Omnium Gatherum | Interview with Markus Vanhala

[Omnium Gatherum]

The new record sounds great Markus, I guess you must feel pretty accomplished with “New World Shadows” right?

“Well yeah, I really am satisfied with "New World Shadows" and we definitely found what we were after and nailed it to this record. It seems that us, the old-timers of adult oriented death metal, are really on fire now after 15 years of solid service! We've just begun, you know…”

I can safely state it’s your best effort to date and from what I’ve read in other publications the overall opinions are mutual. Just like its incredibly strong predecessor “The Redshift”, the new album sees Omnium Gatherum meshing together prog-rock intricacies with death-metal aggressiveness, yet in a more mature, refined form and perhaps with a greater emphasis on melody. So how close have you come to creating the music you’ve always heard inside of your head when you started approaching the writing of this new album?

“My primary goal was to find again the same freshness and the flame we had when formed the band back in '96, and cross breed some teenage death metal to adult oriented prog rock beside it, the two music styles I love the most. And I think we made it as the new album sounds really fresh in its perfect balance of different moods from AOR to black-metal and keeping it under the monolithic sounding entirety.”

What was the process of writing the new album “New World Shadows” like, I know it’s your first effort without guitarist Harri Pikka, who left last year to pursue other interests?

“This was the first time, since the true and evil demo times that I had the privilege and the curse to compose the all album by myself, musically speaking as Jukka does all the lyrics and most vocal arrangements. So it differed a lot on that side, but I think it gave only boost to me to work my ass off with the material and gave a better chance to build more solid continuity for the album dramaturgy. We had also one helluva great time on rehearsing and arranging the album in the woods on a summer cabin during the last summer, playing metal for the nighttime birds and forest goblins and fishing pikes to stay alive!”

In previous interviews I’ve read you categorising the band’s sound as “adult oriented death metal”, what in the world is that man?

“It's the best seller genre of the future of course! It was an old joke slogan from our past t-shirt which was resurrected into life during the "New Worlds Shadows" sessions as it becomes clearer and clearer that it describes the material very well. We're really much digging the old progressive rock and even AOR stuff, so those influences have also penetrated between the death metal lines on our stuff. Where Edge Of Sanity and Rush go hand in hand.... Of course, me and Aapo are also the only guys from Omnium Gatherum that are still under 30 years old, so we're kind of adults nowadays too...haha”

Whatever you call it, the new album has kind of an 80’s prog-rock vibe to it, mostly due to the various moog and Hammond sounds present on some of the new themes, do you agree?

“Yeah, I agree like I said on the previous question. I like much prog rock bands such as Rush, Genesis, Kansas, Yes, Marillion, Journey etc…and those bands have always reformed their style and sound when moving from one decade to another. That's something that should be respected!"

So which others acts do you see playing a similar brand of adult oriented death metal nowadays?

“It's such a new genre that the copycats are just coming later, haha.
Well, bands like Opeth and Amorphis have always got that adult prog thing on their output too and Pressure Points from Finland are a cool act too…”

The new album was once again recorded at Astia Studio in Finland with Teemu Aalto and mixed at Unisound Studio in Sweden by Dan Swanö, who have also lent his vocal talents to a couple of new themes. What was it like working with him again?

“Cool indeed as always, as Dan really knows how to please us with his magical ears. Dan is also the man having really similar kind of musical taste as I have, so it's easy to work with him and he appreciates a lot too what we're doing. Which is über-cool of course, as I’ve been a Swanö fan since my early teens and the early Edge Of Sanity days. I provided some lead guitars to Dan's solo album "Odyssey" last year so as a feature-trade he agreed to provide some amazing clean vocals to our album. I guess our "mixing references" were a little bit strange for him, as we advised that "New World Shadows" should sound like death metal version of Rush’s “Counterparts” and Marillion’s “Seasons End” with some new Testament and Swallow The Sun production on top of it. Easy combo eh? Haha.”

