OMNIUM GATHERUM – Markus Vanhala; Helsinki, 2008

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Omnium Gatherum have recently released their 4th album, The Redshift, to plenty of positive feedback by press and fans alike. After a tour with Nile and Grave, they have certainly managed to grab some attention in Germany. Guitarist Markus Vanhala took some time to answer our questions about the new album, plans and visions for the future, astronomy, inspiration, and how strange it is when one of your idols starts praising your work.

 

Hello and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions! How’re things over there in Finland?
Howdy, everything’s cool here. Really cool indeed as the winter has just landed and there’s snow everywhere at the moment. We’re almost done with our European tour and the Riding the Redshift in Finland 2008 tour, with just one show to go, and that’s our hometown show. It’s gonna be a blast for sure!

How have the reactions been to your newest album, The Redshift, from press and fans in Finland and other countries so far?
Awesome and interested indeed! It seems that we’re really back on the right track after some wandering around. I’m not saying that the second and third albums were bad, but the best ones in my opinion are the first one, Spirits and August Light and the new The Redshift album. This is what we want to do, some more melodic, atmospheric, and catchy stuff, but in aggressive way. Almost all of the reviews have been really, really praising and the gig audiences have also been very enthusiastic and wild, so everything’s good here!

You entered the charts at position 24, I think. Did you expect anything like that? And is it still something special in a country like Finland, where it seems to be kind of “normal” for metal bands to kick pop bands off the charts?
Well, of course it was a surprise for us, as we’re not such a “mainstream” metal band, even in Finland. We don’t have huge promo campaigns like other bands and stuff like that, so it was an honest big-work victory for us to reach the Top-30 album chart here. There’s still some justice in these blasted overcrowded music things, as everything seems to be so fucking calculated and manipulated in music business nowadays. We don’t do things for the altar of big commercial success, this music is honestly for us and the music we wanna hear. Others can only follow, if interested. We’ll do this anyway in any case, as this is for our own mental health!

Can you tell us something about the new album? The concept, music, your ideas behind that record, that sort of thing?
This time the album came to life very easily in a very small timeline, as there was a really inspired period going on in the band. I’m sure this can be heard as a positive breath of freshness and energy on this album. As the all-over boogie was good and the spirits were high, those spirits of music whispered to my ear some good riffs and ingredients to the songs. I just wanted to make a more melodic album this time, as that’s really the main ingredient of this band. In some way, the past two albums, Years in Waste and Stuck Here on Snakes Way, a little bit lacked in melodies, as we were doing something else with those albums. Hell, I don’t even know what that was [laughs]!

The lyrical meaning of the album then contains the fact that The Redshift is an astronomical term which means the drifting apart of galaxies in the universe. But first of all, it is about confidence and tranquility in fast, peaceful, forward motion. So the album says, “be at peace and don’t let them fuck with you!”

Who’s responsible for music and lyrics, and how do you normally work on songs?
All lyrics are made by our vocalist and poet, Jukka, and me and Harri [guitars] are working with the music. Usually me or Harri almost finish the whole song at the home studio and prepare some demo versions with computers and then send that to the others, who check them out, rehearse them, and plan some updates to them, and then we gather our forces at the rehearsal place together and raise some hell out of the riffs! The band activity these days isn’t anymore so dangerous rock ’n’ roll, because of the lack of time for rehearsing. It’s all about computers and rehearsing with computers. Badass attitude stuff, isn’t it folks?

How did the collaboration between you and Dan Swanö start? It must’ve been great to work with him and, as far as I’ve read on the promo flyer, he really liked your music so much that he would’ve “liked to steal it.”
I’ve been always a big fan of his music and studio work, the same with most of our other guys. So, I found out that Dan the Man had re-opened the doors of his mighty metal sanctuary, The Unisound Studio, and right after that I was sending a message to Dan, does he know OG and is he interested to work with us on the new album. And he knew us and was interested in the task. He was a really nice and easy-going lad to work with, and he had the same vision about the production of the album as what we were after. And he was so into our music that I almost suspected that he was lying. But he wasn’t; he really liked the album. It’s a funny feeling when your idol is praising your own stuff. You think that, “Isn’t this going the wrong way?” But he did a really good job and we’re still really satisfied with the sound of the album and that’s the main point.

