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Playful and dramatic melodeath - 87%

gasmask_colostomy, May 28th, 2015

Melodic death metal is a genre that can be immensely rewarding and sound everything from exciting to emotional, though there are a whole slew of bands who seem incapable of doing it right. Omnium Gatherum has never exactly been the foremost melodeath band, hailing as they do from Finland, taking a while to complete their debut, and never making things easy for the listener. 'Spirits and August Light' is perhaps the band's most straightforward melodeath effort, but it doesn't exactly stick to the early At the Gates or In Flames formula. At times, it reminds of fellow Finns Insomnium, and there is something unique about it too.

The opening 'Writhen' charges forward on a nippy riff, yet the guitar tone is wide and almost sludgy, with very audible bass gurgling and rattling in support. The general impression of this song is one of normal melodeath means (the change of pace for the chorus is stunning), but we slow down after the second chorus for trudging doom and keyboards that sound like they will accompany us to a fade-out; then a sudden flick of the drummer's wrists and the last chorus steams in. There are odd surprises like this on many of the album's songs. It would seem like these guys chose certain instrumental settings, a base style, and then mercilessly threw one at the other until they made everything work. There are some moments that strike as recognisably melodeath, particularly in the leads, then others that make use of hard rock, doom, and epic (black) metal elements, all tied together by that sludgy tone.

Perhaps this makes the album seem ponderous, but it is wonderfully light on its feet and everything stays fresh, even with Antti Filppu's vocals sounding like breaths of putrid air. The jump and twinkle of the guitars on the super-melodic 'The Perfumed Garden' and 'Amor Tonight' is breathtaking, firing off as they are classic and neoclassical leads and melodies over a couple of main riffs that sound like playful Van Halen pieces done up for a big heavy metal recital in a Victorian opera house. That all sounds strange, I'm sure, but the ideas are so elegantly conceived and clinically delivered that any less extravagant description would be an insult. The band also makes use of that unusual guitar tone by setting it against atmospheric keyboards, so that every song seems to be building towards a kind of epiphany, along the way to which the vocalist's rough voice forever struggles.

I can't really contend with the songwriting. There are ideas to spare by the time the album is halfway through and the quick pace at which they are delivered leaves me helpless to do anything but be swept along with them. These guys don't actually play so fast, it's just that the precision they play with and the momentum they gather as a result creates an astonishing flow that rarely leaves any time for contemplation. The guitarists' approach to melody is pretty interesting too, not really touching on any of the tried and tested In Flames or Soilwork stuff. If it helps you gauge how it sounds, there's half a second in 'Cure a Wound' when I hear a part of a Katatonia riff: then it's gone and I'm left wondering if this is what 'Tonight's Decision' would have sounded like at triple speed and with a death metal vocalist.

The album begins to slack a little by the time we get to 'Wastrel', which is well-done melodeath, though there are few surprises from the formula that the band have developed...except a power metal keyboard solo, heh-heh. The damage really is done in the first half of the album, where the breathless nature of the songs and the curious new elements initially overwhelm, so I would name the first four songs as strongest, not to say that there is anything disappointing on offer. Riffs stack up quickly and every solo is glorious, the lively bass is a brilliant feature, the ultra-tight drums a delight, the keyboards always used tastefully, and the vocals finely balanced: 'Spirits and August Light' is a delightful album and always an enjoyable listen, being both playful and dramatic. Long live Finnish melodeath!

A truly spiritual undertaking. - 85%

hells_unicorn, April 13th, 2013

It's been a longstanding principle that if one truly wants to know a band, go back to their earliest offerings and set them as the basis of its worth. This naturally comes with the caveat that every band has the opportunity to improve over time, but there isn't really a second go around at a first impression, and many bands sink or swim based on their first LP. By the standards of contemporary Finnish melodeath by 2003, Omnium Gatherum's debut "Spirits And August Light" can be seen as par for the course, incorporating most of the usual tricks of the trade from a strong keyboard emphasis, technical guitar playing, and a mid-ranged lead vocal growl that tends to mirror that sepulchral mutterings of Alexi Laiho of Children Of Bodom fame.

While stylistically this is pretty standard fair for Finland in the early 2000s, the delivery is fairly unique when considering the competitors. In somewhat of a similar vain as early COB (think "Hatrebreeder" and "Follow The Reaper), there is a tendency toward speed thrashing with a lesser emphasis though still a real presence of slower, NWOBHM inspired melodic content and atmospheric devices that was more a staple of the Gothenburg sound. Nevertheless, there is a pretty overt nod to Dark Tranquillity to be found in "The Perfumed Garden" that really brings out the singing, Iron Maiden oriented guitar riffs and even throws in some acoustic guitar work, though mixed in with a lot of shredding and technical gymnastics that hints at the subtle influence that Yngwie Malmsteen had on Finnish melodeath, nay, the entire Finnish metal scene.

