For The Revolution
is a very familiar album, but it also has this air of change about it, like Kalmah really wanted to go for something different here while still maintaining the trademark aspects of their sound. The song structures seem different, the way the album is produced seems different, just the overall feel here is something completely unexpected but also warmly recognizable. It’s a change which continues to set Kalmah father apart from many of the other melodic death metal bands out there, not because of the elements of their music, but the way in which they play it. For The Revolution
, their latest effort, is a very difficult album to describe simply because it just feels so different than anything Kalmah has yet recorded.
The way I see it is like a mix between their previous album The Black Waltz
and their second album They Will Return
. The lyrical content and the melodies are less centered around the whole ‘swamp metal’ kind of deal (which was pretty much Klamah’s trademark) and moved toward a more intense topic like war and revolution, bringing to mind songs such as “My Nation”, “Bitter Metallic Side”, and “Kill The Idealist”, straying farther away from the epic and nature-oriented sounds of “Moon Of My Nights”, “The Third, The Magical”, “Heritance of Berija”, and pretty much the entire Swampsong
albums. While this change is nice, it does leave the music with a very distinct, gaping hole, especially when you think of what Kalmah sounds like and all that the band represents. The closest thing we get here to the swamps of Finland is during the first 30 seconds of “Ready For Salvation” when we are introduced to a very welcoming and relieving acoustic guitar. I was very happy altogether with the new shift in aggressiveness and intensity, but I cannot go on without saying I really miss those “Moon Of My Nights” type tracks. This is, after all, Kalmah we are talking about here.
The music itself is still great, despite their more concrete style. Like it was in The Black Waltz
, the guitars really drive the melodies much more than the keyboards, whether you think this is for the good or the bad. Yes, the keyboards are still there, but they take a backseat to the guitars throughout the entire album. However, the guitarists play their hearts out on this album. The melodies in “Ready For Salvation”, “Outremer”, “Holy Symphony Of War” and “Wings Of Blackening” are swift, powerful, and impressionable. While the riffs are very, very melodic, a lot of them sound similar and may wear off after a while. What I can say is that there are no riffs like the legendary one which opened “Heroes To Us” back on their album Swampsong
, so don’t really expect anything as epic and insane as that. Most of the time the riffing is very melodic, though, through both the verses and the chorus, while still maintaining its heaviness. This is, after all, a very heavy and taxing album to listen to in its entirety.
There are solos present here, lots of them. In every song on the CD guitarists Pekka and Antti Kokko shred like there is no tomorrow, but still maintain a cohesiveness and steady riffing pattern so nothing sounds completely out of line or like it shouldn’t be there. There are many moments when there are some twin guitar leads, like the intro riffs to “Holy Symphony Of War” and “Like A Slave”. Kalmah still manages to throw in some awesome drumming too, and while you might not notice it over the guitars, take a moment to listen to just the drums and check out some of the really sick fills and double bass kicks which are thrown into the album. It’s the drums which really keeps the death metal portion of this album in line when the guitars are off doing something different. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the bass. It was produced very awkwardly and sometimes you can hear it, but other times you simply cannot. It’s not really noticeable at first, but after multiple listens and a concentration on it you will begin to see this pattern.
Probably the question you are all asking here is what exactly the vocals sound like. Are they the same death metal growl found on The Black Waltz
? Or is it that awesome high pitched screeching like on Swampsong
? I’m proud to report that it is a mix of both, and then some. To the great relief of my fears, those amazing, amazing screeches are back to accompany the growling, and it actually works out pretty well. I’d say about 80% of the time the vocals are growled, but sometimes during the verses we are greeted with that old but familiar screech many of us Kalmah fans enjoy. Also used are some really cool chants during the choruses of the more revolution-intensive songs like “For The Revolution” or “Holy Symphony Of War”. It fits the atmosphere of the lyrical content well and just seems to work with this album. There aren’t really any noticeable flaws with the vocals, and it is good news to see that Kalmah finally listened to the pleas of their fans to go back and include some of their older vocal styles.
The album as a whole is unrelenting and very taxing. It is difficult to listen to in one sitting, even though it is only 44 minutes long. The lack of softer, more melodic parts really takes its toll on the listener, since most of the melodies work their way in over a heavy backing riff. The only real noticeable break is during the beginning of “Ready For Salvation”, when acoustic guitars are played for the first 30 seconds. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just tiring on the mind and the ears, especially since no song dips below 4:27. It is nine tracks of intense, up-front melodic death. It’s not like I didn’t expect this, but I was really, really, really hoping for another grandiose closer like “Moon Of My Nights”, but sadly we are not given such a special gift with For The Revolution
Overall, the album is solid, very solid. The elements of old Kalmah and newer Kalmah are distinctly present and often work together in a majority of the songs. There are tons of melodies and solos flooding this album, and that is immediately noticeable upon the first listen. However, when all is said and done, For The Revolution
is just lacking something which puts it up there as Kalmah’s best. There is just no other way of saying it. These Finnish swamp metallers are missing the most vital part of their sound; the swamp metal. I miss the moments of shock and pure bliss like I had back with Swamplord
. I miss what Kalmah used to be and used to represent. However, as Kalmah continues to locate their identity among the murky waters and cold winds of Finland, let’s sit back and hope they realize that the place they want to be is the place they were before.