While Omnium Gatherum have chosen to stick with the same recording team, the same cannot be said about their record label as “New World Shadows” marks the beginning of a new partnership with Lifeforce, following two consecutive records on Candlelight Records. How did you hook up with Lifeforce Records and how’s it working for you guys?

“Changing labels frequently keeps you awake and things interesting, eh…ahah. When we fulfilled our two album deal with Candlelight, we decided to check out some new options and boogies as we wanted a better exposure for central Europe, etc… Then Lifeforce staff checked us out on our German gig and liked what they heard and saw, and after long negotiations with many parties we decided to go the Lifeforce path. So far everything is going well with the Germans and we've done a huge pile of interviews and promotion so it's a good sign that somebody is doing something at the office too.”

From the other two interviews we’ve done before I’ve noticed that the band doesn’t like to discuss the lyrics that much. It seems that they focus on personal matters and this new album seems no different, displaying song titles like “Ego”, “Soul Journeys” and “Deep Cold” that suggest themes of personal conflicts. Are these the sort of themes addressed in your lyrics?

“The new album is quite critical towards the attitudes and beliefs of our modern times which are fulfilled with a busy lifestyle, consuming feast and that kind of shit which will drive this world to destruction. The new worlds have always the deep shadows too. The album concept deals with the inner and outer existences which as a matter of fact are the same in the end. About the songs you mentioned, "Ego" is a Tibetan word for "can you understand?" and the song is about the strength to carry oneself with dignity in this world of petty insults and foul-smelling shit. "Soul Journeys" song has then a certain amount of sadness in it, but still it's full of hope. Those two feelings are not so unlike when deeply recognised, it is the longing found in them both that bears a similar scent. "Deep Cold" then is basically about the fact that one must be able to grow beyond the boundaries of known limits to be able to rule the fluctuations in life, it's a movement in a sense.”

I saw your recent tour schedule and you guys are going on a European tour with Rotting Christ. Are looking forward to that and being out on the road again?

“On the road is where the real fun is! I could say that we're really tight and energetic live band and we love every minute on stage as always. There's always much magic in the air on live situation and surely that one hour on stage is always worth of hours and hours with long kilometres sitting in the tour bus. We start the "New World" touring schedule from Finnish touring and then in April/May hit the European roads with Rotting Christ first and next do a mini-tour with Engel in Western-Europe in May. After that there are some summer festivals, like With Full Force, Tuska Open Air and Sauna Open Air coming."

Who have been the musicians you’ve most enjoyed touring with over your career?

“The Finnish invasion trek in Europe 2009 sharing the same bus with our friends from Insomnium and Swallow The Sun was maybe the nicest and craziest tour event we've done, month full of Finnish alcoholocaustic madness and low class humour, the best! Some touring events with our fellow Swedes of Dark Tranquillity have also been really nice moments."

Omnium Gatherum is almost 15 years old. When you first got together in 1996, what were your aspirations for the band? Are you proud of where the band is today?
“15 years is half of my whole life, that's crazy! We formed the band in junior high school as we just listened some Death, Edge Of Sanity, At The Gates, "Subterranean" by In Flames and "Gallery" by Dark Tranquillity and we wanted to be as cool as them and do as good music as them. Our "big goals" was to get some local gigs, make a demo cassette and have it played on only Finnish metal radio-shows back then.
We scored all our goals quite soon back then, so everything after that have been a bonus and we're playing on extra-time, haha. So in a nutshell, yes I’m proud about what we've achieved and I’m happy where we stand. "New World Shadow" just scored a 5th place on Finnish national album chart and 1st place on Finnish independent store album chart, so that's insane for a band like us playing this un-commercial "adult oriented death metal". Times are strange here.... ahah.”

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  1. very underrated band... I really liked the record

  2. I totally agree with that.
    These guys are awesome, love the guitar work on the new album.

  3. I love their new album, it’s really been on top of my plays recently.