Review Summary: neoclassical-melodic-power-death-folk-cluster***-metal, now with more swamp.
Since their humble beginnings, Kalmah have constantly been compared to fellow Finnish countrymen Children of Bodom and their delightful clone, Norther. The genre of which these three bands play has been subject to debate by all metallic idiots looking for a chance to flash their intellectual...intellect. (They’re melodic death metal! No they’re power metal with harsh vocals! No they’re neoclassical-melodic-power-death-folk-cluster***-metal!). Hell, the bands have even gone down similar paths in terms of overall progression (or lack of, rather). Children of Bodom and Norther both may have started out with fun-loving, highly energized 30 minute albums of neoclassical-shred but with the release of “Blooddrunk” and “N” respectively, the two seemed to have thrown in the towel and turned into gimmicky quasi-industrial death metal bands. Subsequently, both bands became a shadow of their former self, and it would be hard-pressed to see them return to what they used to be.
Two years ago, with the release of For the Revolution
, I feared Kalmah may be going down a similar path. The album was bland, uninspired, and lacked the badass swamp-fueled shenanigans of great albums such as Swamplord
or They Will Return
. So perhaps it was because I had very little expectations, (in all honesty I had no idea 12 Gauge existed until a few weeks ago) but when I gave Kalmah’s sixth full-length release a listen, I was surprised to say the least.
12 Gauge ***ing rips.
It’s true. Kalmah’s general sound may not changed much since The Black Waltz,
but for the first time since Swampsong
the band actually sounds like they’re enjoying themselves. Take the chunkiest, thrashiest riffs from The Black Waltz
and infuse it with the energy and for lack of a better word, “shred” of They Will Return,
and you have a pretty solid idea of the album’s sound. Songs such as “Godeye” and the absolutely enthralling “Bullets are Blind” blister along at speeds not approached by Kalmah since “The Blind Leader”, where as slower tracks such as “Sacramentum” and the title-track bring to mind classics such as “Moon of My Nights” or even “My Nation.”
Unlike on older albums where they were directly in the foreground, the keys have settled back in the mix on 12 Gauge
for the most part. However, where on For the Revolution
the symphonic elements were abused and obnoxious at times, the keys are utilized absolutely perfectly this time around. On the previously mentioned title-track and the doomy “Sacramentum,” the keys provide minimally symphonic touches that boost the songs’ atmospheres tenfold. When it comes time to shine however, such as the intro to “One of Fail” or the pre-chorus of “Bullets Are Blind,” they do not disappoint and remind the listener that Kalmah still have some shred left in their tank.
Even the production seems to have been kicked up a notch on 12 Gauge.
On For the Revolution
the guitar riffs sounded absolutely flat and lifeless. However, the moment after the haunting acoustic intro of “Rust Never Sleeps” ends, it becomes apparent that the riffs on this album are some of the densest and meatiest of Kalmah’s career. Hook the Monster
begins with an absolutely monstrous riff which thunders on for the majority of the four-minute song’s duration, and opener “Rust Never Sleeps” has an arsenal of magnificent riffage. Though the song writing has definitely improved over the last few albums, the production works wonders on the album’s texture.
All in all, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear Kalmah put out an album like 12 Gauge
. With it’s release Kalmah have proven that they are not going down the same path their fellow countrymen have without a fighting chance. And really, they succeeded.
:edit: Actually fuck that I'm gonna rank this shit.
1. Bullets Are Blind
3. Rust Never Sleeps
5. Hook the Monster
6. 12 Gauge
7. One of Fail
8. Better Not to Tell
4 gigantic Norse swamp-trolls out of 5