Review Summary: Recommended for people who started listening to melodic death metal yesterday and Insomnium fans.
I can't say I'm familiar with Omnium Gatherum and thats what make my first experience with them quite confusing; Grey Heavens sounds like a very familiar album. Melodic death metal's degeneration into homogeneity has been well-documented over the past few years, and unfortunately Grey Heaven doesn't do much to combat that stigma. It's almost as if you can trace each guitar pattern, each vocal phrasing and each melody back to a band who has already done it, and more than likely done it better. Opening track "The Pit" is certainly eager enough, but at the end of the day you're just listening to another Amon Amarth song. The two following tunes "Skyline" and "Frontiers" rip-off Scar Symmetry so shamelessly, I had to check and see if they shared any members. To my genuine surprise, apparently they do not. For its majority, the rest of the album suffers from this same problem; as a first time listener, I wanted to hear an Omnium Gatherum record, not a melodic death metal compilation.
I will say in their defense, at least they ape the genre's better bands and with admirable enthusiasm. There is an undeniable energy that permeates Grey Heavens and acts as something of a saving grace for the record. Throughout their (hopefully unintentional) imitation of Insomnium, Amon Amarth, and others, the music is still enjoyable enough to get your head moving and fists pounding. As far as metal goes, those two things are the most basic requirements for a decent album, and Omnium Gatherum definitely manage to meet them. It's kind of what makes this experience so frustrating; there is nothing offensively bad here at all. The instrumentation is tight, the vocals both clean and rasped are strong, and the production perfectly accommodates their synth-laden branch of melodeath. If the group had managed a modicum of individuality, Grey Heavens could have been spectacular. All the proof one needs can be found in the album's stand-out track "Majesty and Silence". Though it undeniably takes a feather from Insomnium's cap, it doesn't sound like any direct homage of their work. At close to nine minutes in the length, "Majesty…" is modern melodic death metal at its best. A highly atmospheric piece, it takes you on a journey from the brooding contemplation of its crunchy start-stop rhythms, to the massive and uplifting sing-along chorus. From top to bottom it’s a thoroughly engaging listen.
There are a few other instances of brilliance scattered throughout Grey Heavens. The chorus of "Foundations" makes excellent use of vocalist Jukka Pelkonen's powerful guttural roar, and "Ophildian Sunrise" is bursting with joyous leads and beautiful acoustic guitar breaks. Unfortunately, these shining moments aren't enough to illuminate the whole album. Nobody was expecting anything groundbreaking here; it is melodic death metal after all. However, Grey Heavens is a bit too derivative for its own good, and it's unlikely that any longtime fans will find many reasons to consistently revisit this. Maybe next time guys.