Album review: OMNIUM GATHERUM Origine
When it comes to melodic death metal, arguably no one makes the melodic half of this equation more melodic than Finnish Omnium Gathering. Going back to the early days of the group, they have always shown a sonic flair to place them in the same category as Principium East bit, Insomnia, Dark Tranquility et al, certainly showing along the way that they know how to seamlessly move the puzzle pieces around without looking disjointed and harshly juxtaposed.
It was in 2008 The Redshift where the band began to add extra sunshine and a quality of rosy red cheeks to the melodic component and catapulted those elements to the forefront of their compositions. This created a larger dimension and contrast in their music where gut-punch death metal exists alongside some of the loudest, most hummable material bands of their ilk that have ever been poured out sugar. The Redshift, Shadows of the New World, Beyond, Grey sky and The scorching cold are albums that I can still pull out and marvel at how everyone digs their anthemic hooks in places that should have healed. And if after 13, 10, eight, five and three years (respectively) the riffs and melodies still haven’t left the old noggin ‘, then there’s no point in fighting. If anything, I should ask my partner to make sure these albums are on my “Old Man Exhibiting Signs of Dementia” playlist. I might end up forgetting the names and faces of my family, loved ones and most of my past, but it seems I won’t be able to forget Omnium Gathering, Even if I try.
The pre-match assumption was that Origin was going to be rich in differences, given the overhaul of the band’s lineup (loss of a guitarist and overhaul of the entire rhythm section) over the past two years. In addition, an air of melancholy was to be expected given the difficult and passionate handling of the road was stuck to the ground during the pandemic. But hope for a cheerful vibe emerged after quotes appeared on the record about the parallels between this group’s ninth album, and Def Leppard‘s Hysteria. If there’s one band that can handle the diapasonic spectrum between desperate and joyful elegy, Pride Flag-waving and Maypole Dancing celebrating summer with progressive death metal, it’s these dudes.
So what’s the first thing they do on their new album? Start with “Emergence,” an intriguing blend of flavors including a picked chug, metal ax flourishes, AOR chord progressions, and a ridiculous air of positivity not usually found in metal or that emerges from metal. the end of a global mood-killing pandemic. What stands out about this, and the rhythmic swing, blue sky swells and aloud melodies of the following track “Prime,” isn’t just how good the keys and guitars (and, oddly enough, the bass drums) are brilliant, but how pumped up they are. The oscillating flight of counterpoint and the harmonies between guitarist Markus Vanhala and keyboardist Aapo Koivisto are definitely enlightening, smooth the edges of Jukka Pelkonen’s gruff bark and play on the choppy riffs of the chorus.
“Paragon” combines all of the above into a blending death metal swagger lovingly caressed by a cleanly sung chorus. This, combined with a glorious, Iron maiden-esque gallop will have spirited eyes everywhere envisioning stages of people taking off their hats and placing their hands over their hearts in recognition of their country’s colonizing successes before swinging their manes in the style of the glam rockers of Canucklehead Brighton Rock back in the day when they mistakenly thought they were heavier than they actually were. Cut from the same fabric is “Count” in its collision of In fire‘ The jesters race with the ’80s Sunset Strip and (ho-hum) another killer solo.
It’s around this point in the album’s life that it becomes clear that Origin greatly deleted Omnium Gatheringthe foot of the accelerator pedal for the benefit of a more consistent mid-range presentation. This, for the best, allows the melodies to breathe and everyone, and especially drummer Atte Pesonen, to include accented tracks and shake ‘n’ bake to make up for a hundred notes per minute cut in half. Although, for the worse, this is where the album’s lack of tempo variety actually becomes a noticeable handicap for dynamic potential.
“Fortitude” has a horror soundtrack vibe to the verses and, despite the melodic appearances, it meanders and lacks fluidity in places. A tiny Easter Egg set in its generally linear anti-structure is a briefly referenced riff that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever listened to music of any sort. You’ll know it when you hear it and while you might not be sure exactly where you heard it, you’ve heard it a million times before.
The individual elements that make up “Friction” are well known to anyone who owns more than a few melodic death metal albums. Fortunately, Omnium Gathering attempting to shake things up with quirky drums in the pre-chorus and chorus (I imagine traditional and mainstream songwriters lose their shit to a grand chorus where they chose to throw weird shit) and scarcity contradictory guitar. Solo fucking kills too. “Tempest” has a slightly accelerated midsection in which another exquisitely fluid solo unleashes, “Unity” is more than six minutes of unshakable rhythm that even a low-key piano solo (that fucking kills, ‘natch) does. can save from the “should have been cut in half” junkyard, and “Solemn” ends on a massive melodic note with some of the album’s fastest riffs and double bass. It’s still a song that wouldn’t be out of place in a Finnish ballroom, but it lowers its head at a decent beat with, you guessed it, a killer solo.
In all, Origin drags more than necessary from the hand of Omnium Gatheringthe failure to mix the dynamics of the tempo during its course. Instead, the adventure comes in the form of an expanded exploration of their melodic side, making them both the band’s “least” death metal collection but the most melodically rich. It’s (thankfully) not as spat as a Mutt Lange production, but it’s a lot more euphonious and throws a ton of hooks into the musical tackle box. And solos kill fucking.