(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Kalmah, which is being released today in North America by Spinefarm Records. There’s also a full-album stream after the review.)
Finnish melodic death metal today is a totally different beast than it was back in the day. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, music of the kind turned out by bands like Insomnium and Before the Dawn was in the extreme minority. Instead, what you had was a massive movement of bands who relied heavy on neo-classicism, cheesy synths, and a decadent excess of guitar harmonies that would span up to four guitars. Early Children of Bodom, Wintersun, and Kalmah were the defining bands of this particular style. While Children of Bodom in my opinion jumped the shark and went beyond the point of no return a long time ago, Wintersun have proved they still have it in them. However, the truly persistent warrior is Kalmah, who’ve been doing their thing, and doing it well, non-stop since they started.
Seventh Swamphony is another fine addition to Kalmah’s discography and a testament to their consistency. For a band to release their seventh album and still maintain the standard they originally set is a rare and commendable accomplishment. I really think their charm lies in their fun combo of black metal ferocity and vocal bent, folk and neoclassical melodic choices, and their particular (and quite frankly astounding) proficiency in using dual (or more) guitar lines to great effect in their compositions.
For me, this band has been like the Amon Amarth of melodic death metal from Finland. They are always doing roughly the same thing, yet it’s consistently excellent. So really, I could end this review at “it’s a Kalmah” album and I’d have pretty much summed it up for you. But there may be some readers who don’t even know who these guys are (I do still run into people who’ve never even heard of them), so I’ll add a few more words.
Kalmah play a style of fast, driving melodic death metal that relies on sharp tremolo-picked riffing, harmonized noodling, synth- or guitar-driven lead melodies (sometimes in unison), and scorching solos to create a result that is electrifying, visceral, and catchy. The walls of guitar harmony I mentioned earlier are also prevalent, although here they are done with a black metal sense of abandon to great effect. The title track, with a reoccurring folkly guitar-driven motif that powers its verse, pretty much sums up Kalmah in a nutshell.
Kalmah simply know how to make hooks that are consistently interesting, and they have the ability to blend the guitars and synths seamlessly with one another to create a synthesis of sound that is regal and reckless all at once.
Seventh Swamphony is in the end, as I said earlier, yet another Kalmah record. But really, would we ask for anything different?