In a previous review, I had mentioned that melodeath has been enjoying a renaissance, as both new and old bands continue to play and reinvent themselves in order to remain consistent within the genre. However, despite the newer additions and slight reinventions over the years, Omnium Gatherum continues to stay the course, creating music that still sounds fresh and poignant to this day. When Omnium Gatherum announced that they were going to release a new album after the very excellent The Burning Cold, I was stoked. I knew that whatever the band had planned, the album was going to be an enjoyable time. After all, Origin was one of the three melodeath albums I was looking forward to in November, and they clearly exceeded my expectations.
Before I even begin, I wanted to make a note that the final song on the album is not called “Infected Mushroom;” it’s actually a cover of the song “In Front of Me” by Infected Mushroom, an Israeli musical duo that play and perform techno and other variations of dance music. Both the original and the cover are great in their own way, and I felt the need to point this out because I have been seeing mentions of this song being called this instead of its actual name.
With that out of the way, we can now discuss Origin.
Opener “Emergence” serves as a taste for things to come, a track that opens the listener’s mind to the idea that this album is going to emphasize melody over anything. This immediately kicks into the next track, “Prime,” a mid-tempo song with backing keyboards and a moving rhythm section that takes a lot of sonic cues from The Burning Cold. The song even sounds like it could belong in the album itself, but then it quickly changes into something bright and colorful. It’s almost as if it’s asking the listener to pay particular attention to these moments because they will be heavily contrasted by a somber melancholy that bobs into the surface every now and then. Take “Reckoning” as the prime example of this dichotomy: the instrumental backing plays in a more aggressive, downtrodden sound seems to both solitary and somber, but the clean vocals in the chorus break through the melancholy, giving the song this bright, sunny quality to it. In a weird way, “Reckoning” feels very much like something you hear at the end of summer – something that encapsulates both the joy of summer and the melancholy of fall. Given that the single was released in late September – the end of summer in U.S. – I couldn’t help but make this connection.
After “Reckoning,” Omnium Gatherum shifts their sound to its melancholy nature, continuing to emphasize the melodic aspect of their instrumentation. While the music will continue to have that bright quality to it, the melancholy will remain the backbone from where their inspiration and continued energy will come from. This bait-and-switch seems to serve a dual purpose: 1) despite the lineup changes that occurred between The Burning Cold’s release and Origin’s recording, Omnium Gatherum has remained resilient in making music that adheres to their vision; and 2) it pays homage to their former members, thanking them for their time and for The Burning Cold. All of this lays the groundwork for the band to continue experimenting with both their speed – as seen on “Friction” – and their capacity to create a wall of sound, as seen on “Solemn,” which also shows off the band’s capacity to write music that blurs the line between melodeath and prog. To me, Origin seems to be one of their most mature albums to date; the band knows that they are not reinventing the wheel when it comes to melodeath, but they are also incredibly comfortable in making and playing music that is both consistent and enjoyable.
My only issue with Origin is that, even though Omnium Gatherum are a fantastic band, their instrumental contrast can sometimes be jarring. While there is nothing wrong with a sudden shift in tempo or key, they sometimes either emphasize one instrument over the others, which can take you out from enjoying the music if there is something in the song section that you find particularly compelling. However, this notably happened on “Fortitude” when the sudden introduction of a syncopated rhythm underneath the leading guitar and keyboard threw me off and made me wonder whether I had something else playing in the background. After repeated listens, it no longer bothers me, but it might something that could potentially bother others if they are not expecting it.
All in all, Origin is a great, enjoyable album that is filled with melodic hooks and a somber tone that shows off both the band’s capacity for writing consistent music and pays homage to their history as a band. Omnium Gatherum has been around for 25 years, and the fact that they have continued to strive forward even when the other major melodeath bands have either changed or disbanded entirely is a testament to their longevity and success. There are many potential directions where the band can go next, but I think they are going to sit on their laurels for a while. After all, why would you change something that works?
Hasta la proxima!