It’s old news to loyal readers that I really took to the last Omnium Gatherum opus (as did AMG himself). Though I appreciated their prior album The Redshift a lot, I certainly wasn’t expecting the monumental slab of Finnish melo-death mixed with mega-melodic Euro-power metal that was New World Shadows. It’s one of those rare albums that has the perfect mix of atmosphere, melody, hooks and power, and it was my album of the year in 2011. I was pretty sure Omnium Gatherum would be unable to equal or top it, and when Beyond appeared in my promo bin, it was just of question of how close they could get to the ridiculous quality of NWS. Well, they did a really fine job and Beyond is another collection of high level melo-death loaded with soaring riffs and harmonies, tasteful and hyper-melodic keyboards in the Euro-power style and most importantly, that melancholy, sullen, “dead puppy under the Christmas tree” feeling that Finns can’t seem to stop themselves from adding. This continues the exact style from NWS, which makes sense from a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it” perspective. Some of the material sounds as if it was accidentally left off NWS and all are right in the same musical wheelhouse. While Beyond as a whole isn’t quite as good as NWS, certain songs rise to the same level and this is yet another gorgeous (but heavy) soundscape that gets better the more you spin it. I doubt there will be a better melo-death album released this year and man, these guys are on a real creative tear!
After a somber, moody instrumental intro, “The New Dynamic” knocks it out of the park with a very NWS-esque onslaught of sharp riffs which leap from thrashing to trilling to mournful in a flash. Add in some uber guttural vox and frilly, Euro-power synth and key flourishes and you have a very striking dichotomy. It’s a highly catchy song and it works for all the reasons the NWS material did (and that wintry, sullen mood is so damn awesome). “In the Rim” has a good helping of Dark Tranquility thrash and features addictive synth lines and a nifty chanting section at 2:50. “Formidable” steals a page directly from Rapture and “borrows” those deep, mournful leads that made them so damn good. This is an album highlight, and demands repeat play right off the bat.
Other standouts include the excellent blend of morose clean and savage death vox on “Who Can Say,” which is about as catchy and memorable as a death song can get; the mid-tempo, but oh so musical and melodic barrage of “The Unknowing” and the Helloween meets Rapture energy of “Living in Me,” which has some great power metal glory amidst the croaking and groaning. Of the bunch, only epic length closer “White Palace” overstays its welcome and though it’s this album’s “Everfield,” it isn’t as consistent throughout and it drags at certain points.
This is an impressive bunch of songs with great writing and playing and it’s a truly musical album with a lot going on. The way the band manufactures these lush, beautiful layers and then plants the black flag of death metal in the middle is not revolutionary, but they do it so well, you can be fooled into thinking it is.
Speaking of the flag of death, the fact that Jukka Pelkonen’s vocals are SO brootal and low-register really makes these songs pop. He sounds like he belongs on a sub-basement grind album, but when placed amongst the flowery keys and pristine riffing and leads, he takes on a whole new dimension, as he did on NWS. The clean vocals are also well done and used in moderation for maximum effect.
I can’t say enough about the harmonies that guitarists Markus Vanhala and Joonas Koto come up with here. Every song is littered with memorable, enchanting moments with just the right blend beauty and balls. When you add in the gleaming, exquisite keyboards of Aapo Koivisto, things get extra special.
This is a band that knows what they are doing and they’re taking the melo-death style to its very limits. While Beyond falls short of the power and majesty of NWS, it’s a very near miss and this is a great companion piece to that classic. I’m sure I’ll be spinning this a lot in the coming months and I hope these guys have a few more of these monsters left in the tank. All hail the champions of Finnish Melo-death!