They Will Return (2002)
Never a band to take itself overly seriously, Kalmah lives and dies by its reverence of Finland’s primordial wetlands. While its swamp-this, swamp-that M.O. may confuse some new listeners, it’s at least nice to see someone writing about something they’re passionate about. In the end, it’s Kalmah’s relentless melodic attack that justifies its thematic shenanigans. The band’s latest album Seventh Swamphony features machine-gun drumming and dazzling twin guitar lines, as lead guitarist Antti Kokko sounds hell-bent on proving he still has the warp speed chops he showed on the band’s classic early cuts “Hades” and “Principle Hero.” As the band shifted towards a Thrash-metal approach, both guitarists aimed for a more aggressive sound, learning to play with 45-degree angle downstrokes (jynkhä in the band’s native tongue) for maximum punch. The result has been a string of beefier and thrashier albums, but on Swamphony they seem to have returned to their previous techniques for crafting swift, intertwined tremolo riffs, while pushing for even more intensity and speed without sacrificing dexterity.
Pekka Kokko’s vocals, while guttural like most death metal, are often rather articulate for the genre. His choruses benefit greatly from the intelligibility of his rasp, as he delivers some tremendous lines on songs like the new seven-minute epic “Hollo.” A favorite topic of Kalmah’s is writing odes to the band’s pastimes of hunting and fishing (“Black Marten’s Trace,” “The Trapper,” “Pikemaster”), tying the band’s newest album to its predecessors which featured songs such as “Hook the Monster” and “Burbot’s Revenge.” Kalmah means “to the grave,” and the band lives up to its moniker by holding nothing back. Kalmah may never be accused of being the most visionary metal act, but the band deserves credit for their approach to a genre largely content to recycle itself. Kalmah’s steady core lineup seems to have found an ideal mix of brutality and adrenaline, but continues to separate itself from contemporaries such as Arch Enemy and The Haunted by never being content with that balance.