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No umbrellas needed. - 60%

Alchameth, October 5th, 2014

Track 4, “Nightwalkers”, is a pretty accurate overall definition of the elements and songwriting specs you’ll find in Omnium Gatherum’s 2013 output, “Beyond”. Allow me to dissect it: Beginning with an introduction to the song’s central melodic motif, it quickly develops into a memorable tremolo line. Efficient at setting a mood despite its simplicity, the catchy phrase is mournful enough to help us conjure images congruent to Beyond’s “such a sad, cold and rainy day in this grey urban landscape” aesthetic, being pushed further by subtle yet eloquent keys and a mightily tight performance from bass and drums. All is good and you sit back, certain this could be a proper follow up to “New World Shadows”, until the track –and your hope- screeches to a halt, being taken over by a lazy groove riff underscored by a beat so basic it almost had me thinking of post-2005 Nightwish, only without histrionic symphonies vying for attention. Even with keyboards and a slow arpeggio providing competent backing atmospherics, the riff’s chugging uselessness grates me to no end, making me wish there was simply no rhythm guitars at all on that spot. A bridge with livelier leads and drums picks things up, segueing into one of OG’s big melodic choruses.

Screech. Chug. Repeat.

Boredom seeps in, even now as I type this, as you can probably notice. The motif is then ran into the ground in a forgettable clean break and an attempt at doom metal that sounds less like a menacing dirge for lost souls at the downtown cemetery and more like a raging, drunken Finnish man trying to find his bottle of Huvila X-Porter inside a ball pool. In a last-ditch attempt to reclaim my attention from Emperor Tedium’s sinister clutches, they finally bring the hooky tremolo back and develop it to its logical harmonic conclusions, dignifying my ordeal in moroseness with a worthwhile, exciting ending. Also, Jukka starts singing in his natural tongue for some reason. Basically, this particular track is 40% good stuff and 60% aimlessness.

Other songs in here follow a similar pattern, for better or worse, either stretching good ideas too thin (therefore squandering their impact) or simply morphing into segments which, while undoubtedly endearing (verses in “Who Could Say”), are just excessively light-hearted, a trait made even more apparent by a production that may just be a little TOO pristine for its own good, emasculating Purdon’s formerly killer tone and robbing all power left in rhythm guitars, leaving only drums, leads and Jukka’s emotional cleans unscathed since OG never needed that many ragged edges on them anyway. If anything, a mixing job such as this seems suitable given the album’s less-than-ballsy nature, but perhaps more bite could at least lay a shroud of faux-aggressiveness and make it all slightly less promptly accessible.

Indeed, Omnium Gatherum’s sixth release is probably the most palatable and subdued of them all. While there’s hardly any shortage of emotional radiance coming from one of Finland’s most charming melodeath bands this side of Insomnium, it could surely use some more energy to deliver its message, like it does in the opening riff of “The Unknowing” or the spectacular choruses and solos crafted for “In The Rim” and “New Dynamic”.

In a nutshell, “Beyond” is like a younger, cowardly brother to “New World Shadows”. While the latter chooses to muster his dignity to face yet another day’s work amidst other forlorn souls in an urban sprawl besieged by colossal downpour, the first one just kind of pussies out, stays home and broods endlessly, unable to find in himself some courage to brave the deluge outside regardless of also being an honest, good-hearted kid. His soul couldn’t be in a better place, but he lacks assertiveness to truly shine.

PS: Be sure to check out the bonus track, an oddball but damn good cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions”.

Running in delight to face another day. - 80%

Diamhea, February 25th, 2014

Beyond exemplifies more of the same from Omnium Gatherum's camp. While I was particularly fond of the group's 2008 release The Redshift, the followup New World Shadows did little for me personally. The esoteric, uplifting melodies were still there, but it almost appeared as if the band was forcing an abstruse songwriting formula in order to avoid coming off as formulaic in any respect. Beyond draws influence from both of those preceding albums, and in the end comes off as a more structured, coherent New World Shadows with better individual songs.

Although I still have serious issues with Pelkonen's dessicated grunting, the atmosphere is as ripe as ever this time around. Omnium Gatherum has never shied away from interloping between a number of genres, occasionally tossing the death metal tag away entirely in light of more jam session oriented movements and ethereal drop-outs consisting primarily of cleaner tones. There are less keyboards this time around, which at their most potent still defer to the sticky leads to deliver the melodic appeal. Koivisto is still an impressive composer, content to buzz around in the background, occasionally tossing a more electronic-influenced passage into the mixing pot like during most of "The Sonic Sign". As ridiculously infectious as the melodies on the more direct numbers can be, Omnium Gatherum are still at their best when they attempt to craft true epics with multiple releases of tension. "The White Palace" is the true gem in this regard, feeling nowhere near it's ten-minute running time despite a relatively understated tempo and riff set.

