Omnium Gatherum Grey Heavens 01When great music flows from a band like water, it cranks up expectation to burning point. Your nerves tingle at the mere mention of a new official video. And your palms sweat a little as the band’s shiny new promo drops like manna into your outstretched, grabby hands (or at least it would if we still received physical promo). Back in 2008, Omnium Gatherum released The Redshift. It wasn’t the first rodeo for these Finnish melodic death dealers, but it was the first that got their growing fan-base to sit up and take notice. New World Shadows offered fans a moody skyline and so much more. The album not only earned a glowing 4.5 from a tight-fisted and miserly Angry Metal Guy, but it went on to become Steel Druhm‘s top album for 2011. Follow-up album, Beyond, carried with it the band’s Insomnium inspired sound, not only gaining the band yet another great score, but latching onto a noteworthy spot in Steel Druhm’s Top Ten(ish) of 2013. With so many full-bodied offerings under their belt, can Omnium Gatherum make a clean sweep giving themselves a mighty four out of four winning streak?

Grey Heavens is exactly what the name implies, it puts Omnium Gatherum in a grey area. It neither reaches the heights of New World Shadows and Beyond, nor does it leave the bittersweet taste of disappointment in your mouth. There’s a word for that, but I’m not allowed to use it.  “The Pit” opens up more boldly that I expected, with Omnium Gatherum forcefully delivering their characteristic sound. Structurally, the song feels like a logical follow-up to where Beyond finished off. It’s a fast number, with lots of bite, twists and turns and some guitar work that sends me rummaging through Magnus Karlsson‘s past musical endeavors. It’s not all bombast and bluster and when things slow down, they’re thoughtful, dogged by reminiscence and moments of wistful nostalgia. Apart from feeling overly familiar in arrangement, it’s the unexpected cheesiness of the clean vocal delivery that really drags “The Pit” downward.

“Skyline” follows on very closely and consistently to “The Pit,” and most likely you’ll not even realize that a new track has begun. If it weren’t for the vigorous Avatar-like back and forth interaction, I might not even have looked up from my keyboard and caught the name change. “Frontiers” begins with an Amorphis-inspired intro before drifting into something akin to Voyager‘s “Iron Dream.” I’m not sure if it’s the lingering tragedy of Peter Steele’s death that permeates the mood, or whether “Frontiers” is just in fact that catchy, either way, it takes the honors of the strongest and most memorable song on Grey Heavens. “Majesty and Silence” has the darkest intro, and you wouldn’t be remiss in expecting a tirade of self harm and destructive philosophies from the likes of either of Skitliv‘s front-men were this that kind of blackened album. Instead Jukka Pelkonen’s burly vocal delivery breaks your trance and the track instead follows the sobering course that I’ve come to associate with a band like In Mourning. In case it hasn’t become crystal clear from my little synopsis, Grey Heaven’s is very front-end loaded. There are good to great moments in “The Pit,” “Skyline,” “Frontiers” and “Majesty and Silence,” but when I move beyond these opening tracks, my attention wanes quickly.

Omnium Gatherum Grey Heavens 02

Omnium Gatherum once again left their mix and mastering in the very capable hands of Dan “the-Man” Swanö of Unisound. Thus far he’s applied his production skills to The Redshift, New World Shadows and Beyond, and I like the distinct sense of continuity that this brings to the band’s discography. What does surprise me though is that Grey Heavens demonstrates a marked shift towards improved dynamics and a much higher than before DR measurement. Where Omnium Gatherum‘s earlier albums could hardly be called works of dynamic prowess, Grey Heavens achieves some pretty decent levels. As expected, this has a positive effect on the listening experience, which leaves me wondering why I’m sometimes left wanting Grey Heavens and more importantly Jukka Pelkonen turned up a notch. I guess there’s just no pleasing the damn masses, right?!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there are good to great moments on Grey Heavens, but listening beyond “The Great Liberation”‘s high-reaching guitar solos and pretty Amorphis-like keyboards, there’s very little to grasp onto and hold my attention. That combined with throw-away tracks like “These Grey Heavens” leads me to one conclusion – Grey Heavens would have made a very good seven or eight-track album. I can’t say I’m disappointed in Grey Heavens, but it doesn’t make me want to rush out and sell my soul to get a copy either.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: omniumgatherum.org | facebook.com/omniumgatherumband
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2016

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  • Kevin Dillon

    It seems to me like OG was iterating their sound with each album release up until NWS, which is by far my fav. Then I seems like they stopped. NWS, Beyond and the few songs I heard from this album all sound very similar.

    It’s not really a bad thing because overall I think they are good — but it’s not as awesome as the first time around. NWS blew me away. Beyond was like “oh cool, more similar stuff” — I’m probably going to have a similar reaction with this album.

    Oh well, least still have Be’lakor to look forward to.

    • I feel much the same way. I love NWS and still go back to it often. Beyond felt like the second half of NWs and I loved it almost as much. This time it just doesn’t hit me the same though it’s still good to very good stuff.

