Finnish sextet Omnium Gatherum is a band that’s been on my radar for many years, but with 2011’s New World Shadows, they went from being a pleasant blip on my screen to a “holy shit it’s coming right for us!” These guys have moved so far ahead of the melodic death metal curve that they’re pretty much in a class by themselves, moving the subgenre ever forward and becoming its undisputed flagship band in the process. In 2013 they’ve set the bar for melo-death once again with Beyond, a downright beautiful juxtaposition of Maiden-esque melody, beastly vocals and a knack for creating music that’s progressive without ever falling victim to sounding overblown of pretentious. I got in contact with OG guitarist Markus Vanhala, to discuss the new album and the band’s plans for world domination in 2013.
THKD: What can you tell us about the creation of the music for the new album? What were you looking to accomplish when crafting the songs that would ultimately become Beyond?
Markus Vanhala: This time it was fast indeed, when we got into the mood. We kind of toured the whole of 2011 and I had a one year break from composing stuff for OG after New World Shadows, so when the channels opened and I had some free time and the state of mind, I composed a whole album during a 1-2 month period, which is really fast action for me. OG found its identity on the Redshift album and we’ve been evolving that formula further ever since. Maybe like going more to the melodic direction with every record, but that doesn’t mean commercial hit choruses in our case. Following our own individual path always.
THKD: Your previous album, New World Shadows, was very well received by both fans and critics. Did this create any additional pressure for you as you were writing and recording Beyond?
MV: Kind of personal pressures for pleasing ourselves as a band, as also we were really satisfied w/ New World Shadows and you gotta love what you do otherwise you’re a poser and wimp. But in my opinion Beyond went beyond NWS so it’s all good and I’m really happy and satisfied with the new album, and even the media and fans seem to love it.
THKD: Where and when was the album recorded? What can you tell us about the recording sessions? Are there any specific moments during the recording process that stood out for you? How did things differ this time around compared to the sessions for New World Shadows?
MV: Usually we’ve been doing studio recordings in one period like one month straight but now we recorded in two different studios and mixed in another studio, and we had lots of breaks. We started the recordings in July and the album was ready at the end of November. Less stress and pressure and more time to project and listen the stuff. During the mixing process I was touring North America with my other band Insomnium, so I listened to the premixes on the road in the bus lounge with my other bandmates, so this was really different from the past recordings and gave a fully different perspective on working. Listening drunk, hung over, sober…
THKD: What are some the lyrical/conceptual themes being explored on Beyond and what inspired them?
MV: Lyrical themes are playing with the dualism in the world and in the people. People are near each other and have an understanding towards each other, but people are never just like the same. Jukka is always writing OG’s lyrics so I really don’t know his real inspirations beneath…
THKD: Do you have a favorite song or moment on Beyond? What is it about that particular song or moment that makes it your favorite?
MV: I really love the “Luoto” intro and the epic ending song ” White Palace” which in the end returns back to the intro theme and the album’s circle closes. That’s a musical journey to beyond. My live favorite is maybe “New Dynamic” ’cause that always gets the party started and people go crazy!
THKD: Let’s talk about the cover art for Beyond. It appears to be an ocean scene with some wreckage in the foreground. Was this meant to embody the opposite of the cityscape that’s on the cover of New World Shadows?
MV: Of course, now we’re going BEYOND the cityscape and maybe even beyond the sea. People are always longing for somewhere beyond and everything’s better there beyond your own place and life, isn’t it? We’re also from the Finnish South Coast in the city of Kotka which is in fact an island so we’re people of the sea and sea has always been a really important element for us. At the same time, the sea is as calm as its restless and will never be the same.
THKD: As your career has progressed, more and more progressive (for lack of a better term) elements have crept into Omnium Gatherum’s sound. Where does this influence come from? Is this progression intentional or simply a natural byproduct of growing and changing as a band and as individuals?
MV: This whole band is about something more than just a gathering of metalheads, everyone of us is a real music lover in a large scale, also very much outside the metal field, so we just try to use all our influences via this metal template. So suddenly it’s a gathering of many different styles that makes the traditional “OG sound.” We could do some basic hit potential metal but that’s not what we’re after, we’re always into exploring our sound and digging deeper. Trying to keep things interesting as musicians and music lovers. There’s enough copycats in this world, which even succeeds well. We prefer to do our own thing, even not having so big success. At least we’re happy to play these songs!
THKD: Do you find it difficult to balance the heavier/angrier aspects of Omnium Gatherum’s sound with the more melodic and progressive aspects? What challenges does this blending of sounds present for you?
MV: Not exactly, we’re old enough a band to always sound like Omnium Gatherum; whether we like it or not, this is the way this band sounds. With the new album that’s true that we’ve gone in the more melodic direction. But usually within bands this means more clean vocals and choruses, but in our case it’s in fact that the music is more melodic and the vocals have gone even more brutal. To both directions we go. If both the music and vocals would go melodic then this band would be too cheesy. 🙂
THKD: Omnium Gatherum has become one of the leading bands in melodic death metal at a time when many in the metal scene don’t find the subgenre to be particularly “fashionable.” Why is melodic death metal still relevant for you in 2013 and what is it about it that continues to inspire you?
MV: This is our style, and I would prefer to call it just metal. It’s kind of far outside the “normal” melodic death metal field, but I surely understand why we’re always labeled as melodic death metal. But to be honest I don’t give a fuck about genres or being fashionable or commercial. This is the way we do our “business”, that’s all and well. I don’t even know much about what’s happening in modern metal ’cause I’m not really interested in it much…
THKD: Will you be touring or playing any shows or festivals in support of Beyond? Do you think you’ll ever make it over to the USA to tour?
MV: We just did Japanese and Finnish tours in support of the new album, and in May we’re heading back to Japan, doing European festivals in Summer and European and Asian tours in Autumn so there’s much stuff coming. Now we finally also have a US agent First Row Talent and we already had one tour confirmed for the US of A but unfortunately it was cancelled by the headliners before it was even announced. So we were pretty close already. 🙂
THKD: What are you currently listening to? What are some of your favorite albums released so far in 2013? Do you have any recommendations for THKD’s readers?
MV: Well, new Soilwork and Killswitch Engage have been nice new metal albums I’ve enjoyed this year. Anathema, Architects, Sara, Sia, Seventh Wonder and old Swedish death metal have been hot in my record player lately. Check ’em!
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
MV: Hope to make it soon beyond the sea, to the US soon. Keep on supporting OG and telling your local club promoters that there’s this one Finnish band that everyone would love to see there! Stay metal and be safe!
[Omnium Gatherum press photo by Jari Heino]