REVIEW: OMNIUM GATHERUM – “The Burning Cold”
Omnium Gatherum have unfortunately always been an underrated act. Often overlooked by fans in the melodic death metal genre for some of their more well known countrymen like Children of Bodom, Norther or Insomnium, the band has continued to grow and release quality albums throughout the duration of their 22 year career. This growth has snowballed over the past decade and the band is finally making some impact in all the right places. Their 8th studio album and newest offering, The Burning Cold sees the band still getting around their melodic death metal roots and the formula that has helped them grow to this point, but also sees the band experimenting with some new things that should make this a largely more accessible offering.
The first, and most glaringly obvious difference on this album over previous offerings is the song duration. Omnium Gatherum has previously opted for longer running songs that build ambience, while mixing in those that pack a punch, but on The Burning Cold it seems like they have gone all in on towards the latter option. This focus on simplicity has worked wonders for them, with the band’s sound flourishing in tracks that embrace this short and sharp delivery. There is no denying that while there will be fans that yearn for songs built with the grandiosity and scale of other tracks throughout the bands history — like ‘Deep Cold’ off New World Shadows — the punctuated duration of tracks like ‘God’s Go First’ and ‘Be The Sky’ create an album that not only works well if you were to listen to it as a complete package, but one that has impact if you were to only have a single song pop up in a playlist while streaming on Spotify.
Markus Vanhala and Joonas Koto really shine throughout this album with their guitar work. The harmonies that these two create together blend perfectly with the keyboard work of Aapo Koivisto, the drumming of newcomer Tuomo Latvala and baselines of Erkki Silvennoinen. All of these elements bring a truly strong musical side for Jukka Pelkonen to raise his raspy growl over. A common piece of contention with the band is normally the depth of Pelkonen’s vocals and the sibilance in his voice, but he seems to have found the right balance on this album – particularly on tracks where he adopts a spoken word singing style over his harsher style.
Musically, The Burning Cold feels like a more organic album than their last album Grey Heavens, instead feeling like it has more in common with 2013’s Beyond. This becomes apparent from the moment that instrumental opener The Burning reaches its pinnacle guitar solo from it’s slow building introduction. The band then unleashes a one-two punch of the much faster paced ‘God’s Go First’ and ‘Refining Fire’, the former using a more ambient key structure to accompany the barrelling guitar work and the frenetic drum patterning, while the latter channels all its energy into a fantastic chant along verse/chorus pattern replete with harmony and emotion.
‘Rest In Your Heart’s’ slow pacing, spoken word vocalisation and catchy melody section instantly invoke thoughts of In Flames’ ‘Only For The Weak’, but it’s in the outro and closing moments of the song that it takes on another, more beautiful and emotive form entirely. This provides the perfect segue into the multiple musical layers of ‘Over the Battlefield’, a track that seems very reflective of Vanhala as a song writer, and one that might not seem out of place in his other band Insomnium. It works really well in the scheme of the album nonetheless.
‘The Fearless Entity’ feels like it has been ripped from the heyday of classic 80’s rock, brought into the 21st century and blended with metal. It has one of the catchiest hooks across the whole album and it’s certain to stick in the minds of listeners long after hearing. ‘Be the Sky’ is a transformative track and is another masterclass by Koivisto on keys, again taking the work of the guitarists and transforming it into an ethereal, almost cosmic sounding anthem. Finally, closing trio The Frontline, Planet Scale and Cold continue the established harmonious, reflective and ambient soundscape of the album, and wrap it all together in a fulfilling conclusion.
There isn’t much to comment on in terms of the overall mix and production qualities of the album that many fans wouldn’t already be aware of, with usual suspects in Dan Swanö and Teemu Aalto joining Omnium Gatherum once again for their 5th and 7th album respectively. These two have become studio mainstays throughout the years and have helped the band carve out their signature sound, with their presence being once again welcomed on this record.
It seems very cliché, but Omnium Gatherum truly get better with each release. Armed with the wisdom from the journey behind them, The Burning Cold showcases how far the bands songwriting efforts have come during their 20+ year career. Catchier riffs, soaring ambience and fierce vocals ensure that songs stay with listeners well after hearing them, and are guaranteed to be well received live. Omnium Gatherum have produced another quality album, and whether it be the blistering speed of Refining Fire, or the desolate undertones of Rest In Your Heart, the band have struck a perfect balance of melody, melancholy and death metal on this release.