|Omnium Gatherum, one of the most influenced finnish melodic death metal band, is going to return this year ! In order to prepare this return, I've had the occasion to talk with OG's guitarist Markus Vanhala. He was passionated and talkative and spoke about the new album "Grey Heavens" and his career during the last two decades.
|1/ Hi there ! What's up with Omnium Gatherum those days?
Markus Vanhala : Hell’o, All’s well here! Relaxed and loading ourselves and waiting the metal storm to start again with the album release. For once we got everything done for the album and release in time and long before the deadline, so now there’s none rush. Which is pretty damn different that it’s usually been ha. We did the last concert for extensive “Beyond The World Tour 2013-2015” in September and after that we’ve been having a lil break as we did something like 150 shows allover the world with that.2/ Your band started in 1996 and in the next few weeks we'll reach 2016. That means 20 years of work. How do you feel about it? How do you see your career ?
Markus : Weird but true! I’m the only “surviving member” from the very first line-up of the first demo, as I formed the band when I was 14 or 15 and in the early school with my friends. So it took a lot time to built the band as a “real band” in a way and getting the actual professional lineup together, get the record deal, slowly building the fame etc. We’ve never had anything overnight and we’ve been fighting a lot our way thru and done a lot by ourselves. But since the start the vision of the band was the same and honoring our melodeath gods of that time and give your own share for that. It’s been a wild and enjoyable ride and it have defined a lot my life, my chosen path and me as a person.3/ Choose 3 big moments/events that marked/changed the band?
Markus : 1.First gig – That happened at Kotka local youth center back in early 1997 and that of course ignited the flame to be on stage bashing this Omnium Gatherum material for the masses! Our bass player at that time was playing the gig without shoes, socks ‘n’ roll!
2. First record deal/official album release – Same day when my civil service ended we got an email to remember, an offer from Rage Of Achilles UK-based label that wanted to sign us and release our debut album. Not so many hours later we signed the paper immediately. Of course this was what we always wanted and this was our dream fulfilled and we were in a hurry. Less we knew.
3. First international tour – Our first gig abroad was some small festival in Estonia and next was big festival in Germany, but the actual first tour was “headliner punk” tour in UK for 2 weeks back in 2006. That was something truly incledible to be touring as long as 2 weeks outside Finland with the booyas, and some memorable moments, accidents and gigs did happen! That was the “once in a lifetime” –moment to be as a touring band. After that it became “a lil bit” more usual…4/ You are going to release your new album "Grey Heavens" in February. Firstable, what do you think about the recording session now that's everything's done?
The album music itself was born really fast and easily and I had a pretty creative period after oour north American tour spring 2014. But then all kinds of turbulence started before going to record it to studio. My personal life-at-the-time collapsed, means I broke up with my long-time girlfriend. Then I was just too busy with touring with both Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum so I didn’t have any free time outside metal. Not at all. It was only playing gigs, either composing or recording many many months in a row. There was also some personal problems in some of the other guys lives too, and then after all also our engineer / producer got a baby during our sessions so we were left to record by ourselves some of the stuff too which caused some extra stress of course… So the studio sessions were really hard for me and there was a time I thought I’m going to die and/or this will be the last OG recor
d. So it’s a pretty damn honest album and we’ve been bleeding for those tracks. But after all, all’s well that ends well and we managed to stress the diamond out of us and the result is what I’m really proud of!5/ You describe your music as an "adult oriented death metal". What do you mean by "adult"? Does it mean that your lyrics and concepts are more mature and refined than the other melodic death metal bands?
Well might be that too, haha. As Jukka isn’t the usual kind of metal lyricist, so there’s also some intelligent metal and optimistic “don’t give up and live your life your own way” kind of message involved in our deathly metal.. But at first place that term came as a joke from our touring party music play lists, as we found out ourselves listening to bands like Journey and Toto on and on. And you know these 80’s gems genre is usually defined to “AOR – adult oriented rock”. So that’s about it. As you might know and hear that all the melodies and lines in OG’s music isn’t the most usual death metal stuff. The adult oriented rock Journey/Toto moments are hidden there between the deathly metal lines.6/ Your music is still as heavy as hell and full of details, still you don't integrate some modern elements like breakdowns, djent touches, electronic lines and many more. A lot of bands now are using those elements for some reasons. Have you ever been interested by this fad ? or is this idea stupid for you?
