Review: Omnium Gatherum – 'Grey Heavens'

There’s something awesome going on in Finland at the moment. First, we get the enchanting and spellbinding new release by Hexvessel, and next to drop into my mailbox is this monster by Omnium Gatherum. The new album, ‘Grey Heavens’ is a mature reworking of the melodic death metal genre that pulls the band in a whole new progressive direction that, dare I say it, almost creates a brand new genre which is as introspective as it is intense. Omnium Gatherum has been on a journey since their inception in 1996 through each of their albums and an impressive touring history. Each album, and each subsequent recording label, has taken the band through a change process that has seen them confidently stray from the same well-worn paths of many of their counterparts in the melodic metal genre. This new release not only redefines the band again but we can hear the band transform throughout these tracks, developing and ending in the cliff-hanger, waiting for the next tour and release, but first, let’s go through this awesome recording and its 10 tracks.

‘The Pit’ is not a reflection of the depth on this album. It’s the starting point and maybe the band recognises this in the title, something for them to climb out of and move towards a new goal. About a minute in, there is a riff that is going to send the mosh into a frenzy and it weaves throughout this entire song. If this opens a gig, then it’s on from the start, as this is a great track but it only gets better. We climb out of the pit and to the ‘Skyline’ which is the first hint at the soundscapes on this release. The old and the new are jagged against each other. The new, the riff and synth line is full of life and levity, but the vocals are what we expect from the old genre. This is a great track that will either have existing fans smiling from ear to ear, listening to this intelligent composition or having then re-listened to this fresh sound, getting their heads around it. Given the journey this band has been on, I’m guessing it will be the former, with fans enjoying his new depth. With track 3, we are onto ‘Frontiers’ with its synth line, guitar riffs and drum beat, all at counterpoints with each other. Driving forward, the band have clearly made a choice that they are heading for a more defined, mature sound, and it’s working. I’ve heard this song type being heralded as ‘hymns’ but let’s stay real, this is smart song construction that shows the band have clear plans and structure in their playing. It’s not some rush of blood to the head that takes 4 minutes of your life. This is the point on the album when I realised that this was something new I was listening to as it has depth and purpose. Smart, memorable music and a great solo drops in magnificently, played well and just perfect for the song. “Majesty and Silence’ is an 8 minute, hands in the air progressive metal giant of a song. It’s everything in the blender, reaching and striving in pitch, building until the vocals are strained and angst ridden. Then we rise again in the chant-like chorus building towards a smart, melodic ending. Again a song that has more possible endings and off-shoots, it keeps you guessing and at the same time challenges you to stay with it. Beautiful song, yes it is, beautiful. As we dip out of it the synth line stretches out and we are up again, climbing into a riff that is progressive metal at its very best. We climb, higher and ‘Rejuvenate’ is a rush of a song, throwing everything at you, as deep as it is high. Those vocals, which are perfect for the dark\doom genre, are now as much of an instrument, questioning and probing. Each lyric, asks us about ourselves or maybe asking the band about themselves. The synth takes the lead, then the guitar, then the vocal and we roll on then all stop. Awesome, just takes your breath away the composition of that track, which should be played back to back with the previous track, ‘Majesty and Silence’ because it’s a two parts of the same beast. Track 6 is ‘Foundation’ which starts with a low synth tone that gave my speakers the opportunity to go for a walk across the desk. The vocals chip in and we are way down in the bowels in term of tone but the guitars are skimming like stones across the top of the pared back vocal and synthline. Is there something in this song title, is foundation the intention for the band from now on? If it is then it’s going to be an interesting ride. I can’t split this track and the last 2 in terms of which one I prefer most but it’s irrelevant as they are all as good of each other, twisting and turning and making us guess. But the colours are all there and the musicianship is top notch. I really hope that as we head into the last third of the album we push it a bit harder – if that’s possible. I shouldn’t have worried as the ‘Great Liberation’ is where we need to be, somehow aggressive but uplifting and a celebration. We occasionally drop into just the synth line, the guitar chasing guitar and this has got last song of the setlist written all over it. It’s a gem of a track and even the vocal and the lyrics are pulling us from the darkness and into the light, supporting the band in this transformation. This is progressive metal and it’s all there. Happy, angry, compassionate and unforgiving. The ‘Ophidian Sunrise’ dovetails into the last track and we are on again. This is an anthem and a statement where the band aims high and achieves higher still. About 4 minutes in and all hell is let loose, with solos and riffs trading places, fighting towards the end. This is hands in the air, looking at the heavens festival music. At the end the vocals change again and become clean and spoken. Fantastic way to end a track. The penultimate track, ‘These Grey Heavens’ is an instrumental track that, for me, is the highlight of the album as it puts everything that the band is striving for into context. The soundscape and the rise and fall are all there. This is a soaring instrumental that drives into the final track ‘Storm Front’ which adds vocals for a brief interlude but moves on in the same way thought harder than the instrumental. What a way to finish what has been an outstanding album. This release is brave and makes a statement that the band has become a force to be reckoned with. For me, Omnium Gatherum take this music in directions that I wished that Mantric had in previous reviews and show colours and variations in their compositions that I hoped that Australian band SANZU would adopt. But this recording meets and exceeds all of my expectations. When you sit and listen to a new recording you always think, ‘I wish the band had gone in this direction’, but not here, as Omnium Gatherum took this recording to places that I could not have imagined, let alone guessed. Enjoyed everything about this album and its one for your collection, as this is without ANY doubt, the best Omnium Gatherum album yet.

Review by Craig Grant

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