That's not to say there is a lack of eccentricity elsewhere, as the band makes a relatively focused effort at keeping Beyond from sagging under the weight of it's own pretense, which New World Shadows very nearly did at some points. The resonant clean vocals on "Who Could Say" are a very welcome deviation from the faceless death growls elsewhere. More variety like this in Pelkonen's vocal approach would do wonders towards the lasting power of the material. While Omnium Gatherum still veers dangerously close to stock melodic death posturing at times, the soaring leads always draw the listener's attention elsewhere. Despite the high production values, the rhythm comes off as a little indistinct and limp-wristed. The rhythm backbone of the band has always been pretty stock by most standards, consisting of faceless drumming and weary powerchords that do little next to the sublime leads and keyboards.

While I still think that The Redshift made better use of Koivisto's synth textures, Beyond certainly has a unique appeal amongst Omnium Gatherum's more recent material. It is easier to sit down and enjoy piece-by-piece as opposed to New World Shadows, but at the same time lacks some of the deeper meaning and cavernous atmosphere of the latter. Swanö's professional sonic fingerprint is clearly present on the album's production end, lending a roomy and sweeping aural blueprint to the proceedings. While this would normally put the band in danger of sounding too long-winded and distant, the slicing luster of the leads constantly fly in the face of said convention.

While it has it's darker, more dissonant moments like the appropriately-titled "Nightwalkers", the optimistic and uplifting atmosphere Omnium Gatherum is lauded for is here in spades. With protracted epics like "The White Palace" coexisting with shorter, more concise numbers like "The Sonic Sign" and "Living in Me", a variance is gained that hails back to the magnificent The Redshift. Beyond maintains the status quo, but with a status as appealing as Omnium Gatherum's, you certainly won't find many complaining.

Where death metal meets sonic serenity. - 87%

hells_unicorn, April 8th, 2013

Sweden and Finland have shared a lengthy history as rival scenes where melodic death metal is concerned, and choosing between the two is often a matter of one's inclination with regard to modern power metal is concerned. Although In Flames was the earlier claimant to the concept of merging death metal with Helloween and Iron Maiden styled melodic material, bands like Children Of Bodom and Norther were the ones that embraced the concept to the extent that it was difficult to determine where the death metal influences ended and the power metal ones began. Omnium Gatherum definitely stick close to the up beat and singing character typified in said bands, offering up a sound that is quite easy to grab onto, but also not lacking in any level of depth or intrigue, though they don't quite come off as virtuosic and showy as their better known, early day rivals.

Though not the most riveting of this band's fairly prolific output, "Beyond" definitely nails down the 3 necessary elements to truly bring home the goods, namely atmosphere, aggression and clarity. This is literally one of the most well produced, evenly mixed, outwardly pristine sounding melodeath albums to come out of Finland. It rivals the level of sonic polish normally heard on rock radio, accenting and blending lead and supporting elements at every appropriate time so that the entire album functions as an orchestra unto itself. The rhythm guitar parts, though stripped down and simply enough to rival that of Iced Earth's "The Dark Saga" or Metallica's infamous self-titled 5th opus, have such a solid punch to them and are so brilliantly enveloped in keyboard and lead guitar parts that one could hardly lament the lack of any intricate riff work.

At first impression, the album comes off as a slightly less orchestral answer to the last couple Eternal Tears Of Sorrow albums, as the instrumental prelude "Luoto" glistens with all the grandeur of a Nightwish interlude. The usage of acoustic guitars emit a sense of woe and nostalgia, almost as if reaching for a distant, unattainable past. This proves to be a common device as the album progresses, and similar passages of despairing acoustic interludes litter that of "Formidable" and "Who Could Say", the latter of which has a solid clean vocal performance out of the otherwise morose barker Jukka Pelkonen that is somewhat reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne. For the most part, the vocal work on here tends to mirror the deeper, groaning character of Insomnium, and avoids the higher-pitched, blackened aesthetic usually encountered in the Swedish scene and echoed out of Alexi Laiho at times.

