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The impressive Finnish melodic death metal institution that is Omnium Gatherum is among the more accessible adherents to the sub-genre, though as time has gone by their music has grown in scope and complexity. Naturally this idea of accessibility and complexity would seem a contradiction, but underlying what is a rather impressive game of notes and sounds is a fairly standard skeleton format and orthodox approach to harmonic and melodic development that sticks in the memory something fierce. While previous works have come to impress in their own unique ways, "New World Shadows" stands as their most engaging yet most challenging. It's the sort of album that takes several listens to fully grasp, yet one that also entices the ears from its very onset.
In several areas, this album shows this group of Finns taking some cues from early 2000s Dark Tranquillity, applying fast paced and hard hitting riff monsters with a very conventional, power metal-like feel. When dealing specifically with the rhythmic riff work of such mournful cruisers as "Ego" and "Nova Flame", it's easy to see where a lot of the formulaic aspects of "Haven" and "Damage Done" come into play. However, a closer examination will note a much nimbler assortment of lead guitar lines that rival the overt gymnastics of Children Of Bodom, though the keyboards are employed in a more tasteful and atmospheric way. "The Distance" plays off very similar ideas as well, but ratchets up the keyboard work a bit further and comes off as having a slightly industrial feel to it at times, though thankfully the vocals stick to a customary low-toned growl rather than employing any sappy metalcore whines.
Be this as it may, this album also has its fair share of long-winded and multifaceted songs that play around with guitar lines and speed drumming to the point that a bit of a Wintersun influence creeps into the picture. This is particularly noticeable on "Soul Journeys", which has an elongated instrumental passage that sounds like it was all but lifted right out of the Wintersun debut and mixed in with a strong helping of "Haven" influences and an occasional clean vocal chime-in over droning quiet sections right out of "Clayman". Naturally, all of this occurs within a production aesthetic that has more to do with recent Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and Insomnium where the guitar sound is a bit thicker and heavier, and the boundaries of the tracking are almost too well defined. Most of the surprises are contained within the 9 minutes plus opening and closing songs "Everfields" and "Deep Cold", both of which mix in a bit of a progressive feel to it with employment of ballad-like acoustic and clean electric guitar ideas that is slightly reminiscent of Cynic.
While this album does have a very modern tone to it at times, it succeeds in restraining itself from veering too far from the standard melodeath paradigm and is sure to bode well with any old school fan of the genre. In stark contrast to a growing number of their Swedish rivals, Omnium Gatherum have yet to be bit by the metalcore bug, and hopefully never will be. Those looking for an album that inspires deep contemplation will find something here that manages to do so while not turning into an overtly epic or avant-garde affair. This is basically technical enough to rival recent fits of guitar showboating out of Arch Enemy, but traditionally grounded to the point that it reminds of a better time in the style's history. It's definitely one to look into, and one of the better albums in this style to come out in 2011.
Omnium Gatherum uses all the skills they've learned from their 15 years career and synthesize them into their most focused album yet, delivering on all the potential this band showed in previous albums (particularly their under-produced debut Spirits and August Light and breakthrough The Redshift), cementing their place as one of the best modern Finnish metal bands.
What we have here is 9 tracks of metal with beautiful melodies and breathtaking atmosphere, akin to a more restrained Insomnium with groovier riffs. This works in the band's favour, as it allows for the riffs to have more breathing space and makes the songs easier to distinguish one from the other, giving each one a clearer identity that keeps the album interesting for its whole duration. The clever use of keyboards, acoustic guitars and the occasional clean vocals helps to enhance the mood (a mood perfectly showcased by the stunning cover artwork).
The lyrics are handled respectably well, though not perfectly. Some of them seem broken, incomplete or grammatically incorrect, but are an improvement over Stuck Here on Snakes Way and The Redshift. They project images of a person on a journey, searching for knowledge beyond his/her urban life, connecting with nature and learning from persons of greater wisdom. This is very vague, considering how short they are, but they actually work very well with the album. Rather than painting clear, detailed pictures, the lyrics let you fill the blanks and interpret the shapes, making the journey more personal and complimenting the themes of nature, modern society and introspection. Overall, they form an essential part of the New World Shadows experience.
