The Red Shift
posted on 10/2008 By:
As this is my first time hearing an Omnium Gatherum album, I would like to acknowledge the band’s rocky past with the two albums following Spirits and August Light, Omnium Gatherum’s first full-length. I don’t claim to understand the difference between those albums and Spirits (having never heard them before), but I ascertained from friends and reviews that atmosphere and songwriting skill were sorely lacking on the following records. That being said, I entered this review with much trepidation, as the oft-overused specification “Gothenburg” came up multiple times in conversation when describing their style of melodeath.
Speaking of which, how did Gothenburg become a sub-genre in the first place, or for that matter, how does geographical location come into play when defining a musical style? Florida death metal, New York death metal, Bay area thrash, etc. seems like pointless minutia to further dice up a perfectly good genre. I don’t remember Mozart ever labeling his music as “Viennese symphonic classical death/black metal art.” It was just “symphonic classical death/black metal art,” and that’s the way it ought to be, dammit.
Enter The Red Shift, a record that reminds me why I liked melodic death metal in the first place: great songwriting. Kicking off with “Nail,” you get the feeling that this is a band siphoning elements from modern groove thrash, the classic melodies of Dark Tranquillity, and padding it out with effective synth. Omnium make a habit of using catchy dual noodle guitars on a number of occasions on Red Shift, and “Nail” arguably has the most memorable noodle in the album. 20 seconds in, and I’m sold. “Tell me more, Omnium Gatherum. Entertain me.” From the post-At the Gates riffing (don’t worry, most of it is original enough for me, and that’s saying something) to the subtle synth work, The Red Shift actually does a really good job of keeping the melodeath movement alive and interesting.
“Subtle” is the keyword in referencing the synthesizer, because rarely does it tread on the guitars’ territory, and when it does, it doesn’t go tromping through like a four-year-old in a flower garden. The guitars set up practically everything atmospheric in order for the synthesizer to knock a song out of the park. “No Breaking Point” and “Redshifter,” though each use synth in very different ways, apply synth to mountain-toppling effect. Conversely, a song like “The Return” introduces itself with a synthesizer, and the first time I heard it, I was ready to hit the skip button. But you know, Omnium Gatherum use that to their advantage and contrast the synth with some decent chugger riffs (not to mention a great, albeit short, guitar solo). The synth is responsible for a couple of moments that seemed outright arbitrary and sucked the fun from the song with the force of an event horizon, but there are a greater amount of compensatory moments that redeem its qualities and restore its relevance in Omnium Gatherum.
The Red Shift uses a lean amount of vocals, which is fine, being the low point of the album. It’s probably just the shitty lyricism of Jukka Pelkonen, but I think many times, the vocals really detracted from the effectiveness of the song (“Shapes and Shades,” anyone?). Seriously, would anyone be really angry if they were to just sing in Finnish? Is it too much to ask? I think it would’ve made the album a lot more engaging than to hear pedestrian (and at times, just plain nonsensical) lyrics.
All in all, I’m not sure if The Red Shift is a return to form for Omnium Gatherum, but the album is certainly good for those that are looking for a melodic death kick between Dimension Zero and Threat Signal efforts.
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