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Omnium Gatherum

Op de laatste dag van augustus komt het zevende studioalbum van Omnium Gatherum uit, getiteld ’The Burning Cold’. De Finse melodieuze death metal band heeft er weer een onweerstaanbaar geheel van gemaakt met sterke melodieën, pittige ruwe momenten (met sappige grunts) en fantastisch gitaarspel van componist Markus Vanhala en Joonas Koto. Wij hadden ditmaal zanger Jukka Pelkonen aan de lijn, die eerst een gezellig praatje over voetbal begint, maar dan komen we al spoedig ter zake. We hebben namelijk maar een half uur om zoveel mogelijk te vernemen over de nieuwe worp.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

I know you are in the band since 2006. How did you actually get involved into Omnium Gatherum?
Back in 2006, I was in another band, called Elenium, We did many gigs together with OG and I did guest vocals on their debut ‘Spirits And August Light’ album in a couple of songs. When singer Antti Filppu and OG parted ways, Markus just called me and asked me if I would be interested and I said: ‘At this point I am still quite busy with Elenium, but of course I am interested.’ These are good musicians and nice guys, so I thought: ‘What the hell, let’s go and practice some new songs at that time and some old songs at that time.’ It was kind of decided right away at that rehearsal. A few years later they told me that I was the only guy they ever thought about of to ask. That was a honour for me!

Now you are the main lyricist from the band and you tour a lot with the band. So your life must have been changed when you joined the band?
Yes, that is true. I would say that I haven’t got time for a day job for a couple of years now and sometimes I miss it. But my philosophy is: if you are happy at the moment with what you are doing, that’s all what matters, but sometimes I miss it. But I should not complain, because this is something I wanted to do since I was six years old or so.

Then you should be ‘living the dream’ as they say…
Of course, because it is an important thing also for the people who like our music, I think it is important to them as well.

Indeed, with every album or with every concert you bring a moment of joy in the fans’ life…
Oh that’s really nice, yes I try to do that, because in despite of the fact that it is melodic brutal death metal, I think people are really there to enjoy and have fun. It is not only the music, it is the whole thing. Also for us, because we are kind of active on stage. We do not stand around and look bored. (chuckles)

With the previous album ‘Grey Heavens’ you toured a lot. Were there highlights or places you had not been before?
Yes, we toured a lot for ‘Grey Heavens’. Well, usually, when you go to the Far East, it is a different atmosphere than in Europe or in North America. So I would say China, that is really different and that speaks to my imagination. We also did Mexico for the first time, which was interesting, because their culture is also very different from ours and it was a really good show over there. In a way, every gig is a special occasion, because it only happens once. We had a really good tour with Skálmöld from Iceland, when speaking of the chemistries between the bands and the crew in the bus, because you really have to travel a lot in the tour bus. It was really good, because it was easy to tour with those guys. They are easy and hard workers, they are like us.

By the way, congratulations, because you are now under guidance of Century Media. That is a big label…
Yeah it is really funny, because we have been around and toured for so many years. I wonder about the good things they can do for us, because we have the same work mentality as always. It is nice, because the guys are nice and they see this cooperation now as a really smooth thing, easy going people and smooth. People from Century Media came to the gigs to watch the show. It is really nice to have a business relationship with them.

There should be two main themes on the album, lyrically, but can you go a bit deeper into that?
It talks about the balance between tragedies and the victories in life. Also every emotional state individual and how we react. It can be interpret when bad or good things happen to us in a scale of love or hate, with hate I mean wars or fights with people we don’t get along with and also on a larger scale like the turbulence that is going on in the world at the moment. I think people who used to be for peace are getting more and more aggressive in their own agenda and other people as well, getting more aggressive. And I think that these two things, inner individuals and nations worldwide, are somehow connected, they are close to each other and now we can really see, because of social media and technologies, we can really see how people react, as a nation and as individuals. Not that the lyrics only say this is a bad , evil and horrific thing, but it really touches the whole situation we are living in at the moment; from different perspectives and we try to understand why this thing is happening, now that we are finally, globally, getting to know each other?

It is a good thing and a bad thing that the world becomes a village…
Indeed, this is one of the topics, because always when we meet people, there is a positive and a negative tension in them and it does not matter which is the situation people are in, because we come from different backgrounds, so we have a different social and individual history behind us. It is interesting. On the surface, at the same time people seem and seem not to get along with each other. I think it is one of those things that create these kind of tensions that we have. But it also has a positive thing, because it keeps people alert, we don’t become dull or robot like. It is a fine line that everyone is walking in a way, like trying to cope with this different situation, in despite of the fact that you may have been bruised in the past. I think everyone has it. All of us have this trauma thing and it is very important and for nations also, because nations also come from different kinds of backgrounds.