What’s your source of inspiration, in general for lyrics as well as which bands influence you?
It’s just the spirits and gods of music which sometimes smile for you and you gotta seize the day then. Sometimes the stuff just comes and sometimes not… it’s the thing to find the right moments. Good music is always a good source of inspiration and connection between the spirits of music. Sometimes when I hear some good song or riff from a CD or the radio or TV, I just immediately have to grab the guitar and start the playing when the boogie is high! As for the lyrics, I don’t know as I’ve never done them. I’m too busy writing the music really.

How come you guys went off the radar for some 3-odd years? What happened?
Between this new fourth album and the previous one it was only 1 year, but there was 2.5 years between the second and the third album. It was a hectic year of touring and getting the new stuff ready and having a new bass player on board. But between those second and third albums, there were lots of shit with labels and the vocalist change, etc. Maybe because of leaving all that shit behind then, the overture for this new The Redshift album was so much better and the positive energy was flowing on us! Leave your dead behind…

Your sound has changed over the years. Could you describe your development briefly and maybe also explain why those changes were made (if possible)?
From shit to a jewel! First we were doing melodic death metal, then we got more progressive, then more aggressive and less melodic, and now were again back to square one. The influences were gathered over the years. It means we’re doing melodic aggressive metal with a little bit of progressive spice here and there.

What are your plans for the near future? More touring? Are you already working on material for the next album?
Hopefully we’ll be able to do some more international touring again soon. At least we will be doing a few festivals next year abroad, and of course some Finnish dates. I’ll be busy in January/February as I’ll be a stand-in stunt guitarist for fellow Finnish metallers, Diablo, on their European tour with Children of Bodom and Cannibal Corpse, as their guitarist is unavailable for part of the tour. I’m also doing gigs with my other bands, Malpractice and Manitou, but OG is my priority #1 of course. I’m also already working on the new OG material, slowly but surely.

You’ve been on tour in Germany supporting Nile and Grave. How was it? How were the reactions from the audiences? I imagine you’re still a bit unknown over here, though hopefully that has changed since the tour and the new album!
It was good and fun trip. Most of the audiences were really interested in us and gave us really good feedback. Even if we were little bit afraid at first that are we really too melodic for this tour combo, but as we saw, we’re still metal enough for even the more brutal metal-heads. Yeah, it would really be time for you Germans to finally find us, understand our greatness, and buy lots of our albums, as there’s lots and lots of shittier albums on sale there [laughs]!

Do you have any goals for the future that you’d like to achieve, or do you prefer to go on working on songs and see what comes around?
We prefer to make good music that we, ourselves, enjoy and everything else is just a bonus. If you do your own job well, hopefully you’ll be rewarded in the end. I wouldn’t be happy doing some shitty but massive-selling music and playing for big masses [of people]; that would be self-cheating. Touring, visiting new places, and playin’ the gigs on ten is the nicest thing about this job, so I hope to be able to do that more and more and for the all-the-time-growing audiences also.

How are things in Finland in the metal scene nowadays? You’ve been around for over 10 years already, so when looking back, has it become easier or harder to get recognized and how has the status of “metal” changed? I guess it’s not as “underground” in a metal-country like Finland as it might be elsewhere.
Metal is really so NOT underground in Finland, as it seems to be one of the most popular genres here at the moment. But for new bands, it’s maybe harder to get recognized nowadays without the support of a big label behind you, because of the endless number of metal bands coming out. I’m sure this “metal invasion” of Finland won’t last forever, so we’ll see which bands are the strongest and honest ones that survive from this hype. The OGs were here before this big invasion, so we’ll see if we are still here after this boom.

What country would you really like to tour in one day and why? And if you could also chose the bands to join you (you can be totally unrealistic if you want to), who would it be?
Japan, of course, as it has to be something completely different. African gigs would be also somewhat exotic… to be on a safari with the tour bus! Dark Tranquillity was the nicest one to tour with, so we would definitely want to tour with them again because they are the best dudes! Supporting Iron Maiden or Metallica then would be good a good promo [laughs]! Avril Lavigne or Paramore would be something also for me. Or touring with Jessica Alba, when she decides to start a singer career!

And just one last question! How would you describe Omnium Gatherum to someone who hasn’t heard of you, and why should this person definitely get the record?
There aren’t too many really good, original, own-sounding, atmospheric and honest metal bands here today in this over-crowded scene, but OG is one of the better ones for sure! To people who want something else in their metal than average melodies and stupid as-if aggressive riffs, and who wants a record that will allow more listens than only 10.

All right, that’s it from my end! Thanks again for taking the time to do this, and the last words are yours!
Thanks and see you in Germany hopefully soon! Keep on riding the Redshift until then!

Text: Cornelia Wickel

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