Pretty much every song is a highlight, and everyone has a few memorable parts that act like hooks to keep you coming back to them, which is something the band has mastered since their previous album, and do much better than many of their contemporaries. However, the first four songs do get stuck on your mind faster than the rest because both for their placement on the tracklist and because they sum up the qualities of the whole album. All this comes through perfectly thanks to the excellent production, courtesy of Dan Swanö, who also contributes clean vocals for two tracks.
I want to give a special mention to Everfields, a bold, atmospheric 9-minute opener worth every second of its duration. Acoustic guitars give way to simple, effective riffs and Jukka Pelkonen's low guttural vocals, building up to harmonized guitar melodies in the chorus, which is then broken up by a beautiful acoustic melody, from where the song begins to build up again. That acoustic melody is used again after the last repetition of the chorus, but this time backed up by electric guitars and one of the most effective uses of blast-beat drumming I've heard in a melodic death metal record. This climax is just a demonstration of Omnium Gatherum's tremendous songwriting skills on this album.
Further mentions should be given to the title track's fantastic use of Dan Swanö clean vocals and Soul Journey's beautiful guitar riffs. If I was forced into choosing my favourite 2011 song, these three would be strong contenders, but you might give a nod to the more Gothenburg-oriented Ego and Nova Flame, the dreamy instrumental Watcher of the Sky or the epic closer Deep Cold. It doesn't really matter. Every track is a winner by itself and work flawlessly alongside each other. In conclusion, New World Shadows is a success for Omnium Gatherum, proving that the melodeath genre can still be relevant today and is a must-listen for anyone who enjoys melodic metal with a great sense of atmosphere and vision.
I feel I must start by pointing out that I've never been a big fan of Omnium Gatherum. I have each of their records aside from Stuck Here on Snakes Way, and none of them really impressed me. While The Redshift had some shining moments (the new vocalist largely being responsible for this), it was far from being a fantastic record. So when I saw everyone claiming how awesome this record is, I had my doubts.
Fortunately for myself, these doubts were incredibly unjustified. It is with this record that Omnium Gatherum have proven that the pure melodic death metal sound can still be relevant, and have produced one of the finest melodic death metal records in years - perhaps one of the best ever.
While there have been some fantastic melodeath releases in recent years, most of them are by bands who have strongly deviated away from the prime melodeath formula (Scar Symmetry being the best example of this). Omnium Gatherum succeeded with this record by releasing a fantastic album that sticks with the base formula, and triumphantly expands upon it in a way that sounds somewhat like a mix of Insomnium and Dark Tranquillity. They succeeded by taking their core sound and uniting it with some heavy progressive elements, while building upon the atmospheric side of their music. The melodies are carried predominately by the guitar (most of the time), but there is constantly a keyboard looming around, lacing the entire album with a thick, moody atmosphere that really is strongly reminiscent of Insomnium.
New World Shadows features some of the best melodies I've heard in this style of melodic death metal. This melody exists in every song on the album, but it is perhaps best done on the opener "Everfields," the title track "New World Shadows," and the closer "Deep Cold." These three songs are the greatest on the album, and show off the expanded melodeath formula the best it possibly could be done. These songs wander into progressive territory with their complex song structures, and hail the most amazing melodies this band has ever done.
While the three aforementioned tracks are the best of the album, all of the others do a similar thing, and to good effect. "Ego," "Soul Journeys," "Nova Flame," and "The Distance" all play around with the same melody-driven sound. Rather, though, than the progressive, complex songwriting of songs such as the title track, they lean much more towards straightforward melodic death metal. That does not take away from their attraction, however - each song is cluttered with excellent riffs that really call back to the days of Colony-era In Flames, while still keeping that thick Insomnium style atmosphere. A lot of the melody of the album also reminds of European power metal - some of it would even feel right at home with a band such as Sonata Arctica.
