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Omnium Gatherum - Grey Heavens - 61%

Silicon Messiah, April 11th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Lifeforce Records

Omnium Gatherum is a very recent discovery for me, and so I haven’t explored them fully yet. I was in the process of doing so actually, when I found that they’d recently released their seventh album, Grey Heavens. Therefore, this review will be based on the thoughts from a second impression if you will, rather than those of a long time listener. They’re a band that walks the path of brooding melo-death, often with a grandiose feeling and a sense of theatrics. So far I’ve gotten a bit into the New World Shadows (2011) album, with its downplayed epicness and a few of the coolest guitar tracks I’ve heard on a death metal album.

The mere title of this album, Grey Heavens, alongside the equally grey artwork, gives an immediate impression that the music will lack colors, and stick to the volatile realm of shadows. That’s highlighted by the mainly slow tempo, which can often be very effective, and a dark atmosphere simply made for a dark Sunday afternoon. Dueling guitarists Markus Vanhala (Insomnium) and Joonas Koto (Malpractice) are bearing in this atmosphere, especially in doom like tracks ‘Skyline’ and ‘Frontiers’. Aapo Koivisto incorporates keyboards, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much. ‘Rejuvenate!’ sees him higher up the mix, as well as epic closer ‘Storm Front’, giving him some moments to showcase, without going overboard. ‘Foundation’ on the other hand takes it too far, though a good song when it comes down to it.

Now, I admit a small weakness in favor of long, epic, progressive death metal songs, and from what I’ve heard of Omnium Gatherum, they’ve certainly succeeded in making a few (‘Deep Cold’ and ‘White Palace’ from previous efforts are worthy of mention). On here, we have ‘Majesty And Silence’, the biggest let down on this album. It’s too slow, too uninviting and too long for its own good, and it simply lacks any atmosphere present on most of the remainder of the album. It picks up at the end, but not enough to save it.

I really want to like some of the songs on Grey Heavens, being as how they’re well written and put together with a sleek grace that shows these guys know their craft. There’s just something here, that won’t pull me in. ‘Foundation’ as mentioned above is one, where the keyboards are too high up the mix for their own good. It works better in ‘The Great Liberation’, where keyboards and a riff driven rush drives the song inexorably forwards without either one taking too much of the spotlight. Omnium Gatherum obviously can get that balance just right, it’s just that sometimes they don’t. However, there is one saving grace here, and that’s the blistering mastery that is ‘Ophidian Skies’. The riffs are clear and inspired, with the keyboard maintaining a just subtlety for maximum efficiency. In the end, the album is slightly sprawling; a few bits here, a few bits there. Some songs have a massive guitar attack approach, while others go on the keyboard driven line. Grey Heavens is stable in one way though; throughout, it’s marked by grayness, a melancholy that only a Finn can personify.

Standout tracks: Ophidian Sunrise, Skyline, Frontiers