Review Summary: A fantastic statement from Omnium Gatherum that is only really held back by its pacing.
Ever since they released their first album, Spirits and August Light, in 2003, Finnish group Omnium Gatherum have been steadily gathering momentum and climbing to the top of the melodic death metal scene. With a constantly evolving, yet at the same time commendably consistent style, it has to be said that 2016’s Grey Heavens didn’t quite have the same impact of previous albums. However, the 15 years since their debut album dropped have shown us that these guys won’t let anything set them back, and now with The Burning Cold they’ve put themselves firmly back on track.
The first proper track, “Gods Go First”, is possibly the most left field track regarding where Omnium Gatherum are taking their influences on this album. From the NWOBHM riffs to the overpowering synths, there is a very strong 80s vibe here. Frontman Jukka Pelkonen utilises his clean vocals well to complement the more atmospheric passages, contrasting against the sheer guttural roar of their more energetic moments. “Refining Fire” is aptly named, as it’s the result of sole original member Markus Vanhala’s 22 years of refining his songwriting and band lineup to get to this point. As oppose to the 80s-esque sound of “Gods Go First”, “Refining Fire” takes its cue from fellow Scandinavian melodeath acts such as the early input of In Flames, and the earworm riffs that follow will stay in your head for weeks.
The problem with starting off so strong with the double salvo of “Gods Go First” and “Refining Fire” is that the rest of the album has a hell of a job to keep up the momentum and high bar for quality set by those tracks. Understandably, then, the following couple of tracks feel like something of a lull. Had they been on previous album Grey Heavens, I may not have dismissed them as easily, but that’s just the luck of the draw. For example, “The Fearless Entity” is a wonderfully crafted song, with a growing urgency and energy as time passes by, supplemented by sweet melodies and excellent keyboard work from Aapo Koivisto, but it doesn’t stick out as much as the opener. It’s almost like Omnium Gatherum burned too bright too quickly. If they’d have put them closer to the middle then it may have made for a more balanced album.
The second half of The Burning Cold does pick things up a bit again with “Be the Sky” taking things back to basics a bit, followed by the pummelling death metal of “Driven By Conflict”, showing that melody can be brutal at the same time. It feels like Omnium Gatherum have gained a second wind now, helping The Burning Cold go out on a high after the mid-album lull. “Driven By Conflict” is full of the chugging riffs, powerful leads and well utilised keys that you want to hear from this band, making it a quintessential addition to any melodeath playlist. The haunting, melancholic ending duo of “Planet Scale” and “Cold” round things out strongly.
There really isn’t much wrong with this album at all, the only real issue being that the album highlights are predominantly at the very beginning of the album, making the rest of The Burning Cold struggle to keep up the momentum. Every track shows Omnium Gatherum at the top of their game, showing a wide range of influences from 80s’ metal to modern progressive and melodic death metal. I just feel that if they had done more to address the balance of the album to ensure every track got the attention it deserved, instead of being in the shadow of the song that preceded it. It’s a problem I’ve seen in other death metal albums in 2018, so Omnium Gatherum aren’t alone in this, I just hope it’s not a theme that will continue in future. But that doesn't mean that Omnium Gatherum haven't released a truly outstanding effort here.