The guitar and keyboard are definitely the most interesting parts of the album, but the vocals are worth note as well. Jukka Pelkonen has a powerful, gutteral growl which contrasts with the melody of the music perfectly; while the music is almost constantly full of poppy melodies, his heavy growl establishes a certain aggressiveness over the poppiness that creates a rather unique sound. Furthermore, renowned metal musician Dan Swanö shows up during "New World Shadows" and "Deep Cold" to, for brief moments, deliver harmonious clean vocals. I found it shameful that he only shows up for such brief periods of time, as his vocal delivery is pure excellence.
In the end, New World Shadows shows up in a genre that has been stagnating for a long time to give it the life it once had. Judging by my opinion of Omnium Gatherum's past records, I'm not sure they'll be able to do it again, but here's to hoping they can. I'd recommend this record to anybody with a remote interest in metal, and this is a must listen for all fans of melodic death metal.
First off the vocals on NWS are pretty killer. Jukka Pelkonen has a great growl and contrary to what is the norm for the sub genre, his are lower and more guttural. It is a joy to listen to him tear apart his throat while delivering the lyrics. There is also a clean section during the track New World Shadows where Dan Swano does guest cleans. I listen to this song if only to hear how epic the great Dan Swano is and how much he adds to the track.
I can say this is actually a decent album but there are a few problems that bring it down for me. The band adds a little too much softer/gentler/whatever to the songs and it sometimes seems a little forced. Most of An Infinite Mind would be a good example of this. The song is really lacking in heaviness through a significant portion of its length and it is boring and I literally am waiting for the heavy part to come back and smash me in the face. The same could be said for Deep Cold and the instrumental track, Watcher of the Skies. Certain parts of the album just feel a bit inconsistent and these more mellow parts take away from the flow of it all. I know they were trying to be melancholy and all that but it just doesn’t do it for me. This is especially true in the back half of the album.
Ok so besides the songs where the band tries to play depressing softer tunes there are actually some really good guitar riffs to be found on New World Shadows. Both Ego and Soul Journeys have really fun riffs and they wreak of Amon Amarth/Viking metal worship. And as a whole these songs are good, especially how the vocals/lyrics go well with the music during the verse and chorus parts of Ego. But like I mentioned before New World Shadows has one of the most memorable parts vocally and the guitars only add to it.
The drumming is solid. There are some blast beats thrown in at times like near the end of Everfields and that helps to change things up a little. Double bass is also pretty present through a lot of the songs whether no matter what pace the guitars are playing at. The bass is also very prominent at times too, especially during the verse parts of An Infinite Mind. Otherwise its your standard melodeath affair of “bass? we don’t need no stinking bass!”. The keyboards add some nice atmosphere and aren’t the annoying in your face use like some bands. The production is very clear and I guess you could say “modern”.
If it weren’t for the fact that the band tries to shove more “progressive” elements and softer parts of songs down the listeners throat I would have enjoyed this album much more. But as its done to the degree it is I cant help but take a big chunk off the score. Of course that doesn’t make this a shitty release. Like I said before, it’s a decent album and there are still plenty of reasons to go back and give it listens in the future. If you are looking for a more progressive minded approach to melodic death metal then New World Shadows is probably for you.
Originally reviewed @ http://abaddonsmetalshop.blogspot.com/
A mature melodic death metal album showing the world that progression in the melodic death genre was never a problem as long as it was executed properly. This is that album that In Flames or Soilwork should have released ten years ago when the transition from death metal to a very melodically watered down form of the music was being introduced to ears that were unwilling for change.
The tones and melodies are a throwback to those late 90’s tones found from same said bands. The blending acoustics once and awhile substituting the bright leads backed up by a powerful rhythm tone that shakes the very earth around you is not out of place. Where the clean tones, acoustics and leads come in to play is the drive of the emotional roller coaster we are suppose to be experiencing not only in the sense of aggression which is quite common in this genre but in Infinite Mind after Jukka intensely gargles out the lyrics we are given a two minute instrumental outro where our ears are treated to a passionate lead solo doubled with a piano melody that gives us that sense of overwhelming emotion that Omnium Gatherum has been offering us since their debut Spirits and August Light.
