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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Omnium Gatherum - New World Shadows: B+ / MyGrain - MyGrain: B+

"Everfields"                                                                            "Shadow People"

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not so negligent of metal that I just slap the same grade on pairs of metal albums and put them out in double reviews. The reason why I grouped the new albums by Ulcerate and Mitochondrion was because the two albums were quite similar, in both general sound and my disdain for them. I cannot help but notice clear similarities between the new albums by Omnium Gatherum and MyGrain, as well. Both are solid albums by groups hailing from Finland, the melodic death metal capital of the world. They are worthy additions to both groups’ respective discographies, even though they don’t necessarily progress the genre further.

Of the two, Omnium Gatherum is more indebted to the style of traditional melodic death metal. Produced by Dan Swanö, the man who helmed the boards for Barren Earth’s classic Curse of The Red River, New World Shadows displays many of the signifiers that have characterized the efforts of various melodic death metal acts in at least the past year. Growling vocals laced with harmonious guitar lines and atmospheric synthesizers are all over New World Shadows, but Omnium Gatherum make some attempt to diverge themselves from the genre that has experienced an explosion in productivity over the past couple years. ­­­­­­Markus Vanhalla's guitar parts are particularly euphoric, whether as songs’ aural decoration or main riff. However, as New World Shadows progresses, the similarities between it and Curse of The Red River become more apparent. On both albums, the first and last songs are the longest, and, like Red River’s title track, New World Shadows’s opener, “Everfields”, diverges into a Nordic folk jamboree before continuing with the metal that dominates their album. Both albums frequently delve into the balladic, but Omnium Gatherum shoehorn slow parts into places where they don’t comfortably fit, as if they see the melodic aspect of their sound as a necessity rather than a logical musical progression. Also, New World Shadows might be the first metal album of which I prefer the growled vocals to the clean ones. The actual singing that takes place in “Deep Cold” and the title track sounds laughably forced, reaching Trans Siberian Orchestra levels of cheese. New World Shadows is a good album, but its trivialities may be a bore to those who are already familiar with their genre of music.

MyGrain’s third album does not reach the highs or lows of New World Shadows. The band has an unfortunate knack for choosing awful song titles (“A Clockwork Apocalypse”? “Shadow People”? Really, guys?), but they perform their brand of melodic death metal at a consistently enjoyable pace. MyGrain is interesting in that its sound both strives for something more aggressive, but, through the band’s choruses and vocal techniques, sound like an attempt to reach the mainstream. For this reason, I see MyGrain as an album that takes much of its influence from modern American metal. The band’s clean vocals sound like Atreyu’s Brandon Saller and the faint drum machine blips that begin “Eye of the Void” sound like Disturbed’s “Indestructible”. Still, there is one band that I cannot help but link MyGrain to, and that is Trivium. Most of the clean vocals on MyGrain sound like the adolescent gruff of Matt Heafy. The screaming often sounds like the band circa Shogun and the “this mortal coil” line in “Shadow People” could have been written by the band for The Crusade. Now, I’m aware that “Atreyu”, “Disturbed” and “The Crusade-era Trivium” are all loaded words, but MyGrain has the clout to make these influences push their music in more mainstream directions without sacrificing their authenticity. With their self-titled album, MyGrain have made a good iteration of the Trivium sound, which is something that not even Trivium can wholly lay claim to.


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