Review Summary: Finnish fire
It was only last year that I became aware of Kalmah. My curiosity about this particular genre has only recently awakened, after listening to Be'lakor's Vessels
. Australians' stunning 2016 release was thus my turning point in melodic death metal, a genre I've always found somewhat annoying, repetitive and devoid of originality. Sure, I've always enjoyed some melody on its most aggressive form, but, with some exceptions, much of the music that came out rested solely on an easy collage of Iron Maiden, European power metal and death metal, a formula I didn't find sufficiently attractive or challenging. In this sense, Vessels
opened the door to Kalmah, allowing me to discover the band's discography unreservedly.
Kalmah reaches 2018 with seven full-length under their belt, being widely accepted as one of the most interesting melodic death metal bands of the past 20 years. The band's first four releases became cornerstones of the genre alongside albums such as Wintersun
, and even the less consensual For The Revolution
, which I particularly enjoy, displays an undeniable quality. So it's with remarkable consistency that we get to Palo
the band's long-awaited eighth album.
The opener "Blood Ran Cold" immediately reveals what we can expect from Palo
. Even after an unusual four-year break, the Finnish swamp lords don't seek to change or innovate their formula, on the contrary the band shows itself to be broadly confident and comfortable with its roots, something perfectly audible in the opener that explores the typical Kalmah balance between melody and controlled aggressiveness, where the heavier verse meets the catchy folksy chorus in the most natural and spontaneous way. This balance is a key part of the band's DNA and is always present on Palo
, whose songs flow naturally as parts of an unpretentious painting made by an artist who elegantly reveals his maturity in a simple and straightforward manner. Another interesting and distinguishing element present are the engaging thrashy riffs that pop out every now and then, spreading some welcome testosterone throughout the album. If Palo
starts well, it's in the second half that I find my personal highlights on songs like the vibrant "Paystreak" or the super catchy "Waiting in the Wings" and "Through the Shallow Waters". These three songs, through their appealing approach and pleasant balance that I described previously, perfectly synthesize Kalmah's strengths, being the main reason why I appreciate this band so much.
doesn't bring anything new, it's not a breath of fresh air nor will it be remembered as a milestone of the genre, but this Finnish fire still has enough strength to burn some wood and forge good songs, and a good song still means something.