Interview With Omnium Gatherum

My first introduction to Omnium Gatherum was their The Redshift album. It took some time before I started to appreciate its richness and adventurous spirit. Nowadays it’s one of my favourite records when it comes to melodic death metal. Their latest album, entitled New World Shadows, is arguably their finest album to date. Guitarist Markus Vanhala was kind enough to share his views on everything Omnium Gatherum, including the new album, his personal influences and his biggest Spinal Tap moment of his carreer…

Congratulations on releasing such a strong album in the form of New World Shadows. It’s met with critical acclaim. Did you expect this when the record was finished?

Hello there, and thank you for your nice compliments! Yeah, I could say I really had a gut feeling that we’ll be delivering the goods with the new album when I had the flow going on already during the album composing process. I  had kind of “now-or-never” vibe and did the album really the way I wanted it honestly, so it seems it worked. We just “scored” a 5th position on official Finnish national album chart and 1st position on the Finnish independent record store list. Everything went really fine with the album process, starting even from the arranging/rehearsing process at the summer cabin in the woods with the band and we enjoyed every minute of working with this material in the rehearsals and in the studio, well in the studio almost every minute..

On The Redshift the band started to move away from more traditional melodic death metal and New World Shadows is the logical next step in this process. Was this a conscious decision when you and the rest of the band started to work on the new album?

This is really the album of what OG is all about, we’re don’t wanna be, you know, “basic” melodeath band as we have more that progressive rock side on our music.. So New World Shadows represents the variety of our own musical tastes that we try to combine under the moniker of melodic death metal, we’re have also this new genre name for the new stuff – Adult oriented death metal, that is… You know AOR DM, We’re not teenagers anymore! So, answer to your question, maybe this was like natural un-conscious decision to be truthful to our own musical roots, it’s gotta be heavy, melodic but in catchy way progressive to keep things interesting and that the album would have a longer life cycle than only few spins in the Spotify….

In my review I drew comparisons with bands like Dark Tranquillity, Amorphis (Tuonela era) and Opeth. What do you think of this and is Omnium Gatherum inspired by any of these bands?

Yeah, all bands you listed here are good and I really like ’em, so having them as a part of an influence is of course true in our case. All those bands have also that progressive side on their metal so it’s easy to draw comparisons to them, as all the bands are inspired too from the prog-rock of the 70’s and the 80’s. Should we then count all these bands to “adult oriented death metal” genre representatives, haha!  My all time favorite bands are Iron Maiden, Rush, Emperor, Death and Edge Of Sanity so that’s like the ingredients for the soup basically..

New World Shadows isn’t an easy album to get into because of its diversity in styles, ranging from more prog orientated songs (Everfields, Deep Cold), Amorphis inspired An Infinite Mind and Soul Journeys and more melodic death metal tracks (Ego, Nova Flame). What are your own thoughts on this?

Well yeah, I guess it isn’t the most easiest one at first sight, but it’s still catchy as hell with its “progressive originality” and unique new shadow world… The album will surely reward the ones who’ll dig it deeper and carry on with it many listens. In my opinion those are the best albums that won’t open perfectly on the first attempts, different are those “one hit wonder albums” the ones you love loudly straight away from the first listen but that doesn’t survive many listens during the sands of time… We really love to breed many different kinds of styles to one good continuity, like our name says. As it can be translated to “peculiar mixture”. I just saw a review where the journalist compared us to Enslaved and Moontower album by Dan Swanö, not so much like musically but having that “own thing” goingg on with combining new kinds of different elements to metal template, I liked that comparison really!

How did the creative and recording process go for New World Shadows compared to previous experiences?

This was a longer round, as I did lots of more pre-production at my home studio now and maybe the biggest difference was that I was the only composer on this album, so it gives a better big picture for the album continuity, I guess. We also rehearsed and arranged the album this time in the woods like true and evil old school way, we built a rehearsal room to a summer cabin on one island near our hometown Kotka and rehearsed there during fishing, boozing and sauna sessions in the summer when it was really hot. I bet this good spirit and breath of the woods can be heard in the album landscapes! The album then we’re recorded at Astia studio and partly at our own OmG studio, which made the things much easier and more relaxed.

This time around the band worked again with Dan Swanö. He did the mixing and the mastering and he also contributed some clean vocals. What makes him so good?

Yeah, this was the second time that Dan Swanö worked with us on the album but first time that we got him singing some amazing clean vocals. I traded some of my lead guitar acrobatics to his Odyssey album, so this was like a “feature trade”. I guess there’s something in the Örebro air or water that makes him so good professional mastermind! …and of course the fact that he too likes Rush and Marillion makes him a musical genius!

Omnium Gatherum has this certain melancholic vibe, which you share with other Finnish bands like Swallow The Sun, Insomnium and Amorphis for instance. Where does this originate from?

It’s the Finnish long winter and dark forests and blaaahblaaah the usual answer here, haha. Well, I guess it’s something deep in the Finnish character and nature to have that melancholy in our blood and also it stems from the Finnish traditional music and poetry I guess. The minor key is something even the mainstream pop culture loves here. Väinämöinen was a bad ass folklore fictional character who got his pike jaw made Kantele weeping the minor tones, that’s from Kalevala our national book…

Norway, Finland and Sweden are renowned countries when it comes to original metal. It’s actually a socially accepted way of living and art, certainly compared to the disdain it gets from the general public in The Netherlands. What makes metal so popular in your country?

I guess it’s that same Finnish melancholic character on the audience side listening the beloved weeping  chords… Here’s so much good bands coming too, so it’s nice to see that finally quality prevails and it’s generally accepted!

What bands do you recommend the Home Nucleonics readers to check out and to what releases are you particularly looking forward to this year?

I’m really waiting for the new Rush and Whitesnake albums, and of course some new stuff from our friends from Swallow The Sun, Insomnium, Diablo and Ghost Brigade. So check ’em out!

Time for the final question. What is the biggest Spinal Tap moment in your career?

Playing in a heavy metal band is like living a Spinal Tap 24/7! I don’t know about the biggest Tap-moment, but the latest Tap-moment was last weekend at Finnish Metal Expo bar area, i grabbed to my phone drunk as hell and it slipped from my hands to the beer pint of chief editor of the biggest Finnish metal magazine, Inferno. Cool indeed!

Written by Raymond Westland

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