Last week saw the release of Omnium Gatherum's latest work Grey Heavens, and as a self-avowed melodeath junkie, I just had to give it a shot. I should confess, right off the bat, to not being Omnium Gatherum's biggest fan. They definitely have their better moments, but honestly I think the best thing that anyone in this band has ever done is be the guitarist for Insomnium. (For the curious, Markus Vanhala has been doing double-duty since Ville Vänni left the band to spend more time with his family due to the impending birth of his first child and focus on his career as a general surgeon.)
Grey Heavens starts off with a riff that sounds eerily like Dark Tranquillity's "The Science of Noise" but then has this odd transition to something that sounds like a completely different song. And then the vocals come in. Have I mentioned that I have this very thorough and utterly irrational hatred for Jukka Pelkonen's vocals? I can't even begin to qualify what I so loathe about them either; it's just something I kind of have to accept at this point. And I know full well this taints my entire opinion of this band, but I just can't help it. It doesn't help that they're mostly pretty monotonous over the entire album. Death growls don't have to sound the same no matter what you're singing. You can alter the pitch to create different effects, and I know Pelkonen is capable of that at least to some degree. But he shows none of that throughout this entire album. Makes the vocals that much easier to hate, I think
It's not particularly worth talking about individual tracks on this album, as too many of them don't really manage to distinguish themselves from one another in any meaningful way. Instrumentally, the album is solid, but nothing special. Riffs are often catchy, yet not particularly imaginative in any respect. Song structures are often rather similar from one track to the next and consistently left me wishing they'd take a chance and do something different.
Though, to be fair, Grey Heavens does sound distinctively different from their previous release, Beyond, in that it seriously sounds like what would happen if you put all of Dark Tranquillity on downers before a show. While, yes, Onmium Gatherum has always been on the lower-tempo side of melodic death metal, it really wouldn't hurt them to mix it up a bit and remind me that you're actually awake. On the other hand, I could probably fall asleep to this album really easily. So I suppose it does have its niche.
As probably comes as no surprise after my rant about the vocals, I think the best track on the album, by far, is the instrumental "These Grey Heavens." Not needing to structure the song around the vocals seems to give the rest of the band a bit more creativity and leeway in how they perform for this track. If the band was given this level of freedom and creativity on the rest of the album, it would merit at least another whole iron atom in my rating. Hell, even a few more up-tempo songs like the questionably named "Storm Front" would have been a very welcome addition towards keeping me awake. Alas, all I got was 46 minutes of Pelkonen monotonously growling while trying to deepthroat the microphone over some decent guitar work. At least the last 10ish minutes of the album are good.
Final verdict: 2.5 iron atoms