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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.