Release Date: 31st August 2018
Label: Century Media
Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Progressive Metal
Melodic Death Metal has become something of a whipping boy in recent years. The rise of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal in the early 2000s and subsequent trend-hopping, has since pushed the classic Gothenburg sound dangerously close to redundancy. However, the rise of Prog in the world of heavy music has breathed new life into the genre, providing a new platform for bands like Omnium Gatherum to further their creative vision. One of the the key features that makes a great Melodeath album comes from the grittiness and macabre nature of extreme metal. Without this rumbling, intense feel the style loses its potency, leaving the dramatic trade offs between harmonised guitars feeling corny and lifeless. Unfortunately on The Burning Cold, Omnium Gatherum fail to navigate this pit trap.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the issue is with this record, but an obvious offender is the strange, cheesy synths that slather themselves across the overly-long runtime. Album opener ‘God’s Go First’ comes flying out of the traps with massive double bass and some ultra-technical guitar riffing, setting things up for an all out furious adrenaline ride. Then this ridiculous keyboard lead breaks through the mix and suddenly you’re stuck in the worst video game soundtrack imaginable. Picture taking something like ‘Future Breed Machine’ by Meshuggah, then adding a synth line too sugary for even the worst 80s glam band to go near. It’s the audio equivalent of putting chocolate sauce all over a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and pretending it tastes nice. Now this wouldn’t be quite so much of a problem if these guys weren’t so po-faced, there isn’t even a hint of humour across the whole record. Time and time again Omnium Gatherum provide you with a solid foundation for a track before desecrating it with another horrendous synth sound. It’s as if they just clicked the first preset they saw and went “This will work!”, and ran with it for the rest of the song. This isn’t helped by the fact that everything is super processed, to the point where even the vocalist sounds like he’s being controlled by a machine. This flaw reduces their frequent attempts at epic, euphoric crescendos to feeling completely redundant and lifeless…the exact opposite of what the band are clearly trying to achieve! The inclusion of floaty clean vocals comes off as nothing short of pretentious and the slower, more stompy cuts like ‘Rest In Your Heart’ seem to drag on for hours and hours, plodding from one increasingly sterile melody to the next.
As a reviewer, I got to the point with this record where I began to wonder if it’s actually me that’s the problem. Perhaps my archaic idea of a good Melodeath album is no longer representative of what people want from this style? I tried and tried for weeks to get to grips with The Burning Cold, but the more I did so, the more I found myself taking issue with everything it stands for. Another sad thing is that Omnium Gatherum have pulled off this sound far better in the past. Releases like Beyond and New World Shadows had so much more LIFE in their compositions. The Burning Cold however could easily have been generated by a computer and served up in binary code. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the band are not the greatest songwriters in their genre. Even if you take all the embellishments away, you’re still left with a set of fairly average Prog-Metal numbers. At the end of the day the whole thing is just simple headbanger ear-candy. If that’s what you’re after then this will probably float your boat…the rest of us will retain our sanity and stick to At The Gates and Darkest Hour.