaning, we should strive to give it meaning through intelligently controlled habits and satiating our curiosity for what we want to know. We run like vehicles, and without the proper care, we find ourselves rusting away, shedding the bright blue coloring we once donned and becoming a dark, rough brown.
In the case of Time I, we find that our protagonist is suffering to find his way through the land of snow and sorrow, which I interpret to be a land of both light and melancholic misery. Typically in literature, snow and winter are seen as images of death and decay, a time when species fail to survive due to the bitter cold. As a result, we find that our protagonist is, as sang on the last song “Time”, “for ages searching the warmth of the sun” in order to avoid death by this cold. A line later in the same song, he ends up singing “If it never finds me, I can die as one.” I’m not sure what the intent is on the part of Jari. I know that it could mean that the land of snow keeps him whole, and the sun keeps him scattered. I’m unsure. Interpreting this on personal judgement, I imagine it to mean that because the land of snow and sorrow has kept him trapped for so long, there’s no other way to find his way internally except through the warmth of the sun, and that dying as one means that he’ll suffer and die in the cold. In the case of dying in the cold, there is no hope, unlike the sun that warms our bodies and our mind, the brightness that makes us go forward. Our protagonist, that is.
Let me circle back around to philosophy and tie this together; philosophy emphasizes building a worldview based on conscious living and awareness. It’s about finding oneself, asking “who am I?” (a lyrical line off part II, Surrounded by Darkness, from “Sons of Winter and Stars”), and learning to live intentionally. Time I is the story of a Son of Winter and Stars who seeks the warmth of the sun. He seeks to find his way through the cold of his homeland. By looking at the embrace of stars and the mysteries of time, he discovers life and death become meaningless. After all, what is a life worth living that does not seek a higher purpose or intention? Not only that, we live in revolt when we reject Death himself in favor of discovering purpose in life. While living has no meaning, life can be given meaning through the discovery of our life’s passion.
I would continue further and elaborate on the philosophical theme in Time I standalone, but by that point you may as well be reading a motivational blog post. Fuck that. No. Instead, Time I is comparable to Lord of the Rings in regards to philosophy. Think of this… Frodo and Sam and the Fellowship of the Ring take a long and dangerous journey, killing thousands of orcs and entering into the depths of Mordor to sacrifice the one ring, a ring made of malice and cruelty. The one ring to rule them all. Later on, we find our protagonists leaving for another continent from Middle Earth known as Valinor. Switching back to Time I, our protagonist ends up traversing the lands of snow and sorrow, trying to find his way. He takes a long and dangerous journey searching for warmth. Eventually, just as time fades away for Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings, the Son from Time I finds that as time fades away, he will never be the same.
Philosophically, it’s been said that when people do “wake up” and become conscious to their situation, they become more hurt by the world they thought they wanted then the world they have. Idealism leaves. Yet it is through this period of suffering that we take a journey through the unknown, exploring reaches of the world within ourselves, before this journey climaxes to the end of one road and the beginning of another. It is a journey of pain, hardwork, and self-discovery. There’s no clear indicator as to when or why this happens. While some people reach this point, most don’t commit completely to it.
There’s no better way to close part I out then by depicting the struggle. While our protagonist’s heart is surrounded by ice, the circle of fire -the warmth of the sun- is trying to melt the ice, revealing a path through the maze he traverses inwardly.
I ́m surrounded by the circle of fire,
but eternal ice has frozen my heart
I ́m lost in the pathways of time
But now the time has come for us!
We are the Sons of Winter and Stars!
That’s part I. Part II will close this out by explaining how mixing ambient and metal instruments can create a magical atmosphere.