“You don’t want to miss Omnium Gatherum. They’re really good”. This recommendation came from the member of another band playing at the Neckbreakers Ball at the end of 2011. We drank up and crossed the road to The Garage where OG, as I have seen them called, began to play tight and gripping melodic metal. I bought the same year’s album “New World Shadows” there and then and have never been disappointed with it. Like the live show, it stands on a pedestal and reels off 8 tracks of technical excellence, controlled aggression and freedom of ideas, culminating in the majestic “Deep Cold”. I already owned “Spirits and August Light” (2003) but this was an example of a band progressing to a level of staggering maturity. Sp it was some excitement and anticipation that I got hold of the band’s sixth and latest album “Beyond”.
My reaction on listening to “Beyond” was that to some extent, OG have dissolved into their own model of perfection. There are classy moments. “Formidable” and “Living in Me” were the highlights for me, sharing the uplifting, catchy and atmospheric metal ambiance which was a feature of “New World Shadows”. It’s all well-structured but in spite or maybe because of its perfect form, “Beyond” can be pedestrian and even lumbering in its progress. It is a sign of the band’s confidence that they start with a longish instrumental track. It’s as if they’re promising something big. In fact “The New Dynamic” start with more parading but there is a flourish. The death metal vocals enter the scene. “The New Dynamic” reminded me of the old dynamic, “Spirits and August Light” to be precise. It’s a melodic death metal template. It is fast, smooth and with an extra touch like a bit of twirly icing. “In the Rim” is similarly upbeat. Commercial in its sound, it drags us along willingly. The harmonies come in at just the right time. Timing is one of OG’s strengths. Sounds of space and emptiness are then the prelude to a different air. The growling has an element of Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne but it is more sustained. “Nightwalkers” is like a grim and dangerous procession, making its dark progress as if through gritted teeth and hostile territory. The track picks up without achieving epicness before a break acts as the introduction to a melancholic passage. The drum patters and the growls are despairing but the devastating impact which the angst suggests we should be feeling is not there.
The album picks up on the fifth track “Formidable” It is the most bouncy so far and the most vivid. The rhythm is distinctly Katatonian. Even with the deep growls and the fact that it is as dark as hell, it is good, catchy song. It captures what OG are about. Electronic murmurings then take us into familiar Finnish melodic metal and further into an all-embracing expansive sound. “The Sonic Sign” has a textbook structure. To mix up the pace and no doubt provide a bit of variety, OG then slow down for “Who Could Say”, a melodic death metal ballad but with a flourish. In my mind I envisaged this track’s descent onto a Hammerfall album, or the OG equivalent of the statutory slower song on it. To be fair, “Who Could Say” is powerful thanks to the death metal growls and plaintive musicianship. I was surprised that this was followed with another growly ballad. “The Unknowing” was a disappointing continuation. Before “The Unknowing” degenerated into the inexplicable, it ended and the day was well and truly saved by “Living in Me”. The burst of energy was welcome. “Living in Me” is of course melodic but more than most it’s happy-sounding. All the right qualities are there. The structure helps to bring out the life in the song. This is OG at their best. The riff is memorable, it’s constantly driving forward and there’s plenty of subtlety. The album ends with a slower track “WhitePalace”. Unlike “Who Could Say” and “The Unknowing”, this one really works. It’s hypnotic and with its steady but progressive riff, a constant air of sadness is created. But even though it’s a good track, it was hard to get away from my overriding impression of the album as a whole, which is that the strengths are not reinforced by a cutting edge and a sense of musical adventure and progress.
There’s no doubt that Omnium Gatherum are masters of death metal melody. There are flourishes and subtleties, and clear attempts to mix things up stylistically. It’s done in such a perfectly constructed way that it’s more predictable than original. Occasionally the heights are scaled but I can’t say that overall on “Beyond” I found the metal wow factor.
(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)