Truth be told, this is the only offering out of this band that truly attempts at matching the speed and climactic zeal of both Kalmah and COB, and never really lets up from the impressive foray of frenzied power metal influences. When approaching the blistering riff machines that are "Amor Tonight" and "Cure A Wound", one wouldn't be able to help but speculate that a different duo of guitarists put this album together, in contrast to the next 3 albums which actually have the same two axe men in congress. These are the sorts of blistering cacophonies of harmonic consonance and aggression that made "Hatebreeder" such a thrilling listening experience, though here it's slightly more restrained and has the misfortune of being put together about 3 years too late to claim pioneer status.

But more powerful of a factor on this album than even the powerful songwriting and technical mastery is the melding together of each individual part into a cohesive, unified whole. The balance and production work on this album approaches impeccable when accounting for the era it seeks to capture. Nino Laurenne, whose work with Kiuas and Wintersun in the recording studio have proven exemplary, really outdid himself in the way the instruments all have their individual presence without sounding detached or jumbled in the process. A good basis of comparison would be the aesthetic achieved on the Wintersun debut, though on a slightly smaller scale given the lack of dueling clean and harsh vocal tracking and a smaller overall instrument arrangement.

This is an album from what is now largely a bygone period where Finnish melodeath was animated and downright formidable. Occasionally some glimmers of this youthful and explosive period can be heard in the recent works of prime movers Kalmah and Children Of Bodom, but most of them have found themselves in a more scaled back and nuanced state, including this particular band given recent output. Ultimately Omnium Gatherum would prove to be slightly more adept at offering up a slower, more contemplative approach to this style than some others, but "Spirits And August Light" stands among the more impressive works to come about in the closing period of the early 2000s when swamps and The Reaper's scythe were at the helm.

Eight listens later... - 65%

GuyOne, July 18th, 2010

Omnium Gatherum's debut full-length album is one of those releases I find really hard to digest. Swallowing the music is not a problem. The melodies go down very smoothly and progression of the compositions as well but there is just something a little odd about the taste. Ahhh yes, Writhen has come to an end again and I can clearly see what the problem is. Even after the eighth spin of the disc I cannot find anything memorable about the majority of the songs offered.

Now let's not jump to conclusions. Somewhere inside my rotting heart tainted over recent years by black metal is still great love to be found for melodic death metal. After all, that is where the transition gap between hard rock and metal was created for me. Here is why I have a little bit of beef with this album: mediocrity. What we have offered here is a massive collection of melodic riffs which each song collectively progresses through but without any of these melodies actually standing out beyond the others. Some can appreciate the level of diversity . These songs never get boring and at the same time I cannot find too many of them interesting. There has been no point where I have found myself whistling any of these melodies while out and about town and for a melodic death metal band I find that a bad thing. Aside from opening riff of Writhen I had to wait until the chorus of The Perfumed Garden to get something memorable.

Eventually one gets to a point in their musical advancement that they know how they feel towards a release just after a few listens. I highly enjoy this album. This is known to me because every time I play this album I have a great time and finally after eight spins I am starting to remember what tracks have what parts. Which brings me to what I like: the sorrowful heart-breaking atmosphere is present through the melodies and clearly in the lyrics but what surprised me the most was even the guitar tone (both distorted and clean) really bleed sorrow. It just sounds like the entire package was meant to be as it is. The only other band that comes to mind that pulls this off so well would be another melodic death metal band that goes by the name of Ablaze My Sorrow.

As mentioning the clean tones earlier. Something I have come to love in metal is when clean tone melodies are incorporated in with distorted rhythm sections. Yes, some writers can really pull off the beautiful clean tone solo sections without interrupting the flow of the song but Omnium Gatherum has brought to the table here something that feels to me to be on a different level. The Perfumed Garden displays this perfectly with its beautifully executed clean toned intro that slowly introduces the rest of the band. Son's Thoughts also uses this method beautifully in the intro and verses of the song.

Going back to the lack of lengthly melodies, if this album was as consistant as Son's Thoughts this album would be near perfect. It has the beautifully eerie clean tones, the lengthly melody pieces and a relatively melodic chorus. Easily the standout track of the album.

The composing of the songs are great and there are some real gems hidden in the album it will take a few listens before finding the truly memorable parts. If the atmosphere doesn't immeditely hook you don't give up becauee you will be missing out on something I feel is really unique and hard to come by in the sub-genre. Writhen and Son's Thoughts display professionalism and a potentially bright future and The Perfumed Garden is hauntingly atmospheric and progressive -- but where the album begins to fall short is in between this tracks where the songs lack memorable melodies and choruses. In reality it is difficult to express the main problem I have with the album. The riffs are really not memorable. It is truly a moment when the riff comes and you think, "this is a fantastic riff" but after it ends it is forgotten.

