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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'.