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Even if you go to the US as European, you feel and experience that people are different. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is scary and weird...
Exactly. The lyrical contents of ‘The Burning Cold’ is also: how do we react to a strange phenomena? How do we react to that? For instance, a few songs straight forwardly refer to how would one feel when being in ultimate danger? This is a topic I have never explored before. I always used a lot of metaphors, but now I am trying to write those kinds of lyrics about what is going on in one’s head when guns are blazing and there is chaos all around. Very intense feelings.

It is nice that you analyze your lyrics and try to find a constant development…
There is no other way, otherwise I would be stuck (laughs) Some ingenious people can draw from one particular topic endlessly, but most of them cannot. I have to change, at least once. As a lyricist I have total freedom and I really enjoy the good feedback from my fellow musicians when I talk about them. They tell me if something is going to work, or will not work. Of course I will listen to them and take their advice through my filter and then decide if I am going to change them, For instance, Joonas, our guitar player, has really good ideas about things. He is a lyricist in that sense that he has done all the lyrics for his other band Malpractice.

Do they still exist?
I think they still exist, but we are so busy with OG and Markus with Insomnium too, so there is no time for it. I think Joonas also writes material for them, but at the moment it goes to the drawer. Lack of time.

The first and the last song have a kind of connection, do you agree with that?
Yes, there is a connection, because it is basically from the same basic structure. First there was the last song ‘Cold’, later came the intro and the chorus goes like the beginning, so there is a reference too. Everything circles in a way. There is only a small amount of lyrics in that song. There is one verse and one chorus and then the verse repeats itself. I like that structure. It will be so nice to start playing these songs live.

Now we have a video for ‘Gods Go First’. Why did you choose this song and can you tell something about the making of the video?
It is a straight forward song, maybe a little bit traditional OG song, up tempo. It is the first single and I think it brings a fresh approach, partly the older sound of OG and partly the new elements of OG. It was a natural choice for us to choose it as the first single. I think we did not even consider another song for choosing as first single. I think me and Markus agreed a long time ago about that. We made the video in two parts, we shot the outside shots in a different location in Kotka, where some of the guys from OG live and then we went to this old bar and light it up. We had a super nice day, but it was dark. Of course it is old and made from wood, so there were these cracks, so that natural light could come inside. White lights in that video are all natural light. We had the green and purple light we used, the rest, the white light is from the sun. It works as a natural effect. It brings some new perspectives, because you cannot fake it. We don’t have those kinds of lights to produce that natural light. We were really lucky that the sun was shining that day.

There are nice contrasts on the album. On one side very melodic, but also really harsh parts…
We agreed and talked it over before, that we should combine the harsh death metal vocals with a lot of melodies and make really strong riffs. With this album we took it even further. With ‘Grey Heavens’ it was a bit darker, with glimpses of light now and then maybe. This is really going beyond, with really epic melodies and really harsh and strong death metal songs. We try to make big choruses and big melodies. Our goal was huge contrasts and I think we succeeded in that. Everybody can have their own ideas, opinions and inspiration from them, we don’t own them in that sense, but it is really nice when our thoughts come across with other people’s minds as well.

I am glad that you don’t overload the whole thing with too much orchestration or choirs…
No, no, I think our melodies are big enough without choirs. Yeah, many people want to try that, but let’s speak briefly. There are bands who succeeded it doing it well and there are bands who did not. I think it is always a risk that it doesn’t sound… how should I say that politically correct? - that it does not sound like shit (laughs). It is really hard you know. I think I myself personally, if I ever would go in that direction, I would think: ‘Where shall I put them and why do I put them there?’ But well, if people want to do it, well, go ahead.

The artwork is also very nice. I know that the same guy as always did it, Olli-Pekka, but he did a great job…
This is the seventh member of the band. We said: ‘these are the themes, these are the songs’ and we gave him free hands to imagine this thing and then he came up with this. We really like it. First we gave him more instructions for a direction, but when we gave him free hands and said: let us see what happens, then he really got it.

In Autumn you are going to hit the road again…
We are going to play at Summer Breeze in August. We are going to play a couple new songs there. Then we are going to North America with Amorphis, Moonspell and Dark Tranquillity. It is going to be great! Markus has toured with Moonspell with Insomnium before, we toured with Amorphis and Dark Tranquillity before and all of these guys are great! I am really looking forward to this tour. Next we have a European tour with Wolfheart, our Finnish companions. We played with them in 2016 in Finland. That will be great as well! Nothgard will also come with us. So we are going to have a busy Autumn! See you on the road!

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