Omnium Gatherum – Focus Shift

Friday, 29th March 2013

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No real surprise here – Omnium Gatherum’s newest The Redshift is a sure-fire Top 10 candidate for this scribe’s year-end list. Of all the melodic death metal bands, Omnium Gatherum is far and away the most unique, characterized by their murky, but free flowing blend of classic melodic death metal and death ‘n’ roll. Actually, we’re getting to the point where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discuss OG is regular journalistic tones, as the band is becoming more and more elusive, yet oddly memorable. 

Buoyed by their union with Candlelight Records after years of jumping from label to label, OG has hit its creative stride with albums in consecutive years. The Redshift is the follow-up to last year’s killer Stuck Here On Snake’s Way, the first to feature new singer Jukka Pelkonen. Not only has Pelkonen added an extra vocal dimension to OG’s repertoire, he has helped calm the waters and helped straighten the ship steered by founding member/lead guitarist/principal songwriter Markus Vanhala. When combined with legendary producer Dan Swano, Omnium Gatherum continues to do just about everything right, so let us hope Blistering does not cast some sort of jinx on them. For now, Vanhala was subject to our email queries, fresh from a successful Euro jaunt with Nile and Grave. Two albums in a row on the same label. A pleasant surprise?

Markus Vanhala: Indeed it was, a big surprise that we couldn’t expect. As you know, the first label went down (Rage of Achilles), the second released only one album in search of the big money (Nuclear Blast), which they didn’t find and the third time was really the charm. It seems your profile has steadily increased over the last year, so are you and the band prepared to go to the next level?

Vanhala: We’ve been prepared for that the last decade, so it’s surely very welcome. We’ve been working very hard the last years and finally it seems that it could lead to something more. The Redshift is the second album with Jukka – was the writing process a lot smoother?

VanhalaThe Redshift album was really the easiest one so far to write and record. It was composed in a short inspired period of time and I’m sure it can be heard on the album as a flowing energy and freshness. So, answer to your question – yes it was. I’m particularly impressed by his clean vocals on “Greeneyes.” This has to be the biggest departure song for OG yet. Agree?

Vanhala: We’ve tried clean vocals a bit in the past, and it has worked OK. So, I think this is that cliché natural [progression] on the music evolution of OG. Though, there’s still not any idea to lose any roughness and the aggressiveness that is the part of us. As you can hear, there are still not much those [clean parts] on the album, just enough to spice up the soup a little. From my perspective, Jukka’s vocals have a lot more possibilities than Antti’s (Filppu, ex singer) ever did. Are you pleased you nabbed him from Elenium?

Vanhala: Well hell yeah, the whole band take things much more professionally nowadays than in the Antti days, but at the same time the overall atmosphere inside the band is more relaxed. Antti had his own thing that he did well, but I prefer to have more variety and possibilities on the vocals. We’re barely a year removed from Snakes Way, was the inspiration to do The Redshift sudden and quick?

Vanhala: It seems like that. We haven’t got any big plans or pressures to do the new album so quickly, but it just happened. The gods of music have smiled upon us and the new riffs and songs revealed themselves during a month or two, so it was a must to get this project done and finished as soon as possible. The boogie in the band was good and the spirits were high. So, let the ball roll when it rolls. What prompted you to go with Swano as producer for the album?

Vanhala: We’ve been fans of Edge Of Sanity, his other stuff and his studio work for ages, so we got an idea to check out if his willing to work with us at all, and he was. So there you go. In fact, OG was almost formed because of EOS in the middle 90’s, as it was one of the biggest influences during that time and still is. Of course, because of this, we were and still are really proud to get the man himself to co-operate with us on our metal extravaganza. But he wasn’t the producer, he just mixed and mastered the album, there’s a big difference. I’m guessing your at least vaguely familiar with his work with Edge of Sanity, so what is your favorite EoS album?

VanhalaCrimson is one of the best metal moments ever, so i prefer that one above all. Spectral Sorrows and Purgatory Afterglow were the albums that really inspired us to form this band in the beginning and Infernal is also a classic for us. Swanö’s solo album Moontower is also really really good, and so are all the Nightingale albums too. Twilight! The instrumental, “Song for December” is a first for OG. Where did the idea for this one come about?

Vanhala: Strange but true, this piece’s working title was “Spider Crab of Osaka” because this one was influenced by those strange creatures of the deep. I was watching some nature documentary of those fellas at the same time when I had guitar in my hand. Though, the opening arpeggio of the song is old as hell, dating as far back as ’97. This ongoing instrumental saga started on the Snakes Way album title “Snake & the Way,” and I’m sure it’ll continue in the future releases. From snakes to crabs and what comes after that? “The Shadowkey” might be your most melodic song to date and is contrast to your usual dirty melodic approach. Was there a desire to try something overly melodic like this?

Vanhala: It’s just the way we like it, so it tells the truth, maybe. The melodies have always been a big part of OG sound, dirty or not. Now they have been unleashed again to their full potential. We will definitely continue on this course, of course and never be off course again. In your estimation, how has OG developed and grown since the debut Steal the Light EP?

Vanhala: The EP and debut album Spirits and August Light were more basic melodic death metal stuff and the Years in Waste album showed some more progressive and technical approach ‘cause we were soon bored of the old recipe. Snakes Way album was a crossroads both musically and to the band also, as the line-up changed dramatically and the album was little bit of a mix between old and new, best of both worlds. Or the worst, depending on where you stand. Now on The Redshift album, some kind of a balance and presence between styles has been found. It’s the best wholeness and it’s at the same time aggressive and calm. I like the video you did for “Nail.” Are you a fan of doing music videos? I know a lot of metal videos aren’t exactly than great to watch…

Vanhala: Yes, we like music videos but I don’t think it has anything to do with the “Nail” video. We had an excellent director, Jussi Rautaniemi, who is a pro and a friend. He did a great job on pre-producing the video. Although in the shooting sessions, almost everything went wrong especially with the weather as it was raining all the time and some of our equipment took damage, he managed to get enough footage to make the video work. And the end, [the] result was very different from what the director wanted, but it’s still very very good. May even be better which it was meant to be at first. Is the bass position forever cursed for OG?

Vanhala: We hope not, there’s been just a lot of bad luck with this position during one year. Toni Mäki has been touring with us for now and he is a great player. Finally, what’s on tap for the rest of 2008 and into ’09?

Vanhala: The European tour with Nile and Grave was just finished. It was a big success for us and we made lots of new friends and followers with this trek. This week we’ll start touring Finland extensively and October/November will be full of riding The Redshift. At the first half of next year we’re trying to tour as much as possible, and we hope that the parade reaches also the US shores this time. Nothing confirmed though, so let’s just cross our fingers on this task.

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