Review Summary: A decent offering from a solid melodic death metal band. But is anyone still listening?
Call it swamp metal, death metal, power metal, whatever, but at the end of the day Kalmah is a genuinely decent melodic death metal band from Finland who have not only got the claims to inventing their own genre, but one of the most solid discography’s in melodic death metal to boot. Starting out in 2000 with the decent, of somewhat unsurprising “Swamplord” the band have been tweaking their sound ever since “The Black Waltz” to the sound we have today. Gone are the high-pitched Alexi-Laiho growls of previous releases and the sophistication, replaced with a dirtier, grittier thrash sound and deep growls that sit nice and comfortable within the genre. A truly revolutionary release this is not, but it is solid enough to demand the attention of anyone who is looking for a better entry in the genre than most other releases.
What Kalmah have done with this release, as they have done with their previous two is venture further into their thrash roots. The guitar riffs here are solid and have a more riff-orientated approach than on earlier releases, saving the short bursts of lead guitar work for when they are most effective. There is even one or two solo’s present which consolidate Pekka Kokko and Antti Kokko as a great pair of guitarists who have learned the key skills from their thrash idols. Furious riffage that Dave Mustaine would be proud of is present in spades in the title track, and “One of Fail” continues on an even more savage path, the riffs of the axemen carving their way through the melee of sound to devastating effect. Drums are dutifully performed by Janne Kusmin, who hands in one hell of a performance and bassist Timo Lehtinen acts as a solid foundation for the songs to build upon. The instrumentation on display here is performed with a certain savagery which is refreshing to hear, especially considering the genre has lacked a certain bite to it ever since “Twilight of the Thunder God” was released in 2008.
Vocally, the album gets the job done. Pekka Kokko has gone back to his deep-end growls of “The Black Waltz” which is surprising and somewhat disappointing given the quality of his higher-end efforts on “For the Revolution”. Nonetheless, much as Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth had done on his band’s latest release Kokko hands in a cleaner, more refined performance, which rids itself of the ill placed grunts and sound-off’s of earlier releases. There are also some rallying gang vocals present on much of the choruses and outro’s of the album which makes the listener want to do nothing but punch their fist in the air and chant along, so from that point of view this album must be doing something right. But while Kokko’s vocals sit nicely with the music, they are incredibly unoriginal and even somewhat dull, which limits the record from being as good as previous releases. If only he had added some higher pitched efforts, then we would have had a completely different story.
At the end of the day, what we have is most certainly a decent, if somwhat unspectacular melodic death metal release. The added thrash influence provides us with as much bite as melody and the rhythmic section is once again top-notch, if not improved from previous releases. Even though Pekka Kokko hands in a somewhat dull performance, the refinement present and added emphasis on deep growls mean it is somewhat easier to digest than the bands earlier material.
1. Bullets are Blind
2. One of Fail
4. 12 Gauge