  • tomasjacobi

    I asked Dan on Facebook about how loud the album was on CD and he replied that it was “as loud as the latest At the Gates” which means DR6, but that the full dynamic range version had been used in some promotional material; sounds like you got the full dynamic range version and not the CD-master…
    Good news is that he also said that the vinyl version not only has a less limited mastering, but also its own separate mix.

    • I may just have to track down the other version and give it a listen. Thanks for the heads up.

    • That is correct. I asked the label if they would release the DR10 promo since the CD sounds a bit “different.” No word as of yet.

    • Merijn Kooijman

      It might be interesting to ask some other reviewers from other review sites, who also reviewed Grey Heavens, if they would like to measure the DR of their promo. Although I really dig OG’s music and find it cool that they’re experimenting with high DR, I’m also wondering what it would mean if only AMG (and/or Metal-fi?) would have received a high DR mix/master.

      • Yeah, we got it and in fact there was an internal discussion about it among us reviewers. I even reached out to Dan the Man about it. It is strange to me that the label was comfortable enough with issuing the vinyl master for the promo but not actually use it for CD. I feel it is somewhat misleading since reviewers aren’t really reviewing the source material most will hear come the 26th.

        My guess is since we are talking Swano here though, the CD sounds good, the vinyl sounds great. Something like that.

        • Merijn Kooijman

          Yeah, indeed. And what if, for instance, MetalSucks received the normal master, ‘because only AMG and Metal-Fi care about dynamics’. However, we don’t know that, of course. Hmm…

          Besides Barren Earth, I now got another Finnish band to encourage to digitally release their high-DR-versions, with the perspective to start the Finnish tradition of doom, along with Vainaja. Gheghe.

          • I’d love to say we are THAT special. Love to say that.

          • Merijn Kooijman

            Haha, I’d think they would go for ‘odd’. Hahaha. Unfortunately.

        • Merijn Kooijman

          On dr.loudness-war it now shows a DR measurement of DR 10. However, this is specified as the iTunes release, which I do not have.

          • That maybe either due to the MFit process or the fact that sometimes the MP3 based promo pushes the DR score sometimes up a point (soundwise they are equal, it just has to do with the math and roundoff). No big deal.

          • Merijn Kooijman

            I hope that is the case, but I still find it a bit ‘accidental’ that precisely iTunes, with build-in volume equalisation, could possibly have high DR. However, I will see OG live in two weeks and maybe buy the vinyl there, so I will get the high DR-version anyway :).

  • El_Cuervo

    I like this, and I agree that I don’t like it as much as Beyond and NWS. But ‘Frontiers’ is the absolute dog’s bollocks, I love it.

    • Right? I’m glad someone said that.

      Crap, it’s an Alex thing again isn’t it?

      • El_Cuervo

        Must be. I first listened to Abyssal after your year-end list last week too, and it’s fucking great.

  • AndySynn

    Interesting… basically the same overall conclusions I have written down here, but with vastly different opinions on which tracks are good, and which are uninspired filler.

  • gustman17

    Frontiers is an awesome track. Sad to read that the rest of the album doesn’t hold up in your opinion.
    Also, I’d love if they stopped with their own clean vocals and let Swano handle all of them. His contributions to NWS kicked it up enough notches to become one the best melodeath records of the last decade (and my favorite too).

  • Was shocked to read about the new Omnium Gatherum, had no idea it was coming, so thank you for your public service today! I’m all over this, love OG’s sound from Red Shift on up.

    • At AMG headquarters there no room for slackers! Glad I could help :)

  • madhare

    Omnium Gatherum seems to follow the idea that “if it’s not broken, don’t mess with it”. But of course, there’s the famous law of diminishing returns. (On the other hand, if they changed too much, their fans might start the mandatory “traitors! sellouts!” whining.)

    Still, making three records in a row judged “Excellent”, “Great”, and “Good”, is not a bad track record. And live they seem to mix songs from all their albums, so the new ones blend in really well with the great ones.

    • ANd I’d probably give this a very good. Though, I’d’ve given Beyond a “Good?”

      • “New World Good” maybe?

      • Hammersmith

        Yeah, I would probably put Grey Heavens over Beyond actually. That album never truly clicked for me, despite its obvious quality. Nothing they have done before or after New World Shadows has come close though IMO.

  • Thatguy

    The embedded song has everything I want from an OG song. No, they haven’t changed and maybe the album on the whole may not be as great as their recent output but I will want to hear it.

    Thanks Madam X for the review.

  • Blueberry Balls

    Never been a huge fan of Jukka’s vocal delivery, was always a massive fan of Antti’s. To me, their crown jewel will always be Spirits & August Light with Years In Waste being a close second. New World Shadows was quite good for Pelkonen…but I’d still rather hear Filppu’s rasp over it. I’ll def check this new one out nonetheless, but from the video – Jukka looks toolish as ever.

  • ElectricEye

    Not sure what to think about it. The solos, piano/keyboards, and outro vocals sound like Journey and kind of derail the death metal vibe of the vocals and verses. The song is “Frontiers”; so, maybe it is a Journey tribute.

