Review Summary: This is hardly beyond their sound, but they do their sound exceedingly well.
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.