OMNIUM GATHERUM – Slasher
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://facebook.com/omniumgatherumband
While most bands either break or make it by their third album, few drop a debut near masterpiece (Spirits And August Light²⁰⁰³), remain puzzingly average and underdeveloped for the next three albums (Years In Waste²⁰⁰⁴, Stuck Here On Snakes Way²⁰⁰⁷, The Red Shift²⁰⁰⁸)and just when you’re about to give up hope to move on to somebody else, they flatten you with the genius and incredible maturity of the subsequent releases. Such is, though, the case with the Finnish melodic death metallers, Omnium Gatherum (hence: OG), led since 1996 by the indomitable guitarist Markus Vanhala (also backing vocals as of 2013, currently also in Insomnium since 2011). New World Shadows²⁰¹¹, Beyond²⁰¹³, Grey Heavens²⁰¹⁶, and, especially, The Burning Cold²⁰¹⁸ remain the four shining highlights of OG discography, and it’s by their standard that I judged the subsequent Origin²⁰²¹ as a disappointment which I made abundantly clear in my review (5/6)
What was the problem? Seemingly, the album had the great songwriting of those four releases, although this time Vanhala’s backing cleans felt odd and oddly familiar at the same time. Nor was the new section, Mikko Kivistö (2020-bass), Atte Pesonen (2021-drums), to blame, working as great if not better than their predecessors with vocalist Jukka Pelkonen (who had actually replaced Antti Filppu already on Snakes) and Aapo Koivisto (2005-keyboards), but, still, something was amiss. Sure, the deliberate shift toward a more AOR direction unashamedly admimitted as Hysteria Def Leppard inspired was part of it but then, even while working on my review, it hit me: one guitarist, the death knell of melodic death metal! It had tolled for In Flames (which is probably why Dark Tranquillity never tried that approach), who recently came back, almost fully swinging with the very good Foregone. Vanhala, as I mentioned in the review, is a fantastic guitarist but he is not a one man army, not in Insomnium and even less so in his first love, OG. Even though I was saddened by that red shift (pun intended) I also ended on a good note knowing, even at the time, that OG was going to rebound and come back if they got another guitarist.
And OG got exactly what they needed with former Arsis and Arch Enemy guitarist Nick Cordle who joined the band a year later but had already been touring with them earlier. He brought with him such breath of fresh air, such wind in OG sails, that I no longer mind the still present and very much palpable Def Leppard influence, the band officially now referring to their sound as adult oriented melodic death metal, all because I now see the beauty of it married to a bit of that cold death from the past on Slasher EP, which was released on June 6th. Even the first single, the opening title track shows that this stuff is more complex and more deathly than, come to think of it, anything before Beyond, and Vanhala’s cleans finally fit like a glove, everything so fresh yet so familiar of, unmistakeably, New World Shadows, if not even borrowing from Spirits And August Light. Just listen to the verses and tell me they don’t remind you of “Ego” and the double chorus so dreamily crooned by Vanhala with that fantastically catchy melody of “Deathwhite”. Is that on purpose? I certainly get that impression, the band clearly feeling the new creative and executive energy from having two fantastic guitarists who work together as if they had been separated at birth! And for you progressive Beyond freaks out there there’s the thrashy Marillionic “Sacred”, while even the closing, more Origin stylings of “Lovelorn” are infused with that classic OG coldness with those bass only whispered verses of Grey Heavens so, in short, the three origin-al tracks are simply flawless and bear repeated exposure with each time you finding something different previously missed. They are all 3 three reasons while I eagerly give the highest score because this stuff even beats The Burning Cold in creativity and catchiness and had Origin been that good it would have earned easily the top score from me.
There was one thing that almost made me lower the score by a half point and, yes, it is the cover of Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”, and no, it isn’t worse than the At The Movies’ version. It’s actually brilliantly handled, almost made to sound like one of OG own originals, although it could have been better served as the last, the fourth track instead of the second. It’s just that I find that track painfully mediocre and can’t stand it any time I hear it in, say, a toilet cleaning supplies commercial, in Poland, at that. However, just as in At The Movies case, I can’t blame a band for having a little fun with a crappy original, especially, if they end up shaping it into something actually worth listening to more than once, so, 6/6 it is, and, boy, I just know OG is getting ready to drop a fresh new full length, which, if Slasher is any indication, I will await with baited breath at the end of my reviewer’s seat. Hail Omnium Gatherum!