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Chaos Screams - 82%

hardalbumreview, September 24th, 2018

To most metal heads the phrase “melodic death metal” brings to mind the Swedish super trio, In Flames, At The Gates and Dark Tranquility (AKA the Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal). However, the other melodeath bands which hailed from their neighboring country of Finland soon rose to equal quality and stature though not in fame. Bands like Children of Bodom, Norther, Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, alongside Kalmah, Eternal Tears of Sorrow and Wintersun (among many others) have customized and personalized each in their own unique way what was first created in Sweden and in later years they offered their own distinctive style and signature within the genre.

One of the most notable Finnish melodeath bands, Omnium Gatherum, have released their eighth studio album to the high expectations of fans and critics. They have previously proven to be very well cognizant of their work and on this album they were able to fulfill the expectations very decently.

The title of the album (The Burning Cold) is divided into two parts and given to the opening and final tracks (The Burning and Cold respectively), as if they were the two covers of a book and you should flip through the pages to see what it holds inside. This grand instrumental opening is cohesive and complete in itself and pours into Gods Go First (one of the two tracks previously released as a single for this album) and the main body of the album begins.

What makes this album worth listening, above other qualities, is the pulverizing drumming (by Tuomo Latvala) teamed up with savage riffing and adept solos (by Joonas "Jope" Koto - Markus Vanhala). Not only on the fast-paced songs, e.g. The Fearless Entity or Refining Fire (another single track of the album), but also on slower tracks, such as The Frontline, can you find this immensity and severity in playing these instruments.

The guitar playing lays out a diverse array of styles, from black metal riffing on Driven by Conflict to In Flames-ish Rest In Your Heart. In some other cases resemblance to the more atmospheric and melancholic sound of Insomnium is evident, maybe partly due to the fact that Markus Vanhala also plays in the aforesaid band, but that for sure is to my liking (Insomnium being my favorite band within this genre).

The two other musicians, Aapo Koivisto on keyboards and Erkki Silvennoinen on bass, fall behind compared to the other three on instruments. This, however, does not imply that they have not put forward adequate performances. Koivisto has tried to fill the atmosphere with orchestral sounds and other sound effects (like the tides of a sea on Rest in Your Heart) to give a richer experience to the listener, Gods Go First and Over The Battlefield are just two of these tracks.

Jukka Pelkonen behind the mic is as grave, prevalent and forceful as he has established himself to be. With his deep guttural style, he creates a fierce and mighty sound. This level of vocal prowess could be more escalated if he used clean vocals to his advantage too.

Aside from music, what does this book we are dealing with have to say? Well, as for the words, this album leaves much to be desired. Most of the lyrics are short, some only consist of one short verse and one short chorus, repeating the same lines over and over again, with Over the Battlefield and Planet Scale being the prime examples here. This negligence of lyrics has impaired their overall impact. I wonder how more profound and more sophisticated their work would be with some well-thought-out lyrics.

This book ends with the slow-paced Cold, having the same flaws in lyrics as the ones named above, and not being able to be as memorable as the opening track.

Rating (out of 10):
Lyrics: 6.5
Artwork: 7.0
Musicianship: 9.5
Vocals: 9.0
Overall: 8.0

A record that lives up to the band's potential - 85%

kluseba, September 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

The Burning Cold marks a vast improvement over the boring predecessor Grey Heavens as Finnish melodic death metal sextet Omnium Gatherum offers some of its most inspired songwriting in many years. Instead of simply delivering fast death metal with melodic guitar sounds and depressive keyboard soundscapes, this album actually oozes with atmosphere.

Things kick off very well with the slow, ominous and distorted instrumental opener ''The Burning''. Old problems seem to haunt the band when the actual opening track and single ''Gods Go First'' kicks off nervously and doesn't fit to the amazing instrumental overture but the band manages to slow things down and turn them around by including futuristic keyboard sounds to give the track some depth after a rough start.

Things improve even further with the next tune and single ''Refining Fire'' that develops an epic atmosphere thanks to a diversified mid-paced structure focusing on outstanding guitar work while the vocals are less domineering and give the song some space to unfold.

The futuristic touch can also be found in the brilliant ''Over the Battlefield'' that would do justice to any soundtrack of an epic science-fiction movie. The mysterious melodies contrast the combative death metal vocals very well while occasional extended instrumental passages slow the song down at the right moments and give it an extra layer of atmosphere and depth.

The record keeps the momentum until its end with tracks combining aggressiveness and melody brilliantly and even comes around with one of the best songs in the band's career to date in form of the progressive extreme metal masterpiece ''The Frontline'' that meanders between gloomy death metal stylistics and almost psychedelic acoustic guitar passages. This creative song makes you discover different soundscapes with every new spin. It exemplifies the atmosphere, courage and inspiration involved in the process of making this release.