Markus : As I’ve been doing this band that 20 years by now, I somewhat have a vision of what trademark Omnium Gatherum is supposed to be. Of course the music always naturally evolves and gets new spices from the stuff we’re lovin and listenin at the moment, but we don’t have any need to try to be trendy in metal or something else.. That’s boring that every now and then there comes some big band that influences everyone in the genre and the bands start to copycat these big movements - like for example something like over half of all the metal bands had Meshuggah or Devin Townsendish vibe at some point… 7/ You use a lot of keys but there is always a nice balance between them and the guitars. Is it difficult to work this way?
Markus : Like is said, this is the natural way to us to sound like this. It’s the way I write for Omnium Gatherum. I like to get that vast soundscape and athmospheric infinity via keyboards but like to keep it colouring the background. But the main thing is to keep things heavy and brutal in all it’s beatyness. Living in the edge, balancing on the ledge. To be a brutal or to be a cheesy, or to be a brutal cheese.8/ The melodies are very nice in this album and they blend very well with the catchiness and aggressiveness of the guitars. While many bands are often recreating the same theme, you always create something new and every album is a new discovery : how do you do to continue to reinvent yourselves?
Markus : Trying to keep things interesting to ourselves in the first place. You have to please yourself to be able to please others. There’s always these pathways via composing a new song, that leads you a new song and to a new album. Nothing changes overnight, but it’s a natural musical evolution. Though the 4 newest OG albums share really much the same musical red-line and there’s none drastic changes, like for example old giant bands used to do. Like old prog-bands like Rush, Yes or Genesis turned to be synth pop bands in the 80’s and so on, or Anathema used to be a doom metal band you know..9/ Do you have a favorite track from this album? If yes, which one and why?
Markus : “These Grey Heavens”, the instrumental track, is the most personal son
g for me. Deep poetry without the words, as I’m really bad lyricist haha. I did it during the worst times and turbulence, and it was the last song I composed to the new album. It’s always the darkest before the new sunrise. If it comes. Well, “Frontiers” is too a killer killer metal track and that’s why it was chosen as a single song and video. Cannot wait to play that one live and cause riots!10/ What do you think of the melodic death metal scene in general? Are there some bands you like a lot ?
Markus : I used to love the genre a lot, and there was so much good bands and interesting music happening years ago. Now it’s pretty boring, or I’m getting old. I still love deeply my old favorites, these albums that we’re released mid 90’s like Edge Of Sanity, Opeth, At The Gates, In Flames, Dissection, Amorphis, Sentenced, Dark Tranquillity. There’s also some good new bands like Arch Enemy and Soilwork, haha. Many old bands are still delivering the goods and releasing good albums on this genre, but I don’t know so much about the newer bands. The new album of Amorphis for example was one of the best released of previous year. Well, I’ve also heard something about this new band called Insomnium and they supposed to be ok what people say. ;)11/ You signed with some great labels such as Candlelight or Nuclear Blast. You are now with Lifeforce since the release of "New World Shadows" in 2011. Are you satisfied with their work? What is "different" with them?
Markus : We’ve had a pretty nice co-operation with Lifeforce and it’s more personal with ‘em. They really like the band and keep us as their priority, they’re are easy and fast to work with and we’re friends. It’s nice to work with friends you know. With “Grey Heavens” album we also got new licensing deals outside Europe, Marquee for Asia and Century Media for North America. Back in the early days when we were in Nuclear Blast, we didn’t know anything about any music business things and how we should operate and we were rather stupid and naïve back then. Just small town maniacs from Finland. We’ve been learning the hard way many things and been working a lot by ourselves too.12/ You will be on tour with Draconian next year. What's your biggest fear for your live dates?
Markus : Yeah, we’ll be doing a co-headline tour with Draconian in Europe in February/March and looking forward the dates and be back on the road. There’s also a North American tour and many festival dates already confirmed but we cannot publish the news yet. My biggest fear concerning live dates, hmmmmm, must be the amplifier equipments breaking down. I’ve had my fair share of technical problems and it always sucks a lot… 13/ What are you listening to at the moment? What bands do you recommend to the Spirit Of Metal readers?
Markus : During this interview I’ve been listening to Daft Punk and Foo Fighters. Mmmmmetal! Last days I’ve been pretty hooked up to Ulver box including the 3 first black metal albums, newest Riverside album, newest James Labrie solo album, and newest Amorphis and Symphony X albums. Best album for my 2015 was definitely the “Hand.Cannot.Erase” by Steven Wilson!14/ Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I give you the last words. Your mission, if you accept it, is to convince our readers to listen and eventually buy the new album "Grey Heavens".
Markus : If you like metal you go and buy “Grey Heavens” by Omnium Gatherum. If you don’t like metal -wimps and posers, leave the hall! “Grey Heavens” is catchy and honest and sophisticated piece of melodic but brutal semi-progressive deathly metal art!