Sound: The sound of Jarmo Pikka's drums opening an album, that's the kind of sound that hasn't been heard since 2003, when Omnium Gatherum put out the genre-defining masterpiece 'Spirits And August Light'. Since then we've had two albums of wasted potential, displaying short glimpses of the band's former glory but caking it all in a thick crust of mediocrity, (although 'Years In Waste' was definitely not as bad as it could have been). You have no idea how reassuring hearing something as simple as a drum intro can be, as any resemblance to 'Spirits' is heavily revered by yours truly. However, unlike their last two attempts, Omnium Gatherum have made a whole god-damn album of aggressive, melodic brilliance. Immediately noticeable from opener 'Nail' is the top-notch sound quality and tone, which is a godsend after the tinny abomination that was 'Stuck Here On Snake's Way', and is no doubt thanks to the mixing and mastering from avid project-hopper Dan Swan.
Still, a good production job is nothing without good songs. Just as well, then, that this album is filled with them. While the focal point is still the guitars, every instrument gels together naturally and that results in what is actually a very sophisticated sound (see: 'The Return'), where no member ever struggles for any extra attention. Despite this, one can't help but admire the work of Markus Vanhala and Harri Pikka, who are the band's guitarists and songwriters. As usual, Vanhala's songs are stronger in quantity and, generally, quality than Pikka's, but all eleven songs on 'The Redshift' are highly polished, well written and generally enjoyable.
Unlike their several billion Finnish melodeath contemporaries, Omnium Gatherum's focus on keyboards has never been too strong, but Aapo Koivisto has definitely found a place in the band's palette here, providing nice textures and some melodies that could have been made by Kevin Moore if he'd gone easy on the cocaine. He seemed somewhat peripheral on 'Stuck Here On Snake's Way', but without him many songs on 'The Redshift' would be empty. But as I said before, all instruments have their essential place on this album, and the sound would fall apart without any one of them. // 9
Lyrics: Jukka Pelkonen's debut with Omnium Gatherum last year failed to convince me, however his performance on 'The Redshift' is excellent. His voice has gained much more strength and his timing has improved drastically, morphing his sound from a dog having a seizure to a fully fledged and very competent metal vocalist. There are also more clean vocals featured on this album, adding some really evocative touches to songs like 'A Shadowkey' and 'The Second Flame'.
Unfortunately, Pelkonen's lyrics are not yet in the clear. His lyrics are fragmented, contrived, and at times nonsensical, which is a shame because the song titles and artwork do have a continuity and appealing quality to them. There is some improvement on the horrendous lyrics on 'Snake's Way', but ultimately lyrics are not this band's strong point, and probably never will be. // 8
Overall Impression: Considering that it took Omnium Gatherum seven years to put out 'Spirits And August Light', it is very impressive that an album of this quality was released only a year after their last. It is a given that 'The Redshift' is a better album than 'Stuck Here On Snake's Way' and 'Years In Waste', as once again we have the potent juxtaposition of the aggressive ('The Redshifter, 'Chameleon Skin') and the beautiful ('Greeneyes', 'Distant Light Highway'). With this in mind, is this better than 'Spirits And August Light'? I'll leave that for you to decide, but it is without a doubt a worthy contender. Welcome back, boys. // 9
- Duncan Geddes (c) 2008