Omnium Gatherum // New World Shadows
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —A whole new world…
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: omniumgatherum.org | myspace.com/omniumgatherum
Release Dates: EU: 07.02.2011 | US: 03.01.2011
There was a time when melodic death metal was every breath I took. While it’s been a long time since that was the case, I certainly can say that I spent the late 90s and early 00s listening to my fair share of melodic Swedish death metal and loving it. But since then melodic death metal has kinda fallen off a cliff. This is partially due to the dawning of metalcore and the co-opting of Swedish thrash and death metal by hardcore kids, but I think it’s mainly because just like every scene after a while you start growing tired of the sound. Every new album that gets released gets a “Yeah, well, I’ve heard this before.” While there have been some notable melodic death metal records in the last couple of years, Barren Earth and Be’lakor come to mind, only the former has really stuck out as truly remarkable. That is until I checked out New World Shadows from Omnium Gatherum.
It should be obvious from the title, but the fundamental currency of the melodic death metal band is the fine line between addictive melody and technicality and extremity. This line is not easy to walk. While bands like In Flames were almost too melodic on their earlier stuff, there was still a feeling of extremity. That extremity was lost by, for example, Soilwork, who basically put form above function and began ham-fistedly shoving pop choruses into every song. Omnium Gatherum, on the other hand, walks this line with the balance of seasoned performers. Where other bands are tempted to throw in lots of clean vocals, New World Shadows sports very few, and yet, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard such poppy melodies and song structures. Aside from the first and last songs on the record, which both end up at about 9:50 in length, the rest of this album is loaded with pop-laced melodies worthy of Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica, more than a death metal band.
Frankly, Europower is a lot of what I hear going on here. Because all of the melody is carried on guitars, there is a ton of stuff on here that sounds like it should be off a Nocturnal Rites record. The keyboards lace everything with their synthy sounds and yet, these guys can still break out Dark Tranquillity style progressive riffs with ease and flow into acoustic and melodic parts reminiscent of Amorphis or Opeth. Swinging 6/8 feel and whole note, simple melodic leads like in “Watcher of the Skies” are offset by Dark Tranquillity riffing like in “New World Shadows” and “Ego” (which is easily the best track on the record).
But while much of this material lends itself to easy references to other bands and other moments in time, there is something that is unique to Omnium Gatherum and that doesn’t feel derivative. It is true that they bear likeness to Barren Earth and Insomnium, and these couldn’t be better comparisons. However, the power metal tone that shows up in the guitars, particularly the solos are epic and outstanding, see “Nova Flame” and “An Infinite Mind,”and in the song-writing gives these guys a bit more of a unique feel, despite being on par with their Finnish contemporaries. And with only minor blemishes, like the main verse in “An Infinite Mind” which is a straight up Colony-era In Flames rip-off, and the wailing clean vocals in “New World Shadows” that sound more like Michael Bolton than I think most metal guys would be comfortable with, New World Shadows is certainly the better of most modern melodic death metal that I’ve heard.
While I’m not a seasoned listener of the band, I can say that given what I’ve heard of the band’s other material, I’d say this is definitely my favorite to date. Melodically, it’s better than its predecessor, and while it continues in the same vein, there’s more of a mournful vibe and doomy approach at times a la Barren Earth or Swallow the Sun, that combined with the pop sensibility makes New World Shadows a definite must have for the fan of melodic death metal.