For being in a genre that is generally known for being limited in scope and largely geared towards popular consumption, this album definitely makes a concerted effort to mix things up as much as possible. Cutting loose like a band hellbent on thrashing the necks off all whom are within its auditory radius, both "New Dynamic" and "The Sonic Sign" cruise along quite nicely and replace those annoyingly repetitive breakdowns typical to metalcore imitators with a set of keyboard drenched bridges that accent the lighter side of the melodeath equation. While the rhythm riffs on these songs are a bit primitive and repetitive, the surrounding leads blanket them with such effectiveness that these songs achieve a sound of frenetic chaos that rivals many traditional thrash metal classics. Similarly, when things are taken slower as in that of "The Unknowing", the intensity of the melodic guitar passages just overwhelms the ears like a series of massive tidal waves. The only outright weak spot on this album is the 10 minute closer "White Palace", which has some brilliant guitar work and a really good atmosphere, but drags on a bit too long and sounds like a failed attempt at merging the slower grooves of a progressive metal/jazz ballad into the equation.

While I harbor a slight preference toward this band's previous album "New World Shadows", this comes extremely close to matching its brilliance and ups the ante slightly in the overall polish of the band's overall sound. Most of Finland's well know melodeath bands tend to have a strong familiarity of sound that predisposes most to liking the entire scene, though this album will particularly appeal to anyone who was taken in by "Children Of The Dark Waters" or "One For Sorrow". Arguably its only consistent liability is that it is so well put together and mixed to sheer sonic perfection that it may come off as a bit too easy to grab onto, in contrast to the thrashing and raw character of "12 Gauge". But it's a forgivable flaw when considering the excellent songwriting and beautifully intricate guitar content.

Two sugars and no cream, please - 65%

autothrall, February 27th, 2013

Though its cover might have traded the city skyline for a coastline, the latest Omnium Gatherum album Beyond is very much in the vein of its predecessor, New World Shadows. Trim, sleek, and produced with all the clarity of modern pop music, it represents a new entry into that field of metrosexual, metropolitan melodic death metal pioneered by efforts like Soilwork's Natural Born Chaos or In Flames' often maligned Reroute to Remain. The Finns are intensely focused through every second of this recording, from preening each note of every lead to attaining a perfect balance between the harder punch of the chugging rhythm guitars and brute vocals, and the various glazes of melody created by the synth playing and guitar harmonies.

Beyond is no doubt a concentrated, contemplative recording, given a breath of added variation through the use of clean vocals and cleaner guitars, but I was constantly being nagged by a sense of familiarity, of unnecessary precautions, and of a serious lack of anything interesting or new from a band that has been known in its career to occasionally change the parameters of its compositional style. If this were titled New World Shadows II: The Well Groomed, Less Adventurous Sequel, it would prove an all too fitting representation (or warning) of what the listener was about to encounter. Granted, that description does not preclude the possibility of some quality music, and there are moments throughout this album where the guitars, grunts and keyboards combine into a sublime, catchy experience (i.e. "New Dynamic" and "In the Rim"), but these are admittedly loaded more towards the front of the record. And at a near hour of material, there are just not enough of them, and Beyond inevitably becomes dull, or at best...'pleasant'.

Not a lot of energy here, so if you're expecting the bursts of enthusiastic hyper picked melodies that bands like At the Gates or In Flames evolved from a hybrid of the thrash, death and power metal genres, you'll only be treated to a few uptempo passages ("The Sonic Sign", etc). Vocals are the expectant huge, Finnish guttural originally made popular on records like Amorphis' Elegy or Sentenced Amok, and still used today by Omnium Gatherum's contemporaries Insomnium and Noumena. These function as intended in creating contrast against the more evocative friendliness of the guitars and keys, but there's nothing overtly passionate or creative in their expression. The singing voice is robust and manly where it appears, but the music it fronts is limp and uninspired, as with many of the more 'progressive rock' touches on the album that involve a clean guitar passage with some grooving, forgettable bass lines. The rhythm section is mixed to fluid perfection, with neither the drumming or bass ever losing focus on the central motifs of the melody, and yet there's just not a lot of excitement on the lower end.

