The 2012 Arsies: January 13, 2012

January 13, 2012

Rounding out the week of crushing competition are two very different styles from two Scandinavian bands: the Swedish djent of Vildhjarta and the Finnish melodic death metal of Omnium Gatherum.
Vildhjarta's “Måsstaden” starts out with a predictable enough djent staple: the lone, clean guitar tone drenched with more reverb than you'll find at the Grand Canyon. The sudden wall of sound at 0:45 isn't that surprising, then, until you hear what they're actually doing when they drop the hammer. The rest of the song, and the album that follows it, is spastic and disturbing even by the djentiest standards. There's so much strange and innovative soundcrafting going on here that it's almost impossible to track the unfolding music in a conventional sense. Forget individual tracks, grooves, or even riffs; “Måsstaden” is instead a stream of ugly moments, the essence of metal's most self-destructive impulses distilled. It's as if Meshuggah, Skrillex, and Igor Stravinksy were all the fathers of a test-tube superbaby, raised in secret and abused for years. I mean that in the nicest way possible, and no matter what, you have to promise me you're going to listen to some of this. Promise me.
After being worked over by Vildhjarta, Omnium Gatherum's “New World Shadows” is a welcomed breather. It's not nearly as devastating by comparison, with melodies and atmospheric keyboards and other pretty conventions. Of course, that doesn't sound like particularly good news for a metal competition, and by the end of the first track, I was convinced that Vildhjarta had this one in the bag, that Omnium Gatherum was simply outgunned. Twenty minutes later, “Måsstaden”'s aural assault receding from memory, the epic middle third of “New World Shadows” had me thinking otherwise. In a way, this album is a glimpse of what a less boring Opeth could sound like, again mainly the work of one guitarist, but this time less indulgent and more emotive in its scope. Some questionable vocal choices in the last half of the album notwithstanding, “New World Shadows” is a sprawling and self-assured album, and with it Omnium Gatherum defeats Vildhjarta. OG will take on DevilDriver at the end of this month.
Enjoy your weekend, because when we come back on Monday, two of the greatest albums of 2011 will duke it out, featuring The Human Abstract and Revocation.

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