Friday 19 January 2024

Omnium Gatherum - Slasher (2023)

Country: Finland
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 2 Jun 2023
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Slasher is only a four track EP that runs just shy of twenty minutes, but I was intrigued by Omnium Gatherum's 2021 album, Origin, and wanted to see where they took that sound. I liked that album but I didn't love it and a good part of that was that it felt rather transitional. They'd lost a second guitarist and their melodic death metal sound had upped the melodic but lessened the death, a shift that left Jukka Pelkonen's harsh vocals a little adrift. It felt to me that there was a need for clean vocals, either to replace or enhance the harsh, but nobody was delivering them. So I wanted the next album to see where they went. Maybe this EP would suffice.

What it tells me is that I was partially right but partially wrong. Pelkonen continues to sing harsh here but he—I believe, but possibly someone else—also varies his delivery considerably. There are clean vocals here too, most obviously and tellingly in the opener, Slasher, and the harsh vocals are more varied, shifting into a crackling fireplace mindset on Lovelorn that takes the song into goth territory. So far so good for me as some sort of sonic soothsayer, but I hadn't realised quite where the resulting sound was going, a realisation that came when I realised how well the unlikely cover works here.

There are four songs on offer, three of which are originals. All of them betray Omnium Gatherum's roots but fit firmly into their go forward direction, which I'd compared on Origin to Opeth's shift to prog rock. While the shift might be fair, the direction isn't because this isn't remotely prog rock in the slightest, that cover not of a Yes or Genesis track, let alone a deep cut from one of the obscure seventies crate diver discoveries that Mikael Åkerfeldt loves so much. It's of Maniac, the Michael Sembello song from the movie Flashdance. Oh yeah. And it sounds great!

And suddenly I see Omnium Gatherum in a new light. They're still a melodic death metal band but the three songs that aren't covers of disco/synthpop hits could believably be too. They all have an exquisitely perky feel, either entirely or for the most part, built from poppy melodies and hooks, merely heavied up into harsh vocals and crunchy metal guitars. There are bands whose gimmick is to turn pop music into punk or metal as routine, applying heavy filters onto TV theme tunes or pop hits from decades past. Suddenly I'm imagining a disco group whose sole purpose in life is to turn Omnium Gatherum songs into synthpop. I think they'd sound pretty good.

While the cover of Maniac works shockingly well, I'd suggest that Slasher, which isn't a far cry from it lyrically, is the standout track. I wonder if writing that prompted them to cover Maniac or if the act of covering Maniac flavoured everything else, especially Slasher. Sure, it kind of just ends with the mindset that it has nothing left to say, but it rolls and builds well and it has an excellent guitar solo from either band mainstay Markus Vanhala or new fish Nick Cordle, who's been touring with them for a while but officially joined the line-up in 2022.

Maniac follows, with Sacred after that, another song very much in the same vein, with keyboards delivering the melodies so that Aapo Koivisto leads the way just as much as the guitarists or Jukka Pelkonen's voice, perhaps even more. He's the main reason that these songs sound so poppy and perky. And that leaves Lovelorn, which follows in the same sort of vein again but not quite so much. It's the heaviest song here and the most gothic, not only because of how Pelkonen shifts into dark and rumbling mode.

And that's it, because there are only four tracks on offer. I'm still fascinated by the direction that Omnium Gatherum are taking and I'm still eager to check out their next album, but this suggests that we know roughly what it's going to sound like. It sounds good too, even though reading back everything I've written about this EP suggests that it really shouldn't.

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