Kalmah
Swamplord


3.5
great

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (120 Reviews)
February 27th, 2016 | 132 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Who knew swamps could be so inviting?

Metal is nothing if not loaded with various flavors. Several subgenres came to be in the 1990's, a time when using words like "melodic death metal" would sound out of place, like an anthropological term. Yet thanks to the likes of Sweden's Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and At the Gates, that exact description (among others) would become commonplace. Simultaneously, another country was preparing its own metallic trio, comprised of Children of Bodom, Norther and Kalmah. Of these Finnish acts, Kalmah (formerly Ancestor) has managed to garner the most respect, primarily thanks to their consistency in style and substance.

Kalmah's first chapter, Swamplord, introduced listeners to a blend of melodic death metal the band identifies as "swamp metal." The label is certainly peculiar, but as one becomes acclimated to Kalmah's music, it begins to make sense. One of Swamplord's immediate surprises is how often it will compel you to return. As the debut for a relatively unknown band, rough production values are to be expected. Yet Swamplord is an album that actually benefits from being a bit of a roughhouse. Kalmah's themes are of a murky nature, which naturally influences the music. The effect is of a trickling nature; the more you listen, the more you'll notice. Some moments do make a more immediate impression than others, however, such as "Hades," arguably the album's most popular track. Showcased in full are the transformative guitar leads, constantly alternating aggressive speed and stirring, melodic licks. Also on display are a combination of harsh vocals from Pekka Kokko. He leans towards high-pitch screams, much like his aforementioned peers, but also occasions in the deeper tones that would better characterize their later efforts.

Adding to Swamplord's melodic flair is the fairly discrete use of keyboards. These are often used to impart a faint, folk-inspired sound, such as a brief piano-like segment on "Heritance of Berija" and the subsequent opening to "Black Roija." Where a band like Children of Bodom are more inclined to make keyboards join the rest of the band and achieve an all-over-the-place sensation, Kalmah's use imparts a more mature sensation. They aren't concerned with exuberance so much as they are with atmosphere (see "Dance of the Water"), an atmosphere that's both dirty and refreshing. Another reason Kalmah avoid sounding boisterous is because of their adherence to mostly basic song structures. Melodic death metal is a comfortable subgenre because it typically avoids sprawling passages, and Swamplord keeps this fact in-check. One side effect to this, however, is that barely any of the album's tracks stand out for their entire length, all the more evident due to the album's short length (36 minutes). Even those that do muster a more lasting impression aren't going to ingrain themselves in your mind. You'll enjoy what you hear, be it for the first time or the seventh, you'll just have difficulty remembering the tracks after moving on to something else.

Kalmah's first venture into listener's ears is an enjoyable, occasionally stimulating slice of early melodic death metal. Their self-proclaimed brand of "swamp metal" is relatively fitting, although less discerning listeners won't see the album as anything more than competently made Finnish music. The good news is that this is still a better position than most bands find themselves in after two or three albums, and considering Kalmah's future endeavors, this works all the more to their favor. Swamplord doesn't do enough to stand out in the grand scheme of things, but it does offer enough to keep you entertained and interested while it lasts.



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user ratings (508)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
jayfatha (3.5)
Kalmah plays good melodeath. That's all that really needs to be said....

ReturnToRock (3.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 27th 2016


1440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Figured this could use a new review.

zaruyache
February 27th 2016


21418 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

the rating is too low tho O:

Digging: Death Toll 80k - Step Down

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2016


1440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

It's really good, but I wouldn't give it higher than a 3.7

Sevengill
February 28th 2016


9307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

album rules. Evil In You and Hades are on par with Moonshield, Blinded By Fear, and any other classics of the genre.

Digging: Sur Austru - Meteahna Timpurilor

EvoHavok
February 28th 2016


7701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review. I certainly like the album more than you heh. I remember after first hearing "Hades" I just wanted to check their whole discog.

Digging: Lacuna Coil - Black Anima

mifzal
February 28th 2016


3352 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My favorite Kalmah album. I know TWR and 12 Gauge are technically better. But can't win against nostalgia

Sevengill
February 28th 2016


9307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

12 Gauge is solid but a little samey. I like Pekka's raspy vocals more than the growls, too. Really unique and volatile.

Flugmorph
February 28th 2016


21820 Comments


alexa what album would you rec me as a starting point with this band?

Digging: Opeth - In Cauda Venenum

EvoHavok
February 28th 2016


7701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Any of the first four.

Flugmorph
February 28th 2016


21820 Comments


didnt know you are alexa but thanks anyway ;D

EvoHavok
February 28th 2016


7701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Eh, you can remove the last letter and you get my name ;).

Flugmorph
February 28th 2016


21820 Comments


well. you got me again

Sevengill
February 28th 2016


9307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

He's not wrong. I started from the beginning because this and Return were on sale at the iTunes store for $10 as a package deal. If you like melodeath, go from the beginning. If you like beefier thrash type death, start with 12 Gauge or Black Waltz.

Flugmorph
February 28th 2016


21820 Comments


i think i will start from the beginning then

EvoHavok
February 28th 2016


7701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Hades" is forever a jam.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 29th 2016


1440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

My first album by them was Swampsong, and because that's when I was just getting into metal and I had a big hard-on for CoB, you bet I loved that album. I ended up listening to FTR as well, which was bland, and ignored them until Seventh Swamphony.



I'll listen to TWR and TBW pretty soon, after enjoying this as much as I did.

Keyblade
February 29th 2016


28119 Comments


hades m/

black waltz is my fav by these guys

Sevengill
February 29th 2016


9307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

For the Revolution has "Toward the Sky" and "Like a Slave," which are two of the most baller tracks ever. The latter has about eleventeen kickass riffs. Other than that the album can get a little tedious.

Sevengill
February 29th 2016


9307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I lied, it's only seven riffs.

mifzal
February 29th 2016


3352 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

FTR is too mellow and I don't like the sound. 12 Gauge was the perfect redemption, arguably the best lead performance by the band. Antti is really showing this technically in later albums



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