Melodic death metal as practiced by the Swedes and Finns is alive and well, and those swamplords from Kalmah proudly bear the standard in their sixth studio album, 12 Gauge. In our humble opinion, it’s the best music these five dudes from the northern marshes of Finland have put out since 2003’s Swampsong.
It’s the same model Kalmah have been driving since the beginning, but they’ve given their machine an oil change, a tune-up, and a supercharger, and it’s running fast and smooth. Hop in, fire it up, and the adrenaline starts flowing.
12 Gauge is filled with thrash-metal speed, hammering rhythms, and enough infectious power-metal riffs to wake the dead and set their heads to banging. But this is melodic death metal, and so 12 Gauge also delivers blistering melodic guitar solos and soaring keyboards. Pekka Kokko’s vocals supply a low-end howl that provides an effective contrast and complement to the melodies.
For variety, folk-metal stylings make an appearance on “Better Not To Tell” and “Sacramentm,” and in acoustic intros to “Rust Never Sleeps” and the title track, while black-metal style tremolo work mixes with swirling guitar and keyboard solos to flavor “Godeye”.
Lyrically, the songs are as interesting as the music. (more after the jump, including some Kalmah-style swamp metal to stream . . .)
For fans of “Burbots Revenge” from Swampsong, “Hook the Monster” provides another fish revenge story, this time as a massive bonehead reaches back from the dead to bring down the fisherman who caught him via a bone in the throat. “Rust Never Sleeps” effectively skewers imams who fill the minds of their followers with divine lights and causes them to dance like marionettes on a string.
In a pox-on-both-your-houses turn-around, “Bullets Are Blind” condemns politicians (most likely American ones) who deliver death in far away lands and can’t get out of the mess they’ve created. “12 Gauge” provides a cautionary tale about the perils of searching for well-being in a bottle of pills. And on the album’s longest song, “Sacramentum” tells in epic fashion about a gladiator fighting for his life in a foreign land.
It’s tough not to compare Kalmah to Children of Bodom, given the stylistic similarities, and although we’re devoted fans of COB, Kalmah’s latest entry surpasses Blooddrunk. It’s just more fucking fun than the law allows.
Have a taste of Kalmah-style swamp metal:
Random observation: The first song on 12 Gauge is called “Rust Never Sleeps.” That rang a bell with us. Rust Never Sleeps is also the name of a critically praised album Neil Young released in 1979. “Rust never sleeps” was also apparently an advertising slogan used in the early 70s by Rust-Oleum, a maker of protective paints and coatings.
According to a Rolling Stone article in 1979, Young got the idea for the album name when he heard the phrase in a song by the band Devo. Two members of Devo reportedly created the phrase for Rust-Oleum when they worked in advertising. “To Young, it fit his very career, and his battle against the dreaded, creeping disease of trying to make a good thing last.”
In case you were wondering, we can’t find any obvious connection between the Neil Young album and the Kalmah song. As Kalmah uses the phrase, it refers to old prophets, long dead in the grave but still capable of seducing impressionable minds and leading them into fatal traps.