Sound — 8
Omnium Gatherum are a melodic death metal (melodeath) band from Finland. The band has been active since the late '90s, led by their main songwriter and only original member, Markus Vanhala. Omnium Gatherum's sound is very similar to that of the better known Finnish melodeath band Insomnium. Interestingly enough, the two bands are under the same record label and have accordingly toured together frequently. Vanhala has also played guitar in Insomnium since 2011. Over the past couple of years, Omnium Gatherum has been as successful as ever. Their last two albums, "Beyond" and "New World Shadows" made enough waves across the world for the band to tour in Japan and the United States, each for the first time. Speaking personally, "Beyond" is one of my favorite albums from the past couple of years and I still listen to it regularly.
Needless to say, I had high expectations for this album. What made "Beyond" so amazing was that it's songwriting was at such a high level that it transcended its genre. The riffs were catchy, Dan Swanö's production was amazing, and the album felt like one cohesive body, not a mere collection of songs. That last thing is what this album lacks most. The songs sound similar to the point that a listener could not say, "the third song does x for the album while the fifth song does y for the album and all the songs put together make a satisfying whole." The riffs are also not quite as catchy, but they are still pretty good. There are a lot more of the generic 0-0-0-0 metal riffs than the more intricate melodies of the last album. In a basic sense, "Beyond" differentiated Omnium Gatherum from Insomnium in a good way whereas the only real difference between the two now is Jukka Pelkonen's persistent use of growling vocals in Omnium Gatherum.
Nevertheless, the album has a few gems that are definitely worth your time. The lead single, "Skyline," is the album's most well-rounded song, delivering a meat and potatoes rhythm with a melody that sounds more rock than metal. No surprises, with the song structure or chord progression, just solid music. The songs "Frontiers" and "The Great Liberation" are very similar in their main musical themes and melodies. "The Great Liberation" gets the extra thumbs up for its more interesting structure and better guitar solo. Both are bolstered by an enhanced presence from keyboardist Aapo Koivisto, who features more prominently on this album than in the past.
Rhythmically, the album is heavily focused on the bass drum. Constant double bass beats (though not any blast beat rhythms, interestingly enough) are punishing enough as is. But combined with the chugging guitar riffs that accentuate the bass beats (beats one and three), the bass drum packs a punch; it literally feels like you are being punched in the stomach. While this will appeal to more standard death metal fans, it certainly marks a movement away from the melodic base of Omnium Gatherum.
Lyrics — 7
Jukka Pelkonen comes into his own on this album. Before, some complained that his harsh, growling vocals did not match the soft, melodic nature of the guitars. Others felt worse about Pelkonen because his seldom used clean voice was actually very good. On this album though, he uses his growl very effectively. Maybe it's one of the positive side effects of the more simplistic guitar work, but the hard-hitting growls fit the music here much more than before. The growls have even become melodic themselves. On numerous occasions, there are hummable choruses that actually sound pretty cool even though they're growled. However, Pelkonen does not sing with much variety on this album; his clean voice is nonexistent and the only moments where there are not growls are the few times when there are harmonies sung by other members of the band. Lyrically, I can't quite tell where Pelkonen is going. Like many Nordic vocalists, Pelkonen uses a fairly high level English vocabulary. But the lyrical direction of the album, or even any individual song, is hard to follow.
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, this album marks a return to the rougher style of death metal that encapsulates Omnium Gatherum's older sensibilities. Evidently, the band felt that "Beyond" went too far into the melodic direction and that here they needed to return to the death metal direction. Though, this change in direction doesn't necessarily make this album worse, it does make it less unique. "Beyond" represented a definitive, unique characteristic of the band, something that enabled them to finally break through and tour outside Europe. With this album, they once again become a less engaging form of Insomnium. Again, that doesn't mean this album is not entertaining. And in fact, songs like "Skyline" are great melodeath songs. But this album is missing the "it" factor that would take it from good to great.