Music can be shaped and defined by the surroundings and conditions of the people who make it. Perhaps the wide array of folk music around the world is the most obvious example but metal also has its own parallels when it comes to identity and regionality. The Nordic countries of northern Europe are perhaps the most celebrated region in the metal world and quite rightly so given the quality and amount of output these tiny nations of just a few million each have produced. Despite Sweden and Norway getting most of the press coverage, their eastern neighbor Finland has also managed to match and sometimes even exceed them without gloriously basking in the international spotlight as much. That may just be part of the Finnish identity after all. The preference for a secluded, low-key lifestyle and hard work with a steadfast emphasis on quality is partly the result of how the climate has shaped the people and that can be seen in one of Finland’s most accomplished metal bands Omnium Gatherum.
Having made their debut in 2003, this six-piece from the southeast of Finland has been quite consistent with its output over the past decade and a half. This year sees the release of the eighth full-length The Burning Cold which, despite the self-contradicting name, boasts a harmonious collection of songs that come together to create a smooth flowing melodic death metal album, exactly like Omnium Gatherum have successfully done before. The instrumental intro “The Burning” sets a melancholic tone for what’s to come only to be followed by the energetic “Gods Go First” with its uplifting melodies and interesting guitar solos. “Rest In Your Heart” also relies on somber melodies and delicate interplay between the keyboards and lead guitar while the likes of “The Fearless Entity” and “Refining Fire” reinforce the band’s ethos and provide continuity and solidity for the album.
The album also has a brazen, aggressive side to it which shines through on several occasions. “Over The Battlefield” is by far the most violent track on this record, with its intense drumming at a high tempo that’s brilliantly balanced by a catchy melodic chorus. “Planet Scale” and “Driven By Conflict” also showcase this side of Omnium Gatherum with a thrash metal vibe on the former and a ripping blast beat and razor-sharp riffs on the latter. “Be The Sky” on the other hand might very well be the album’s best track with its crisp technique and execution. The melodies on this one soar upwards, piercing dense heavy clouds taking us on a search for meaning lest we become over-burdened by this world. The album concludes with melancholic “Cold” which is easily the darkest track and picks up where “The Burning” left off at the beginning of the album.
The Burning Cold is an ideal example of how good melodic death metal can be. It has the soaring melodies being lifted by the chunky guitar riffs. It has the high-intensity sections executed with the utmost technical proficiency. The production job is also top notch, keeping the melodies clear and crisp and allowing them to shine through the deep plodding bass and pounding drums. What hangs on to the memory after a couple of spins is the underlying sense of melancholy that’s built into the melodies. It’s reminiscent of how much Omnium Gatherum succeeded with their 2011 magnum opus New World Shadows but it’s not as prominent with this record. That might be a bit of a disappointment since this riveting characteristic isn’t so dominant but looking for what’s not on The Burning Cold may well be the wrong way to go about digesting this record. Omnium Gatherum combine the best of melodic death metal with an aggressive thrash-vibe and an added twist of reflective sorrow; can’t really ask for more.