  • I think the issue here is twofold 1) the song remains basically the same (which for many is actually a complement) and 2) they went with a much more straightforward approach. So though I actually disagree that there is a lot of filler on this record, I do think its lack of sonic diversity contributes heavily to its somewhat stale feeling. YMMV.

    EDIT: I can not say I walked away that disappointed though.

    • I don’t hear filler, here. The big critique would be that the album doesn’t have enough variation, so when listened to as a whole it gets a bit.. oh, I dunno, GRAY. *boom*

      But I dunno, I’d say good or very good.

      • Totally agree. It’s very riff centric and lacks some of that strategic flair of NWS. I do feel keyboards were downplayed a lot in this record too for whatever reason. ‘

        Anyway, as you say, good to very good just not great.

        My official AMG score would be: “Omnium GatherYUM!”

        • Jukka Alanen

          Omnomnomnium Gatheryum?

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Good morning Abbath

  • Wilhelm

    Yep, I forgot what they sounded like for good reason, this is basically power metal mixed with third string Gothenberg death metal. They keys can get really corny and the happy melodies just don’t work for me. If this were released in the 90’s, they would never have gotten a deal.

  • Aaron

    How come nobody ever mentions Years in Waste? I love that album as a close second to Redshift.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    The more I listen to OG, the cheesier they become. Which is ok because cheese is damn tasty.

    Though my expectations for the band are rarely high. No doubt this will get play time, but i’m excited to give it a listen. Embedded track was a bit ehh, but the band tend to have at least 2 or 3 brilliant tracks per album.

    Fantastic review yo!

  • Zadion

    Great review. It’s funny Frontiers seems to get so much love, because I already thought that was disappointing by their current standards.

    But man, I know Jukka fronted OG gets all the love, but it’s sometimes disappointing to see how everybody forgets OG actually release albums before The Redshift. Not all of their pre-Redshift albums are very good, but they’re definitely worth mentioning now and then. Steal the Light in particular is a shamefully overlooked gem, the crowning point of melodeath right before MDM hit its slump.

  • Luke_22

    Still keen to hear this, but I’m not expecting it to stack up against their best works. I hope they still have greatness left in them. As far as anticipated melo-death for 2016, I can’t go past the upcoming Be’lakor though.

    • I couldn’t get into their last album as much as I hoped. I’ll have to give them another shot.

      • Luke_22

        Yeah Stone’s Reach is probably my favourite but I’ve enjoyed all their stuff.

    • Dethjesta

      Really looking forward to Be’lakor too. Expecting the new Amon Amarth to be more of the same solid melo-death stuff too.

  • HMG

    Great!

  • I actually really like this. I think it being more straight forward is good, and it sounds fantastic.

    • Vicente Urrutia

      It is definetly a grower. I was hugely disappointed at first, but a month after, I hear it constantly on my daily playlists and I really enjoy it… the devil’s in the details.

    • The Nerd.

      Several months later and it’s in my top 5. It’s a grower but it’s shown its staying power…with me atleast.

  • I mean, I didn’t expect to be blown away, but OG is one of my favourite bands and I basically worship New World Shadows, so I’m really looking forward to this. Frontiers sounds amazing, Skyline less so, so I’ll just have to wait for the album. Great review – and now I know unbiased people at least find it “good”, so that’s… good, I guess.

  • JL

    I love this band and am very much looking forward to the new album. The last three have been spectacular. The early albums are also excellent.

  • tomasjacobi

    Just for information, I just pre-ordered this on iTunes and got the three tracks that’s been released so far. Good news is they’re DR10 (like the promo reviewed here). So it appears that it’s only the CD that’s mastered “Loudness War” style.

  • robpal

    So I listened to new OG and it’s… good with some moments of brilliance. And some moments of repetitive mediocrity that already bothered me on “Beyond”.
    I don’t think they are going to record something of the “New World Shadows” calier ever again, but this record is clearly enjoyable and will get its number of spins this year. They have worked out a certain approach and just keep cashing in.

  • Matt McMadden

    The songs flow well into each other. This album is more like one long composition than a collection of separate tracks.

  • The Nerd.

    4 months later and this is number 2 on my AOTY. I love this album, although I agree that the first 4 tracks are the highlights, the rest of the album is decent to very good. 4.0/5 for me

    • Johan Chandy

      4.0/5 for me as well. It’s a quality album

  • DamianGilLozano

    I’ve just recently came across this album. I enjoyed it a LOT. What’s funny is that I’ve seen a few reviews and they go from a mixed reaction such as this one to a “one of the best albums of 2016” ones.

    I’m surprised to see a 3/5 rating in here but it’s easy to see why. For starters, it seems you’ve have very high expectations of this band, which is GOOD. However, this album totally delivers. I’ve struggled A LOT to find another band that brings such emotion to death metal overall besides rage. OG totally delivers a myriad of emotions just as their previous releases. The songwriting is exquisite and the riffs/solos are both bombastic and ethereal. This album is everything I’d expect from OG, really and I can just hope they keep up in the future as they’ve done so far.

    Thanks for the review.