Released: 2008, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The first—and last—time I heard Finnish melodic death metallers Omnium Gatherum was on 2005’s YEARS IN WASTE and it wasn’t pretty. The vocal style of Antti Filppu left a bad taste in my mouth and the band’s tired take on an already leaden genre was largely forgettable. Ditching Filppu soon afterwards, the band slipped in 2007’s STUCK HERE ON SNAKE’S WAY before delivering their latest effort, THE REDSHIFT, which is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable record. Jukka Pelkonen is on his second outing fronting the band and his style is far and away better suited to Omnium Gatherum’s sound than that of his predecessor. Also, prevalent is the band’s mixture of melody and dark passages—think Amorphis-meets-Dark Tranquillity—that really adds a fresh twist on melodic death metal. Dan Swano’s production job certainly helps, too, giving the overall sound of THE REDSHIFT a full, expansive sound. Altogether, Omnium Gatherum (along with fellow Finns, Insomnium) is leading the pack in the second wave of European melodic death metal bands and THE REDSHIFT is a prime example of why.
At the root of any great melodic death record is its guitars and Markus Vanhala and Harri Pikka lead the way here. Tasty leads are abound on “Nail,” while the monster riffing and grand solo on “The Shadowkey” are almost progressive in nature. The ethereal instrumental “Song For December” is a real highlight that draws many parallels to Opeth. For “Chameleon Skin,” Vanhala and keyboardist Aapo Koivisto duke it out in a Children of Bodom-style duel that is as fun as it is impressive. The distorted, dirty rock riff that opens “No Breaking Point” quickly paves the way for a majestic keyboard passage before the surging tempo kicks in for the verses. Even on a track like, “The Second Flame,” with its bouncy tempo and sweeping melody, Omnium Gatherum marries aggression and accessibility perfectly by never forcing either but letting the two styles take flight independently. It isn’t until “Greeneyes” that a Katatonia-like darkness creeps in and Pelkonen’s mournful clean vocal casts a pall over everything. Contrasting the vocal style of that song with the ultra-low growl that closes “Shapes On Shades,” Pelkonen is immediately on par with Amorphis’ Tomi Joutsen for versatility.
The last melodic death albums that really shook my foundations came from Amorphis (SILENT WATERS) and Dark Tranquillity (FICTION), both of which were released almost two years ago now. Sharing space with those two records comes THE REDSHIFT and perhaps, most surprisingly, is just how much better Omnium Gatherum is than they were two releases prior. Gone are the clichéd melodic death archetypes and the ghastly vocals of Antti Filppu and in their place are well-crafted songs with versatile vocals and more tastefully done guitar parts than any one band should be allowed. This record is a much-needed breath of fresh air and easily takes the crown as album of the year for the melodic death genre.
KILLER KUTS: “Nail,” “The Shadowkey,” “Chameleon Skin,” “Greeneyes,” “The Second Flame”