Review Summary: The Burning Cold sees the band once again reaching great heights despite maintaining their recent, more straightforward style.
Omnium Gatherum is a long running melodic death metal outfit from Finland founded in 1996. The band's musical identity has developed greatly throughout their history with no album sounding anything like the next. It is fair to say the first three albums are rough around the edges. The period from Years in Waste
to Stuck Here on Snakes Way
saw the move from the high pitched screeching vocals of Antti Filppu to the lower gutturals of Jukka Pelkonen, but both albums can be seen as a transitional period with their moments of ghastly heaviness and desultory songwriting, sprinkled with moments of brilliance. The debut Spirits and August Light
, despite some roughness on the production end, offers some of the groups best material and captures the unrepeatable moment of an energetic and talented young band. It wasn't until The Redshift
that the ultra melodic and atmospheric began to become the band's identity, and the two concept album masterpieces that followed: New World Shadows
, had a sense of scope, epicness, and quality that garnered much new attention in the melodeath fanbase. The Burning Cold
sees the band once again reaching great heights despite maintaining their recent, more straightforward style.
When a group has released such excellent work in the past, all further material is judged with stricter scrutiny. With this in mind, The Burning Cold
does just enough to be an excellent album in it's own right. Overall the tone of this album is an improvement in Omnium's modern, more straightforward approach. The keyboards and vibrant leads make more of an overall impact, and blend more seamlessly. The keyboard textures can simply serve to make the arrangements lush, but focusing on them can cause the listener to hear a song in a new light. No two songs are anything alike, making each one meaningful to the overall experience. The track list flows quite nicely with much of the best musicianship held in the second half. The opener Gods Go First
does a great job of providing the high energy kick the album needed while also providing a new stylistic look for the band with its 80s flare of sharp synths and a tone even reminiscent to a training montage. Refining Fire
does a nice job opening things up and providing a more traditionally classic Omnium track with lyrics designed to excel in a live setting.
The few flaws here are fairly apparent. Over the Battlefield
is the only possible misfire here. Markus puzzlingly said this was probably his favorite song on the album, when its safe to say it is the most conflicted. The song's chorus is extremely repetitive with the changing drum beats and great drum performance being its saving grace. But when it reaches the bridge, things open up nicely with a beautifully candid melody backed by a satisfying groove. It was at this very moment I felt the pacing of the entire album up to this point was actually perfection, and just as I was looking forward to an extended soulful harmonized guitar lead, an excitement building ascending lick smashes into a chorus arriving much too early. The decision to make the final two tracks of the album also the darkest paid off: Cold
is an anthemic, hypnotic dirge that is a tasteful ending but makes me wish for a little more, and the intro and outro tracks with identical musical foundations taking up 8 minutes of a 51 minute album leaves the listener wanting more for better or worse. The production seems to be less “all encompassing” than on Beyond
As a long time fan who expects the world from Omnium Gatherum, it's hard not to feel left wanting more. One more rhythm cycle to extend that guitar solo, one more uplifting melody, one or (preferably) two more excellent tracks to really expand the experience. Despite my love for the heaviness, the brief soft sections are so absolutely heavenly to listen to that I wish they would go on and on, despite them being transitional in nature. The harshest criticism I could give the album is that it often seems constrained by songwriting convention and a potential level of extended exploration in these compositions remains untapped, a level that the band has shown they can reach in their longer compositions from past albums. Integral songwriter Markus Vanhala's involvement in Insomnium has certainly widened his focus and perhaps interfered with the time it would take for him to really dabble in how far he can take these tracks and make it a more progressive affair. That said, when the criticism is that you just want more of what you are hearing, it is hard to fault the album for that. The concise approach to the songwriting here is executed exceptionally, and the band has once again made a statement.
Everything else about this album is strong. The band employs a hook driven approach which makes them accessible to those new to metal, even despite the extreme harshness of the vocal tone. This is likely the band's most catchy album. Songs such as The Fearless Entity
and Driven by Conflict
see new and welcomed styles from the band with the former being among their most optimistic moments and the later probably thrashing harder than anything they have done before. The Fearless Entity
in particular is pure ear candy with its righteous tone and empowering melodic hook. Its fantastic guitar leads and rocking bridge riff combine to take the song to a gear that is rarely reached. Be the Sky
was an intriguing song title when I saw the tracklist and the regal, bouncing main riff and soaring melodies capture the subject matter perfectly. In fact, when new climatic melodies emerge in select moments on the album, they reflect the proper feeling perfectly and the resulting beauty is genuinely tear inducing in no small part due to the sublime guitar work throughout. The more you listen to the album the more it all seems to fit together just right. Despite closer Cold
being simple and repetitive, it may be the biggest grower on the album as its cycle stays in your head, spearheaded by one of the most impactful vocal performances of Jukka Pelkonen's career, where he really makes this track his own. In fact, the entire album is clearly Jukka's finest hour. I have always felt his vocals set the band apart in a positive manner but its fair to say that sometimes they seem at odds with the instrumentation; that's not the case here. They confidently lead the way with startling conviction and power. Their phrasing, execution, and relation to the music is better than ever, with certainly no small part being due to the band finding the sweet spot tonally to really allow the vocals to shine along with Jukka being ready to put in an excellent performance. The improved cohesion of the vocals and instrumentation along with the satisfying concise approach are the album's most important breakthroughs.
Overall this is an excellent album that sits comfortably among their best works, and will likely continue to grow with each listen. The sweet, singing, mosaic sea from Beyond
may be gone, but the thought provoking, emotional, and exciting nature of pure melodic death metal lives on in Omnium Gatherum's newest release, and certainly holds them among the best the genre has to offer.