And in tune with a great melodic death metal release we are given the instrumental Watcher of the Skies. Though it may not be the most technical instrumental ever it has that same sense of personality and passion for the music as for-say a Steve Vai instrumental.
Two types of progression are found on this album. A band progressing from their amateur sounds of their debut release and an entire sub-genre of music that lost way somewhere down the road while trying to make the transition from instrument-heavy melodic death to introducing more vocal melodies. The previous album hit us with chorus after chorus of melodic clean vocals and with Jukka’s incredibly strong voice it never took on that whiny approach of new In Flames, the radio friendly melodies of Soilwork or the weak attempts in metalcore which always left me wondering why the band would get such an amateur vocalist. That where New World Shadows shines as the perfect blend of everything melodic death metal was and currently is is that the vocal melodies are not present in every song but where they are present it is so strong that it is instantly memorable for not just the actual melody but just how wickedly powerful Jukka’s voice is. I speak of the last half of the title track and it’s melody that would get even the most hateful towards melodic death metal person in the world hooked.
A nagging moment here. The opener Everfields is a nine minute epic of boring proportions. I have found myself skipping this track with every listen and beginning with Ego. To me this is a much better opening song as it just kicks it into high gear right away. No bullshit.
If melodic death metal took on a form like this ten years ago we would be treated now with dozens high quality albums and maybe an entire sub genre that wouldn’t even exist. Those reflecting back on what happened over the years need to look at this album and take influence. A prime example of where we could be. Too bad it only took ten years to get this album made a bring light back on a genre much in need of help.
I only began to prick my ears at the mention of Omnium Gatherum with the recruitment of Jukka Pelkonen, an era that also heralded a move into experimentation and progressiveness. After the satisfying, rugged weirdness of Stuck Here on Snake's Way, The Redshift shifted the band into progressive lands rocky with a suggestion of spaced-out atmosphere and no fear of unusual song structures to match the already bizarre lyrics. The Redshift had a first half which kicked ass, but like Snake's Way it didn't quite mesh into a cohesive draft of metal mastery despite moments of excellence. New World Shadows feels conceptual, cleverly textured and overall well-written. That said, it features three distinct sorts of songs - two 9-minute epic blockbusters, three racing melodeath chargers and a handful of songs that traipse at mid-pace through progressive and indulgent creative workouts.
In all fairness, the expansive and melodic 'Everfields' is a masterful composition. Watery atmospheres building into epic, Insomnium-like climaxes that drive heroically through mournful leads and pretty acoustic flourishes. It even has a fantastic blast-laden acceleration at the end, that spends the tense energy of the slow building atmosphere in one great rush of sorrowful ferocity. Like the equally massive closer 'Deep Cold' the track also treads the doom-scoured pastures of forlorn Finnish brethren such as Hanging Garden, with crawling riffs and heartracing double bass. 'Deep Cold' has more of a doomed feeling, dark and heavy chugging guitars sounding utterly authentic. Rather than merely appropriating the sound of a related sub-genre, this piece sounds like it could stand out on an album full of similiar material by someone like Rapture. It easily beats material from recent albums by The Foreshadowing and Helevorn.
The band take the progressive, epic leanings of the previous album to logical conclusions even when not indulging in 9-minute blowouts. The title track is a rerun of the wonderfully catchy leads and electronic atmospheres of a song like 'The Return' from The Redshift, with some seriously addictive chugging riffs leading through into the song's climax, and a guest spot from Dan Swano. It's a great track and not something I'd have expected just after Snake's Way, but at this point it makes a lot of sense. 'Soul Journeys' continues the sojourn into the slightly gothic, melodic death/ doom Finland specializes in, sounding even more like Hanging Garden on a little bit of meth. I cant argue with it. Omnium Gatherum are great at this, and could easily steal a good portion of the fanbase for bands like Swallow the Sun, Barren Earth and so on. 'An Infinite Mind', while the cute, plonking clean guitars of the verse are perfectly done, meanders a bit once the heavy guitars come in. Had it been merged with the nicer parts of the otherwise unmemorable instrumental 'Watcher of the Skies' or otherwise cut down it could have prevented a little bit of a skip in consistency.