If Omnium Gatherum concentrated on the stronger riffs, not that there are a whole lot of weak riffs to begin with, and developing the chorus melodies this album would be an absolute piece of art. Call it a "hit or miss album", "a great but flawed debut" or whatever you desire but Spirits and August Light brings to the table great ideas and fantastic atmosphere but with something left to be desired.

To get it crystallized at last - 80%

autothrall, April 9th, 2010

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When life hands you the Steal the Light EP, you salvage a few of the tracks from that, go back in the studio armed with other, better songs, and come out with a debut album like Spirits and August Light that is a swift kick start in the pants, rendering you finally worthy of all the momentum and praise you have yet received. And so Omnium Gatherum got down to business and wrote and released a full-length that was the equal of anything their famous kin Children of Bodom had produced, establishing themselves alongside the more promising of the Finnish new wave of melodic death metal, alongside bands like Kalmah or the similarly named Insomnium.

The formula has not changed. If anything, they stuck to the exact path they were headed with Steal the Light, only refined it and placed a few attractive potted plants along the way so you have something to actually look at when you're out on a stroll. A few knobs are tweaked, and the older tracks "Wastrel" and "Son's Thoughts" seem to integrate themselves very well with the newer material, though in almost every case, the songs written for Spirits and August Light are superior. I'd also point out that while most of Omnium Gatherum's covers seem like hack jobs some C-grade average graphic arts student spat out in 15-20 minutes, I have always found this one particularly annoying. But no, you leering buggy baby mannequin albino head thing, you will NOT prevent me from enjoying this goddamn album!

As an apology for the foul imagery, the Finns start with a big, warm hook on "Writhen", a song that hammers along with a terminal velocity even when it takes breaks to layer in thrashing groove rhythms and synth pads. The track doesn't quite capitalize on this one opening riff, but it maintains a heightened energy through the lead and climax, and it's more memorable than anything on the previous release. "Deathwhite" follows with a a rambling, almost Viking-like rhythm that rolls into a lush keyboard-enameled thrust and emotionally elevating verse. Even through such a simple melody, the band clearly showcases their ability to channel emotion into their work, which was lacking before. Even Antti Filppu has improved, with a larger, sloshing slather all over the rhythms. The wolf pup has grown into adolescence. "The Perfumed Garden" is another track like "Son's Thoughts" which opens with some of those jingly Amorphis cleans, but here they are abruptly interrupted by a solid, melodeath riff. "Amor Tonight" rocks out like the bastard spawn of In Flames and Norther, adjoined keyboard and guitar melodies creating a proper romantic environment that plays out like a lost track from Soilwork's great Natural Born Chaos album.

'I put my boots back on,
Brought them down from the attic
And they're so nice and broken,
With words unspoken'

It's all about breaking hearts! And kicking asses! Or maybe kicking someone's ass after they break your heart. I don't care. This is not The Hills. Two more newer cuts follow this one, beginning with the bounce and flex of "Cure a Wound", which once again delivers an emotionally resonant punch due to the melodic guitar that simmers just below the bridge. "The Emptiness of Spirit" kicks it slowly with some clean guitars under a soft synth texture, but gradually develops into another solid romp through the modern metal landscape. After this the band tosses "Wastrel" and "Son's Thoughts" at you once more, though both of the tracks sound are better here, in particular "Wastrel". "Son's Thoughts" could probably have been left off the album, as it serves no purpose other than conjuring memories of Tuonela. Thankfully, we get a refresher in the closer "It Shines", which is as promising a track as you'll find on the album, with gentle melodies that cycle through sparse chugging and a subtle keyboard across the landscape.

Needless to say, the moth was out of the larva, and Omnium Gatherum had delivered something here that is probably worth owning to the fan of modern, melodic death metal with keyboards. So if you've got gobs of hot love bubbling up between your thighs for the 21st century efforts of Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork, or In Flames, you may like what you find here. It's a consistent and catchy album which remains one of their best to date, and while some might shudder at the pop-like, moody atmospheres of such company, Spirits and August Light is the product of rational songwriting and emotional exhibition.

Highlights: Amor Tonight, Cure a Wound, It Shines

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

This should/could have been incredible - 75%

matt85210, August 9th, 2009

This album is quite a difficult one to review, as it is full of absolutely brilliant moments and exhibitions of musicianship, yet by the end of it you cannot help but a feel a little bit unfulfilled despite its merits.

'Spirits and August Light', the bands first proper full length release, gets out of the starting blocks incredibly fast, bulldozing straight into 'Writhen', a frantic, consistent and galloping opener, but the real highlights are 'Deathwhite' and 'A Perfumed Garden' (tracks 2 and 3 respectively). 'Deathwhite' is a groove-heavy monster of a song with all the trimmings; ethereal keyboards, awesomely constructed guitar riffs and leads, and some pretty varied vocal work.

