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After putting out a fantastic album like 'Spirits And August Light' and then following it up with the fairly lukewarm effort 'Years In Waste', 'Stuck Here On Snake's Way' acts as a big fork in Omnium Gatherum's road. They could either give us another great album and classify 'Years In Waste' as a momentary lapse in quality, or become another band where 'the old stuff' is all that matters. Things start off well, with a gorgeous acoustic track and the storming single 'Into Sea', but from then on in, 'Snake's Way' becomes a drag to listen to. The big issue with the songwriting here is that most of these tracks start in a thoroughly pedestrian manner, and even if the band develops it in an interesting or effective way, the listener is already totally disinterested. A melodic death metal album needs to grab you by the balls from the word go, preferably not letting go at all. Sticking with that metaphor, what this album does is swipes madly, but to no avail.
While some classic lead and harmony parts can be found occasionally, the majority of music here is driven by some kind of generic crunch riff, and maybe given a drop of life by the drums or keyboards. The production and mixing on this album is poor, a clear attempt to be 'raw' and 'aggressive', which instead ends up being inoffensive to the point of tedium. Take the album closer, 'Spiritual', as an example. The song is well written, and contains an absolute beauty of a motif, but is drained by the tinny production, as well as a questionable tempo. Fixing up the guitar and drum tone alone could have added another 15% onto my score for this album. Their last two albums both had passable (although not excellent) production, so why cock it up this time?
Another thing that's different here is the vocalist. Omnium Gatherum's last vocalist had a strange sound and technique, but it worked excellently with the band's sound. The same cannot really be said for new boy Jukka Pelkonen. His bark sounds aged and unconvincing, though he does compliment parts of this album. We can only hope the band's next album will gel better with him, as their taste in vocalists is clearly based more on chemistry than what is generally considered a good vocal style. It would be nice to see more of his lyrics though, as they are the sort of nonsense that provides some sort of amusement and interest when the music itself cannot.
All in all inconsistent songwriting, uninspired riffing and poor production bog this album down heavily, but the standout songs ('Just Signs', 'Into Sea' and 'In Sane World') are still little hints that this band can still write some kickass material. Here's hoping.