Omnium Gatherum – Origin Review

Omnium Gatherum have been at the forefront of the Finnish melodeath movement since 2003, conspiring with countrymates Insomnium and Amorphis to slather the globe in heavy, melancholic tuneage. They’ve shown themselves to be gifted at merging sadboi introspection with hooky melodeath moments on killer albums like New World Shadows and Beyond, and 2018s The Burning Cold was another quality platter, improving on 2016s somewhat somnambulant Grey Heavens. Since The Burning Cold, however, nearly half the band’s lineup has changed over, with them losing a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Armed with new members they’ve also shifted towards a new approach, creating what they refer to as AORDM (adult-oriented death metal). The promo materials helpfully describe this as “a powerful mixture of older deadly roots and newer AOR-vibes that you get while listening to Survivor and driving a Corvette along the sunny shores of Miami.” Making things even more interesting, the PR sheet asserts they wanted ninth album Origin to sound like a death metal version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Concerned? Me too. What Origin does sound like is a stripped-down, laid-back version of Omnium Gatherum, with less emphasis on heaviness and more placed on mood, which pivots from doomy and sullen to bright and upbeat. How this will go over depends on what you expect from your melodeath quality time.

Overly long opening instrumental “Emergence” is about fairness in advertising, as it tips the band’s hand on what to expect on Origin. By that I mean it’s very bright and pretty but also fairly dull. It’s also longer than it needs to be and gets the album off to an uninspiring start. When “Prime” finally kicks in with somewhat aggressive riffs, you’ll be primed for something interesting to happen, though what you get is only mildly so. The core of the Omnium Gatherum sound is present but it seems they wanted to expand on the style heard on “Skyline” off Grey Heavens, so things are very direct and simplistic. Heavy-ish riffs split time with weepy, melancholic harmonies and generally sappy keyboard flourishes, leaving it to Jukka Pelkonen to provide the bulk of the stimulus with his effective but one-note death roars. As OG songs go, it’s okay but feels curiously muted and hollow. The bigger issue is that this is one of the better tracks. Similar upbeat cuts like “Paragon” and “Friction” have catchy moments but feel empty and superficial, like the worst of the Miami Vice era of 80s pop the band seems to admire.

Other tracks drill down into the band’s mellower side, offering restrained takes on their usual style. “Fortitude” is downbeat and glum, conveying a decent amount of sadboi energy and it works thanks to some Tuomos Saukkonen-esque leads and harmonies. On the flip side, “Unity” goes for something like glossy blackgaze complete with blastbeats that somehow feel entirely powerless and bland. The song feels blank and vacuous and doesn’t elicit much of a reaction from me beyond a shrug. “Tempest” attempts something similar but with more power and energy, though I’d hardly call it an essential spin. They save the heaviest stuff for 8-minute closer “Solemn,” and by then you’re hungry for something more intense. It’s the best moment here, but it’s too little too late. More than with any prior OG album, I had constant difficulty keeping my attention focused on the music. My mind would wander within minutes of pressing play and several songs would drift by in a hazy blur. It’s almost as if the band aimed for an easy listening variant of melodeath suitable for background music, as that’s what it quickly becomes without intense focus. That’s not the OG I know and admire.

The new members all sound capable and competent but the band do little things on Origin that irritate me. The aforementioned intro is pretty but a waste of time, and while they’ve used clean vocals to great effect in the past, now sole guitarist Markus Vanhala (also of Insomnium) does clean background singing on a number of cuts and always in exactly the same way. It starts to feel like a writing crutch by the halfway point as it’s so predictably done and rote. When not crooning, Vanhala offers all sorts of pleasant, melancholic moments of weepy sadboi fluff, but there’s a marked absence of heavy riffs to offset the mopery. Jukka’s death croaks are as good as ever but they seem increasingly out of synch with what the music is doing as the album drifts along, almost like they’re a historical anachronism. It makes for a weird vibe overall.

Every time Origin ended, my mp3 library would roll right into OG’s Redshift album, and the contrast between the intensity there and here is like a hard slap in the face with a piece of rusty rebar. Origin is polished, glossy, and pretty, but uncomfortably shallow and insubstantial. I might poach a few tracks for a melodeath playlist, but I honestly cannot see going back to this much in the future. That makes me sadder than anything on Origin does. I guess I’m not mature enough yet to appreciate adult-oriented death metal.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 5th, 2021

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