'A Perfumed Garden' is, WITHOUT DOUBT, the song of the album. It has... God, it has everything. Melody, absolutely fucking thunderous hooks which are further accentualted by battering drum fills and rhythms, acoustic interludes and one of the best solos I have ever heard in melodic death metal. The perfect song. Outstanding stuff.

So far, very good. However, as the album progresses, Omnium Gatherum seem to rely more and more on the momentum they garnered from the opening three or four tracks. 'Amor Tonight' is inspired enough, exhibiting some interesting moments and good musicianship, but songs like 'Cure a Wound' and 'The Emptiness of a Spirit' find the band slowly easing off the gas and slipping into third gear, content to merely cruise through the rest of the CD, happy that the hard work has been well and truly done in the first 20 minutes.

By 'Wastrel' things are showing tentative signs of picking up again, until... "ah, this sounds familiar... Ah! I know what this is! These are some of the bits that metalcore borrowed! Oh no, I know where this is all going from here..." Once you hear something like that in an album that showed so much promise, you know its pretty much game over. This is, of course, the start of the inevitable rinse & repeat formula that finally sees the album, barely out of breath, saunter indifferently over the finish line like an over-laden mule.

I am actually more annoyed by albums like this than I am by outright terrible ones. This album should have been 90+, easily, yet I am forced to relegate 'Spirits and August Light' to the mid seventies because the band couldn't be bothered to finish the job properly. I might be taking this slightly personally, but I feel as if I have been deprived of one of the best CDs in my colllection.

1 part incredible, plus 1 part dross, can only equal a good album, nothing more. Download the first four out of spite.

Melodic and Atmospheric magnificence - 95%

fromheretodeath, April 19th, 2006

Omnium Gatherum's first real full length album 'Spirits and August Light' has got to go down as one of the finest examples of melodic death metal that I've ever had the opportunity to listen to. The only problem with creating a near masterpiece as your first album however, is that you have to come up with something as good or better the next time around and that's a big ask, which unfortunately OG couldn't live up to. This review isn't about Years in Waste though, so let's crack on...

I'm going to get rid of the flaw first because theirs only really one. The vocals. Now they're not the greatest death metal vox you're ever going to hear and they could put some people off, but in my case however the vocals are a minor thing and the music playing behind them is all that matters. A redeeming factor with the vocals is that you can tell he's putting some passion into what he's singing which in a way makes up for it.

In a previous review their was a comparison made to In Flames/Dark Tranquillity. This, I must say, is complete and utter bollocks. For sure, it's melo death... but it's something that you won't find on any In Flames or Dark Tranquillity release.

OG create a sound that's extremely atmospheric, yet technical in its own right. The guitar work for instance is some of the best in the genre that I've heard. The guitars are accompanied by light synth for most of the album and when the synth is brought to the forefront, its used to perfection and not too heavily. As for the drumming, it's nothing spectacular but serves the material well and has perfect tone which is basically what you'd want in a melo death band. The album is produced extremely well. It doesn't sound to crisp/sharp which has been the case with some albums in the genre and it usually ends up removing some of the atmosphere. It's just perfect. This combination creates an original and extremely atmospheric sound. You won't find this anywhere else.

In parts this album has a progressive feel about it, mixing lighter elements with much more aggressive styles. 'The Perfumed Garden' is a good example of this, starting off with a light guitar intro and building its way up into much more heavier guitar riffs (but not too heavy) and then returning back to the lighter guitar work for the outro. All accompanied by stunning, yet subtle synth. Other example's of this style would be 'The Emptiness of Spirit' which captures your imagination and takes you off into a world of your own which you wish you'd never leave. Heavier, pacier songs exist on the album to mix things up a little. The opener 'Writhen' gives you an idea of what you're going to be in for through the rest of the album, with some amazing melodic guitar work and that atmosphere which is ever present throughout the album. 'Amor Tonight' hits you like a tonne of bricks after the quite melancholic 'The Perfumed Garden' but it fits in just right.

Highlights of the album are basically all of it, every song has something new to explore and you'll find yourself listening to it time after time and hearing something different. Every song involves technical skill but its molded into a way in which the beauty of the music prevails. If I had to pick songs however then I'd probably go for 'The Perfumed Garden' which I mentioned a little earlier in which the guitars will make you want to cry because it's so beautiful, 'Deathwhite' which is a melodic masterpiece and 'Wastrel' which flows gracefully into 'Son's Thoughts', they both have different characteristics and only by listening to them would you be able to understand how truly magnificent and masterful these creations really are.

This albums more than just another melodic death metal album, this has emotion, imagination and originality. If you're into bands like Insomnium for example, then you'd be able to understand just what I mean. If the vocals were a little better then this album would have got 100% but apart from that small hiccup this is truly an album that any melo death fan should have in their collection.