After the disappointing predecessor, Omnium Gatherum has finally managed to reproduce the unique atmosphere of its live shows on a regular studio album. I'm still waiting for the band's first live album which is long overdue twenty-two years after its foundation. Before such an album might finally see the light of day and become the group's most essential release, one can't go wrong with The Burning Cold which is easily one of the band's very best records. If you like melodic death metal with epic, futuristic and progressive atmospheres, you can't get around this unexpected highlight. If you have the occasion to grab the Japanese release of this record with two bonus track, don't hesitate as your money would be spent on one of the greatest melodic death metal records in recent memory.

Cold flames beget a burning frost. - 88%

hells_unicorn, September 7th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

Contradictions have little place in the fields of logical inquiry, but in the realm of the arts it is often how innovation occurs, and ultimately how the most aesthetically powerful of music comes to be born. Arguably the most blatant of paradoxes to ever rise out of the genre of metal was the melodic strain of death metal that first arose in Sweden in the mid-1990s, centering on famed Gothenburg three in At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames. The style essentially took the atonal rebellion and brutal character that festered out of the extreme thrash metal scene and turned many of its accepted conventions on their head, all the while still maintaining a strong semblance of the original style. All but immediately following the release of the formative albums of said bands, neighboring Finland all but immediately took notice and ushered in its own more power metal infused and keyboard-happy variant on said style, birthing its own wave of melodic death metal before the initial one had fully crashed onto the beach.

As with the noteworthy Swedish bands, there was a strong degree of diversity in approach among the Finnish crowd, forming a veritable spectrum of possibilities within the generally sorrowful and consonant expression of the style. Omnium Gatherum arguably took the most nuanced and eclectic of approaches, merging the impacted-based, power/thrashing character of Kalmah’s approach with the atmospheric, spacey landscapes attributed to Insomnium. With the passage of time, they’ve proven to be among the more consistent of the pioneers of the Finnish scene, save for a change in lead vocalists prior to the release of Stuck Here On Snakes Way that brought a greater degree of grimness and depth to their sound with the entry of deep-end barker and Elenium front man Jukka Pelkonen. In recent years, they’ve generally avoided the symphonic excesses of Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and the technical ones of Children Of Bodom, while developing their sense of atmosphere and upping the ante on all fronts, and The Burning Cold brings it all into focus.

With the common trend among bands lately to starts things with a wave of symphonic bluster over a brief instrumental prelude; it is refreshing to see Omnium Gatherum take a more subtle approach to kicking things off and building gradually to a climactic roar. In a sort of storybook fashion that includes the obligatory front and back cover, the title of the album is split into two songs in “The Burning” and “Cold”, the former being a brilliant display of dense keyboard and guitar work that coasts at a doom-like crawl, while the latter moves a tad bit quicker and closes the album off in a sorrowful, power ballad-like fashion with the same thematic material front and center. The rich texture that is imbued in these songs through a diverse mixture of synthesized strings, acoustic and electric guitars and a pounding rhythm section doesn’t reach the degree of pomp comparable to Wintersun, yet there is a similar degree of picturesque imagery implied in the music and a near equal degree of technical prowess at work.

While the exposition and denouement of this collection of songs presents a singular theme that almost drones save for the moving parts surrounding it, the body contained between them is anything but uniform. High octane riff monsters such as “Gods Go First”, “Refining Fire” and “Over The Battlefield” spend much of their time thrashing and shredding in a manner highly reminiscent of the most aggressive offerings out of Kalmah and Arch Enemy, taking brief moments of respite from the chaotic battery and Johan Hegg meets Chris Barnes vocal carnage for keyboard drenched and occasional clean vocal elements that incorporate that sort of spacey, almost post-rock vibe that often permeates Insomnium’s recent offerings. On the other end of the spectrum are slower paced, serene expressions of longing and melodic guitar brilliance such as “Be The Sky” and “The Frontline” take the misty, melancholy flavor of the aforementioned band with a heavier degree of keyboard interplay and paint the picture a frosty green.

At first glance, the depiction of a pile of skulls amid what looks like a summer’s night beneath a grand elm tree may seem an ironic one for an album that implies the burning frost of a winter storm, but it is ultimately the most fitting visual to adorn an album that balances levels of auditory warmth and cold so equally. Nay, even the contradiction of death being surrounded by the season of life is an appropriate one here, as there is a quality of beauty and beast at work between the bleak, biting vocal display and the pure consonance of the surrounding instruments seem to both coexist in harmony while canceling each other out. It manages all of this while coming in a collection of compact anthems that are accessible enough to give the listener instant gratification, rather than compelling continued hearings in order to fully blossom. To the seasoned fan of Omnium Gatherum, it’s a worthy successor to a highly consistent back catalog, while to the newcomer it’s a great entry into a maze of sorrowful themes that is equally enticing to melodeath and power metal trustees alike.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives.