2. New Dynamic
3. In The Rim
6. The Sonic Sign
7. Who Could Say
8. The Unknowing
9. Living In Me
10. White Palace
Have you ever kicked yourself that you haven’t been paying attention to certain bands, wondering how they ever fell off your metal radar? Well, get ready to kick hard as we bring you a band who have struck pure gold with their sixth album. Finnish sextet Omnium Gatherum have been tickling the backs of people’s brains ever since their 4th release The Redshift when (relatively) new vocalist Jukka Pelkonen began to fully settle in. Since then, their brand of melodic death metal has been refined and enhanced with a new axeman and bassist, and the result is frankly stunning. The band have never sounded better, or more Finnish.
Taking their time, the album starts off in slow fashion with a 3-minute post-rock-esque intro entitled “Luoto” (“islet” in Finnish). Reminiscent of the tactic fellow countrymen Insomnium have employed, the song builds up slowly with ethereal guitar work that paves the way for the rest of the band’s grand entrance. Harmonized leads from Markus Vanhala and Joonas Koto flicker around the drumming, and the song bows down before the sweetly melodic intro leads of “New Dynamic”. Frenetic guitars interchange with airy keyboard-atmospherics, while the low growls of Pelkonen add a required punch to the mix. The mixture is engaging and encompassing; the listener doesn’t know whether to kick back and relax or kick off and headbang. This isn’t aided when ghostly cleans and added ambience float through for an interesting bridge before the song reverts back to growl mode. “In The Rim”’s undeniable groove, overflowing melody and prominent synth lead, all of which contrast with the grunts and shrieks, allows the listener to relax a little more.
The band’s diverse range of influences emerges over the course of the next few songs: the 8-minute “Nightwalkers” blends in parts of Depeche Mode‘s synth-pop and Daylight Dies‘ melodoom for a more rounded track, while “The Sonic Sign” adds a dose of thrash to the mix, including an astonishing shred solo from both axemen. “Who Could Say” features some stunning baritone singing with a track not unlike Katatonia‘s later output. However, perhaps the most surprising influence is in the tone of Aapo Koivisto‘s synth parts of “Living In Me” and “White Palace”, which recall either 80s pop or Ayreon, the former track in particular sounding like a pop cover. This brings me to the final track, “White Palace”, the track that Beyond builds up to: a full 10 minutes incorporating every aspect of the previous 9 songs. A lot of melodeath, a little doom, a little synth and even a piano at one point before the song floats lightly to its conclusion.
So, what’s to love about the near-hour of music? Well for a start, there’s more melody than you can shake a long-haired head at, and many memorable moments; each song carves its own trail from the start, making choosing favorites nigh on impossible. There are copious amounts of riffs, leads, drum patterns and synth sections from all six members, even a bass solo on “Formidable” from new face Erkki Silvennoinen. However, there should be no worry of the band “softening” their sound; Omnium Gatherum still know how to bring the heavy, whether it’s the groove in “Living In Me” or the blackened tremolo picking of “The Unknowing”.
Detractors of melodeath who claim the genre to be one-dimensional and self-referential will flounder at this release; the sheer diversity knocks that comment flat on its back. The production, masterminded by Dan Swanö as per the previous two albums, does the entire band justice, making sure nothing is buried and yet not too overpowering. Perhaps the only discrediting comment could be directed at Pelkonen’s low growls, which can be deterring for those not accustomed to it. Yours truly, however, has no issue with them, as they add the dynamism that neatly sidesteps this release being too saccharine.
With Beyond, Omnium Gatherum have managed to accomplish something many bands struggle to achieve: bringing a melting pot of influences and synthesizing them together into a recognizable and catchy-as-hell melodeath style that is also a natural continuation of their discography. This is bound to stick with people for a long time to come. I would be confident in naming Beyond as a pinnacle of modern melodic death metal, and yet another jewel in Finland’s heavy metal crown.