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As the shadows dance - 95%

FantomLord17, February 13th, 2013

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.