But far and above the least compelling component of this album is the rhythm guitar, which only occasionally veers away from its placid, predictable bricklayer chugging progressions used to support the melody or the keyboard (or both). Granted, some degree of control is necessary when writing such accessible music, but I can't help but feel that some added complexity there would have saved the entire album from its sullen fate. I'm not entirely opposed to this niche of urbane, polished death metal where songwriting and melody entirely abolish the brutality of the parent genre. There's something both chilling and comforting about the music's sterile marble and glass surfaces, almost like the idealized metropolitan reality you'd experience in a modern car or corporate insurance advertisement. Cubicle metal for a coffee break at the local business district cafe on an overcast day. Substantial chance of showers. The personalized, observational tone of the lyrics helps enforce this internal imagery I feel when I listen to the songs, but certainly Omnium Gatherum can unleash itself far more than what I'm hearing on this outing.

It's strange, I've got a sort of 'on/off' relationship with these Finns' works. I've enjoyed all the odd numbered albums, but felt only a lukewarm response to the even numbered. This is the sixth album, so take that as you will. Honestly it's better than Years in Waste or The Redshift, two of their disappointments, but the amount of worthwhile material I'd desire to revisit here could fit tidily onto an EP-length release.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Not far beyond, but there's little reason to leave - 85%

eyes_of_apocalypse, February 23rd, 2013

Though I was never previously a big fan of Omnium Gatherum, they managed to seriously amaze me with their 2011 album New World Shadows. It was everything I wanted out of a solid album: a progressive touch, fantastic (sparingly used) clean vocals, atmospheric but not overblown keyboards, borderline technical and well-done death metal segments, and, most importantly, soaring, obtrusively infective melodies. I had to ask myself, "What more could I want?"

In that regard, Beyond is a worthy successor to New World Shadows, as I ended up asking myself the same question. Beyond certainly belongs in the repertoire of top notch melancholic melodeath under the Finnish banner. This is another collection of sharp riffs and gorgeous melodies thrust under a lake and drowned until there is naught but an atmosphere of gloom haunting the entire album. No one does that atmosphere quite like the Finnish.

This album feels like a New World Shadows, Pt. II in almost every respect - the doom-like pacing and chug found in "Nightwalker," reminding me of "Everfields;" the onslaught of Dark Tranquillity-style thrashy riffs contrasting with another hyper-melodic chorus contained in "New Dynamic," reminding me specifically of "Ego." In fact, the only place I would say they're entering any slightly new territory for them is with the Insomnium-esque intro "Luoto," which starts with some haunting acoustics and slowly ascends to another heavily melodic climax.

Of course, where these guys and this album shines is with its melodies, as always. Who couldn't fall for the opening keyboard of "In the Rim"? Or the keyboards of "Nightwalker"? Then we have "Formidable," perhaps the highlight of the bunch, with its crushingly somber leads and keyboard foreplay mixing smoothly with its depressing, moody, and almost delicate verses - the perfect dichotomy. "The Sonic Sign" is equally impressive with its sonic guitar work and having one of the best choruses on the album; Jukka's low-register Cookie Monster growl tastefully carries the entirety of the chorus's catchiness. Finally, though "White Palace" does drag a little at times, it ends the album beautifully with the ultimate climax and what is simply one of the coolest leads on the album, fading out into bewitching keyboard ambiance.

It should be obvious by now, but guitarists Joonas Koto and Markus Vanhala are largely what make the album what it is. They offer a plethora of gritty rhythms, then spice those rhythms up constantly with most exquisite and enchanting leads. The keyboards of Aapo Koivisto synchronize flawlessly with the stellar guitars, adding just the right amount of atmosphere and texture, and never becoming overwhelming. Due to these elements and the very structure of this album, it is not a furious assault akin to something like Mors Principium Est's (very solid) latest album. This is in the same vein as Insomnium or Be'lakor.

My only complaints with this album come in two small areas, unsurprisingly related and only when compared to its predecessor. Firstly, it's not quite as progressive as New World Shadows in terms of unexpected structure changes. Connected to this, I am still floored by the appearances from Dan Swanö showing up on the title track and "Deep Cold" of the previous album. These tracks featured stunning climaxes accented by Swanö's harmonious voice, and this mix is sorely missed on Beyond.

New World Shadows quickly became one of my favorite melodeath releases in recent years and, frankly, ever. Due to aforementioned complaints, slightly worse overall songwriting at times, and never quite hitting the same highs, Beyond misses the glory of its predecessor. Still, it's a near miss, and this is very much a prime album that I highly recommend to any melodic death metal fan. I will be surprised if it doesn't end up on my end-year top 10 list, and even more surprised if another melodic death record released this year manages to trump it.