“Expect nothing but the best and fuck the rest.” – Markus Vanhala
Never ones for hyperbole, Finnish melodic death metal world-beaters Omnium Gatherum are currently holed up in Nordic Labs Studios in Kotka, Finland recording their as-yet-titled seventh full-length album. Due in early 2013, the proposed follow-up to last year’s beyond-excellent New World Shadows has something no previous Omnium Gatherum album has possessed – the weight of unrealistic expectations. Such things happen when you release what many consider to be your breakthrough album.
Blistering has been in quasi-regular dialogue with OG founding member/guitarist/primary songwriter Markus Vanhala, peppering him with studio questions until he finally relented. First things first though, has the band put the massive success that was 2011 to bed?
“2011 was a year to remember for [the] OG crew, with lots of touring and awesome feedback for the album and shows,” begins Vanhala. “But when OG is not doing live shows, I’m on the road with Insomnium or working with new songs or in the studio, so it’s lil’ bit crazy right now, but I still love playing my geetars. So there's not too much time to stress about good press for last album and things like that. It's always the gut feeling that drives me and there's always some lil' magic on breeding new stuff; you never know what happens and what comes your way. It's always competing with your earlier works and outdoing them, and also pleasing yourself.”
As Vanhala noted above, he’s currently doing time with the mighty Insomnium, having joined the band halfway through 2011. Given that Insomnium have an equal affinity for climatic melodies, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the guitarist had a hard time not being influenced by his second band. “Well, it's not so hard as still I’ve been in OG-mode over 15 years, so that's my default mode,” interjects Vanhala. “But sure, there's of course coming some influence and ways to work with some parts and arrangements and sounds, etc. hidden inspiration from Insomnium, too. I think that this new OG will be the most melodic OG album so far, which might be a lil bit Insomniumish-thing too if you wanna think things that way.”
The band got down to songwriting business late last year, composing a total of ten new songs (“Of course there'll be also a 10-minute epic closing song, again”) along with one cover, the name of which Vanhala didn’t reveal. The forthcoming album will mark the first appearance by new bassist Eerik Purdon and guitarist Joonas "Jope" Koto, with production duties remaining once again with the team of longtime OG confidants Teemu Aalto and Dan Swano.
“Teemu have been with us since 2004 so he knows our tricks 'n' traps,” notes the guitarist. “The drums were done 500 kilometers north from here, in Nordic Audio Labs with Sami Koivisto, who is a pro-dude and has done for example, recording for the newest Amorphis albums. And sure, Mister Dan Swanö is again on board doing the final climax, mixing and mastering the whole package.
“It's been really nice and easy so far, everything has gone really smoothly and easily with surrounding positive feelings,” he continues. “So maybe the new album is going to be lame, as we aren't feeling ourselves to angry old farts or petulant teenagers. At the moment of course. The pre-production have been on a best level so far, so it's been relaxed to work with the 99%-ready song arrangements in the studio. Jarmo [Pikka, drums] really showed his bad-ass talent in studio and nailed the final takes for ten songs and a cover song in 9-hours playing time…that's insane! But the overall atmosphere is that we're a band of brothers!”
The stylistic shift from 2008’s The Redshift to New World Shadows ushered in a new era of melody for the band, one that is highlighted on NWS cuts such as “Ego,” “Nova Flame,” and “The Distance.” These songs (and a handful of others) spoke volumes as to how far OG could go in the melodic department, and by all accounts, these traits will still be apparent on the new album.
“I could say that the next chapter will clearly continue where New World Shadows left off,” said Vanhala. “So it's much in the vein of NWS and also The Redshift, surely bringing some new spices on table too. And like I said, it's going to be melodic, but at the same time as now when were in the middle of recording guitars in the studio, I could say the guitar sound will be HEAVY as a really heavy thing! But as we enjoyed a lot about New World Shadows direction so there's no urgent need to rock the boat too much, just try to keep things interesting!”
Thanks to the departure of longtime guitarist Harri Pikka prior to the recording of New World Shadows, guitar duties fell solely on Vanhala. With Koto now firmly entrenched, Vanhala couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the new OG guitar tandem. “Jope has been playing his parts in the studio, so we have the guitar duel on again and that's great in my opinion! That's surely bringing much to the overall rhythm guitar sound that there's two individuals playing the guitar parts, the sound is fatter and bigger like it should be.
“We've been playing already almost 10 years together in another project band Malpractice, so it's not actually a new thing to play with Joonas,” he adds. “It's only a different band, and Jope have already showed his OG talents playing about 100 shows with us by now. We have a really good chemistry both musically and personally, so it's all good. In fact it was really scary again to listen how same kind of playing touch and timing we have. Long lost brothers maybe.”
At press time, Vanhala was unable to provide any song titles, claiming that vocalist Jukka Pelkonen “is secretive or maybe he's not having everything ready yet and he's busy now.” Nevertheless, the man’s trademark sense of humor isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “We're always working with funny working titles for the songs before we got the actual product ready. Mostly they're telling stories about our keyboard player Aapo [Koivisto]. The ‘Aapo Saga’ is continuing in the new one as chapters "Aapo On The Run" & "Aapo Under Wintermoon.”