Formed in 1996, the life of Finnish act Omnium Gatherum hasn’t been the most settled. Enduring many various line-up changes over the years, it’s only guitarist Markus Vanhala (Insomnium) who remains from the band’s original 1997 demo, and debut album Spirits and August Light (Rage of Achilles) in 2003.
For over twenty years, these occasionally minor but destabilising tweaks in personnel have surely contributed, at least in some small part, to restricting the band’s progress. But for whatever the reason, while the overall results of their previous albums may have fluctuated somewhat, the vast majority of each Omnium Gatherum release has always been a varied and diverting experience. And with latest album The Burning Cold (Century Media), the band have managed to create their most absorbing and intriguing record for years. Maybe even ever.
With a sound bordering that of Swedish act Ghost, instrumental track ‘The Burning’ kicks things off before the album launches headlong into ‘Gods Go First’ and ‘Refining Fire’, two rip-roaring slices of Finnish melodic death metal reminiscent of In Flames before things went downhill. Beginning with pulsing keyboards and a simple but powerful rhythmic staccato riff, ‘Rest In Your Heart’ is an unstoppable foot-tapper with a great chorus.
There’s no sign of even the slightest dip in quality with ‘Over the Battlefield’, a strong and atmospheric song which features the album’s first and only foray into clean vocals, ‘The Fearless Entity’ which balances melody and aggression perfectly, and the uplifting and fiercely Nordic ‘Be The Sky’. As the melodic hooks of the previous track slowly begin to release their grip, ‘Driven By Conflict’ bull rushes you from out of fucking nowhere, lifting you off your feet and brutally stamping you face first into the concrete.
Acting almost as an apology for such unwarranted savagery, ‘The Frontline’ eases you in with an acoustic intro before hitting you with another irresistible groove, while the machine gun riffing of ‘Planet Scale’ is offset by some wonderful melodic guitar licks and what is quite probably the finest middle and chorus sections on the record. Sounding like the intro to ‘One’ by Metallica, closing track ‘Cold’ is suitably atmospheric, but its rather melancholic nature means the album ends on somewhat of a surprisingly downbeat note, the final few seconds fading out like a particularly depressing moment from cult TV show Twin Peaks.
Retaining a consistency not heard from the band for some time, the new album features a truckload of tremendous riffs and solos courtesy of Vanhala and former To/Die/For guitarist Joonas Koto, all enhanced by some fantastic keyboard work from the second longest serving member Aapo Koivisto, and the rhythm section of new drummer Tuomo Latvala, and bassist Erkki Silvennoinen, while everything is neatly capped off by the fearsome roar of former Elenium frontman Jukka Pelkonen. Unquestionably one of the best albums of Omnium Gatherum’s career, The Burning Cold is pretty much everything a fan of European melodic death metal could possibly want.