May 22, 2013 in Reviews
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
It’s been a royal privilege, over the past few years, to acquire the taste for speedy, melodic death metal. Foremost among these bands has been Kalmah, and 2013’s Seventh Swamphony will at last be the second release of theirs that I’ve witnessed as a true fan. As such, I’ll admit that I have a certain measure of bias when it comes to their music, and I’ll try to remain my expertly detached self.
Screw that, this album rocks. It’s pretty bloody hard to argue with an opener like “Seventh Swamphony”. Immediately after hitting play, there are blast beats, tremolo picking, and synth hits all over the place. Kalmah is rarely a subtle band, even with their softer and more atmospheric sections (which I think of as dark and murky), and they place their aggression right up front with this one. Despite the raging swampstorm of an introduction, the pre-chorus and chorus of this song are exactly what has historically made Kalmah fans like myself fall inescapably into the glorious mire of tunes like “Alteration”, “One Of Fail”, and “Heroes To Us” throughout the years: memorable, growled vocal lines paired seamlessly with high, searing lead guitar to create a rapturous combination of melodic abrasion which, to me, is what this genre is all about.
Single “Windlake Trail” illustrates a very similar example of uptempo and high-energy riffing with a breakneck chorus, and one that many listeners have already had a chance to acquaint themselves with. However, equally valuable are songs like “Hollo”, with its creeping pace, maudlin melodies, varied sections, and permeating sense of potent despair and malevolance; and “Black Marten’s Trace”, which boasts one of Kalmah’s superb (if short-lived) keyboard intros, along with well-placed synth hits, frantically hurtling guitar leads, and a frenetic energy all its own.
The only nitpicking I have to do with this album is relatively minor. Aside from wishing all of their songs were as ostentatiously hooky as the titular opener (unrealistic in any sense), I’ve always felt that Kalmah’s albums run just a little bit too short for me. Their brand of melo-death is varied enough that I never feel as if I’m being presented with redundant material, nor do the songs run on for too long. Based upon the album lengths of the past few releases, at this rate the eighth studio work will land right around forty minutes. If you ask me, any full-length studio album that sits at less than that is pretty darn short, and I feel that it almost reflects lazily upon Wintersu-I mean, the band in question. Kalmah isn’t there yet, but I hope they aren’t any more concise in the future.
That’s a distant concern however. Seventh Swamphony is as rapid, as punchy, and almost as engaging as anything the band has done to date (after numerous listens to both, I still maintain that 12 Gauge is the high point), while still making little points of progress. In “Hollo”, we’re treated to a fair number of otherwise-elusive clean vocals from Pekka Kokko, and they do wonders for the feel of the song, and the backing key and guitar work in “Wolves On The Throne” feels like it could have come out of a grandiose symphonic arrangement of the gothic metal persuasion.
Kalmah is a band that has its niche hammered out very well, and continues to offer both classic examples of its successful formula, as well as slowly fleshing out its sound to incorporate a few more interesting elements. Everyone has their own Kalmah song, and while all are recognizably from the same band, they are also distinct in and of themselves. Likewise, Seventh Swamphony maintains the steady and sure course of a band with terrible, moist purpose. All fans of the band need to own this – it’s another winner, and not a bad spot to start for new listeners either. I’ll be spinning this for years.
4.25 // 5