What I wanted to know about though, was the hurtling, harmonizing, headbanging melodic death metal anthems Omnium Gatherum have on occasion nailed - like 'Nail', my favourite. 'Ego' is where the album gets going for me. The 16-year old in me craves for energetic melodic death metal songs that get the blood pumping, no matter how doomed and blackened my tastes increasingly become year on year. 'Ego' is all jagged, strangled harmonized riffs, a happy and triumphant lead melody and tight-as-ever drumming from Jarmo Pikka. I like it almost as much as 'Nail'. 'Nova Flame' punches through the morose atmospheres of the two preceding tracks with its rocking drums and blazing guitar leads, quickly causing neck whiplash with the exciting chugs and crackling riffs. 'The Distance' is similiarly exhilarating, tense and rumbling verses exploding into thrashing drums and yet more silken melodies. And that's it, three fast, catchy songs from Omnium Gatherum. I've decided it's a good thing, they all fucking rock and leave space on the album for a bunch of other ideas to take shape.
Aside from the mostly forgettable 'An Infinite Mind' and 'Watcher of the Skies' its hard to find fault with this. Impressively, the Finnish lads seem qualified to turn their hands to a multitude of melodic stylings, and though it isn't perfect or particularly groundbreaking, and The Redshift is more exciting to me personally, this is their most solid release in terms of songwriting. I can see fans of Insomnium and Dark Tranquillity digging this quite a lot, and for those more demanding I can guarantee 'Ego' and 'Nova Flame' will long nestle on my iPod alongside 'Nail' and 'Into Sea'.
Through their studio full-length history, Finnish melodic death export Omnium Gatherum seems to have bounced back in forth in quality, offsetting worthy efforts like Spirits and August Light and Stuck Here on Snake's Way with well meaning but ultimately vapid concoctions Years in Waste and The Redshift. Their 5th album, New World Shadows is the first that seems to straddle the two poles, a good release overall but requiring some patience to absorb, and not without a few filler tracks that are better ignored. The band's move from Candlelight Records to the melodeath-friendly metalcore imprint Lifeforce makes a lot of sense, but the music has not altered its course towards introspection and maturity.
"Everfields" is certainly the most 'epic' attempt the band has yet brought to bear, due largely to the 9+ minute length. One might not expect a band like this, who in the past have favored tight compositions that are meant to grasp the listener with their emboldened passion and melody, to space themselves out. The riffs here are very light, from simplistic chugged grooves glazed over in melodic chords and subtle but solid synthesizers, but it creates a sad, relaxing effect. "Ego" then shakes any notion that we're hearing some total Pink Floyd transformation; it's classic Omnium Gatherum with a strong chop riven through the verses and chorus, yet still sad and rainy like the opener. There are, however, a number of more elegant, pondering pieces on the album like "New World Shadows", "Soul Journeys", "Watcher of the Skies" and the extensive, l extended finale "Deep Cold" (longer than "Everfields"), but all of these manage to hold their salt and not disenchant the listener if he enjoys the mood set by the first track.
There are a few minor missteps here, like the very proggy cut "An Infinite Mind" with its shallow grooves, but even here you get a few worthwhile melodic tricks of the trade. Those that might be disappointed in the general lack of aggression shown through much of the material will be served not only by "Ego", but also "Nova Flame" and "The Distance", which are less than revelatory, but prove the band can still light a fire under their asses when optimal. On the whole, New World Shadows feels very conceptual, very attuned to the overcast atmosphere of the cover, and I feel like it's the sort of album you'd listen straight through from beginning to end, taking in all 52 minutes despite the occasionally inconsistency of quality. The album has a very urban, almost metropolitan feel to it, through the super polished production and 'alone among many' feel of the riffs and lyrics, and if you can ride out this aesthetic to its natural ends, and you don't mind sleek, modern, progressively-inclined melodic death metal (ala Soilwork), then it's worth a gander.