Through their studio full-length history, Finnish melodic death export Omnium Gatherum seems to have bounced back in forth in quality, offsetting worthy efforts like Spirits and August Light and Stuck Here on Snake's Way with well meaning but ultimately vapid concoctions Years in Waste and The Redshift. Their 5th album, New World Shadows is the first that seems to straddle the two poles, a good release overall but requiring some patience to absorb, and not without a few filler tracks that are better ignored. The band's move from Candlelight Records to the melodeath-friendly metalcore imprint Lifeforce makes a lot of sense, but the music has not altered its course towards introspection and maturity.
"Everfields" is certainly the most 'epic' attempt the band has yet brought to bear, due largely to the 9+ minute length. One might not expect a band like this, who in the past have favored tight compositions that are meant to grasp the listener with their emboldened passion and melody, to space themselves out. The riffs here are very light, from simplistic chugged grooves glazed over in melodic chords and subtle but solid synthesizers, but it creates a sad, relaxing effect. "Ego" then shakes any notion that we're hearing some total Pink Floyd transformation; it's classic Omnium Gatherum with a strong chop riven through the verses and chorus, yet still sad and rainy like the opener. There are, however, a number of more elegant, pondering pieces on the album like "New World Shadows", "Soul Journeys", "Watcher of the Skies" and the extensive, l extended finale "Deep Cold" (longer than "Everfields"), but all of these manage to hold their salt and not disenchant the listener if he enjoys the mood set by the first track.
There are a few minor missteps here, like the very proggy cut "An Infinite Mind" with its shallow grooves, but even here you get a few worthwhile melodic tricks of the trade. Those that might be disappointed in the general lack of aggression shown through much of the material will be served not only by "Ego", but also "Nova Flame" and "The Distance", which are less than revelatory, but prove the band can still light a fire under their asses when optimal. On the whole, New World Shadows feels very conceptual, very attuned to the overcast atmosphere of the cover, and I feel like it's the sort of album you'd listen straight through from beginning to end, taking in all 52 minutes despite the occasionally inconsistency of quality. The album has a very urban, almost metropolitan feel to it, through the super polished production and 'alone among many' feel of the riffs and lyrics, and if you can ride out this aesthetic to its natural ends, and you don't mind sleek, modern, progressively-inclined melodic death metal (ala Soilwork), then it's worth a gander.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (I was never here)