(There’s a new Omnium Gatherum album out this Friday, and Andy Synn has the low-down on what you need to know about it)
After you’ve written for any site/blog/zine for any decent amount of time you’ll find that certain habits, certain patterns of writing, set in.
Case in point, it turns out that I have written, in one way or another, about every single Omnium Gatherum album released over the course of the last decade, which should tell you two things:
One, I am getting old, and two, I am definitely a fan.
That being said, I’m not a fanboy, by any means, and have never hesitated to call out what I think (and hope) are valid criticisms, which is why the rather mediocre Grey Heavens ended up on my “Disappointing” list for that year, and why I didn’t hesitate to point out that, for all its good points, The Burning Cold was a little too long and uneven for its own good, and lacked the steely-eyed focus of the band’s very best work.
Of course, another thing you should know by now is that when I say something is good, really good, I mean it. And not only is Origin really good, it’s also easily the band’s best work since Beyond.
It’s a good thing too, since OG were, let’s be honest, getting a little too close for comfort to simply repeating themselves, with inevitably diminishing returns, on the last two records, and I didn’t want to see/hear them go down that road any further.
But, whether it’s due to the group’s recent line-up changes (with guitarist Joonas Koto and bassist Erkki Silvennoinen departing in 2019, and drummer Tuomo Latvala leaving just prior to the recording sessions for Origin) or other, unnamed factors, there’s a real sense that the group’s ninth album represents both a spiritual and a sonic rebirth for the band.
It’s still very much instantly-recognisable as an Omnium Gatherum album though, right from the first lilting chords of scene-setting instrumental intro “Emergence”, even if it is, arguably, the least “Death Metal” album of the band’s career.
Don’t get me wrong, the Finnish fivesome are still more than capable of harnessing that same electrifying Melodeath energy they always have – just give vibrant opener “Prime” or the galloping “Tempest” a listen for evidence of that – but it definitely seems to me that Origin serves as an even bigger, bolder showcase for the band’s more arena-sized (and arena-ready) ambitions.
Whether it’s the righteously rhythmic riffs and captivating clean vocals of “Paragon”, the stop-start staccato and soaring leads of “Friction”, or the weighty presence and shimmering ambience of “Unity”, every one of these tracks strikes a pretty-much-perfect balance between poppy and proggy, while still retaining just the right level of metallic bite to allow you to really sink your teeth into each and every one of them.
It helps of course that, from start to finish, absolutely every member of the band is playing their heart out – from the always dramatic, uniquely charismatic vocals of frontman Jukka Pelkonen, whose gravel-voiced growl helps keep the material grounded with a necessary injection of grit and gravitas, to the organic and surprisingly intricate work of new sticksman Atte Pesonen, or Vanhala’s gleaming melodic guitar work, which might just constitute the very best performance of his career.
But every album is more than just the simple sum of its individual performances, that’s for sure, and it’s the sheer quality of the songwriting – every track being so instantly infectious on the surface, but subtly introspective underneath – coupled with the consistently high level of quality found across the entire record, which puts Origin head-and-shoulders above its most recent predecessors.
My only complaint is that this very consistency makes it difficult to choose a favourite track – although the shamelessly anthemic “Reckoning” is a sure-fire “song of the year” candidate – as they’re all so jam-packed with majestic melodies, cinematic synths, and captivating cleans that pretty much every single song sounds like the soundtrack to the final scene of a movie you’ve never seen, but would definitely recommend to all your friends.
So, let’s just say that this is one album where you’ll really want to stick around all the way through the credits (including poignant, powerful closer “Solemn”)… because you won’t want to miss a thing.