Coated in the polish of decades-long experience together, Omnium Gatherum ascended to the Nummirock main stage and created an atmosphere of fun. Their set was something of a musical ballet, with lead singer Jukka Pelkonen performing his growling vocals, pointing out enthusiastic crowd members, and leaping across the stage simultaneously. Clad in matching logo shirts, the rest of the band also generated kinetic energy by bouncing about the stage, trading places and sometimes taking the spotlight for a solo.
The band, including Pelkonen, Markus Vanhala (lead guitar), Aapo Koivisto (keyboards, backing vocals), Tuomo Latvala (drums), Erkki Silvennoinen (bass), and guitarist Jani Liimatainen (guitar, substituting for Joonas Kato), harnessed their signature, tenured brand of melodic death metal with songs such as “Refining Fire”, “Be the Sky”, and “Rest in Your Heart”.
Fans of all ages, from long-haul Omnium Gatherum loyals to young spectators holding their parents’ hands, admired the afternoon performance, although it did lack a mosh pit despite the band’s efforts to rile the crowd. One nude fan triumphantly made his way onto the stage, spending a few moments in place before running backstage, with the band seemingly undisturbed.
Vanhala, who has also served as guitarist for Insomnium since 2011, and Pelkonen both sat down with Metal Solstice on an unseasonably warm day to discuss their summer setlist choices, recall memories of New York City, and humorously speculate on one band member’s hidden talents (not mentioning any names, Koivisto!)
Metal Solstice: So what can we expect from your summer festival sets? Will the set list choices be similar for each, or will you make some variations?
Markus Vanhala: Well, it’s interesting because Nummirock is the first festival of the season, and today the sun is shining. It’s famous that it’s always raining and cold here, but there are still a few hours to check out if the weather will explode.
Jukka Pelkonen: We’ve tried to choose a couple of songs that people will expect us to play, of course. We’re going to play “Rejuvenate” from Grey Heavens, which we’ve only played like two times before. We played it in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and people really seemed to like it.
Vanhala: We’ve been too scared; it’s a really difficult one, so we’ve been too scared for the first three years of Grey Heavens! It’s a really funny thing today, you can expect to see for first time Jani Liimatainen playing with us. Our own guitar player Joonas is having a leave of absence. He cannot do the summer shows with us because of some life business, so Jani will be playing with us. It will be really weird, but really fun.
MS: But the chemistry on stage will be the same? What about for the other festivals, like John Smith Rock Festival, where we’ll see you again in July?
Pelkonen: Good old OG!
Vanhala: It’s so far in the future, so we never know. Well I hope the lineup will be the same; Jani will still be doing festivals with us. I think the set is going to be pretty similar.
MS: The Burning Cold been out for almost a year already. Are you working on any new material?
Vanhala: A couple of songs are in the really rough, early demo stages. I need at least one year to stay out of composing music for a particular band. You have to wash your brain, then silently start again.
MS: In other interviews, you’ve referred to The Burning Cold as “straightforward” and “in-your-face”. Is your vision for future releases in that same vein?
Pelkonen: We’ll try to do something fresh with the genre in general, but pretty much like OG style music still. This point there would be no point in starting an experiment with the music, because people are enjoying what we’re doing now, and we’re enjoying it, also.
Vanhala: Basic pro forma, but always bringing something new to keep it interesting for us. Like for example, it’s weird somehow; I have written many hard rock kind of riffs, so I’m just teasing with these: how do I think these hard rock riffs will do? Because it’s still going to be death metal, of course.
MS: For any fans who might be seeing you for the first time, or rediscovering you, what do you want them to take away from this performance?
Pelkonen: Enjoy! It’s pretty funny stuff that we’re doing, and we’re loving this. We hope that people can get into that love, and we’re spreading it to the people from stage.
MS: A question specific to Markus: I know you get this one often, but how do you bend time and space to juggle two highly active bands in OG and Insomnium?
Vanhala: Not easily! Somehow. I don’t even know. But now it’s going to be easier. In 2016, both bands released an album, so 2017 and 2018 were pretty crazy; I was like 200 days on the road. Now it’s again getting more; OG released an album last year, the other “mnium” will release an album at the end of this year. OG is starting to make new songs, and “mnium” is doing songs- so it’s going to be busy again.
MS: And will you be joining us in New York again anytime soon?
Pelkonen: Strong maybe for early next year, hopefully at least one time. We have the working visas for three years and we’d like to get back there for sure.
Vanhala: We played at the Gramercy Theatre at the start of the touring cycle; that was the after The Burning Cold was released. Gramercy- played there at the start of touring cycle at the Gramercy, that was the first show after The Burning Cold was released. This year we haven’t played USA, but the plan is to do a tour next year.
MS: Do you have any other New York memories that stick out, either at shows or time spent in the city?
Pelkonen: We did a photo shoot. Usually it’s so in-and-out with no time to see anything, especially last time since it was the first show of the tour.
Vanhala: But I do have a really good memory. Once I went to New York a week before the show, and it was New Year’s Eve. And I thought it was a good idea to go see- how do you call it?- the ball.
MS: Well that’s probably not a good idea!
Vanhala: [Laughs.] Yeah, and the best part is that we left like 30 minutes before it started, because we are living in Finland, we didn’t know that there is three times the population of Finland watching that ball! So, we didn’t see it, but we took a helicopter ride on top of the New York skyline.
MS: how close did you get, 20 blocks in another direction?
Vanhala: Central Park! So yeah, about 20 blocks away. But there were other fireworks in central park, which was cool because we thought we weren’t going to see anything.
MS: Tell me all your secrets: who in the band has a hidden talent?
Vanhala: Maybe our keyboard player because he hasn’t got- oh, wait, I can’t say that! It’s too rude! It’s really too rude.
MS: Sure you can!
Pelkonen: [Laughs.] Yes, please do continue.
Vanhala: Well he’s not talented, so we hope he’s got hidden talents! Joke! No, maybe every one of us has secrets that come out every month or so.
Pelkonen: We have divided personalities- many, many different divides. I don’t know if you want to call that a talent, per se, but it’s something at least.