Originally written by Sasha Horn
I have a love/extremely tame dislike relationship with Kalmah. My judgment goes impaired whenever they release something new. I always thoroughly enjoy it though, despite the fact that these ears hear the same album written five times now in twice as many years. But I turn one blind eye to that and let the other take in the cover art (killer, again), and then just go with it. I can’t fight it. Kalmah always wins.
It’s “keyboard heavy melodic death metal” for the newcomer; “keyboard heavy melodic death metal” for everyone really. There’s not much more to it, and I mean that in the best possible way. Drawing comparisons the world abroad to Children Of Bodom to an unhealthy degree, Kalmah always seemed to me to have a bit more grit under their nails and more gravel in their mouths. Less thrashy, less flashy, and less cosmetic than Bodom, but with more depth, and definitely a more suitable soundtrack for battle scenes. It’s a dirty mirrored reflection of typical keyboard-happy Finnish metal bands.
It’s been ten years now that they’ve been standing covered in their own filth and they still stand to offend more people. Impressive. Go back and work their entire back-catalog. Listen closely enough to what’s underneath those blankets of synths, and you will hear an above average melodic take on death metal by anyone’s standards. No keys are required. Enter the fluff that the keys do inject, with skill I might add (I’ve never taken well to this additive, but you gotta give credit where credit is due), and you get a slight victory-in-warfare metallic color blended in with all that flat-black that suddenly makes Kalmah songs suitable for excessive drinking and screaming along. Tastes great. Less filling. I don’t mean like an all out drunken Finntroll-style campfire collection, just don’t expect to hear dead people fucking and eating each other for these 44 minutes, far from it.
And so yeah, once again all of those colors and feelings are on display here, vibrant and vulnerable, starting with the opener “For The Revolution” setting the tone for this conquest of the same name. A common strategy of theirs is to storm with menace right outta the gates, usually set up with a sick riff (“Holy Symphony of War”, “Wings of Blackening”, the aforementioned “For The Revolution”) gluing together several seconds of a mid-paced head start to the built momentum of a full-swing barrage of blast-beating, layered guitars, and the “key” ingredient. This is just one battle command though.
Another tactic is to cool things off, lay low, and re-assimilate. You can hear them mourning their fallen in the acoustic guitars and down-tempo of “Ready For Salvation”, and then licking their wounds and gathering strength in the steady and driving pulse of “Dead Man’s Shadow”. This collective is a slightly more docile affair though, due in part to the production side of things. The drums feel very one-dimensional, with the snare getting the paper-thin treatment; lifeless. The toms could use a pulse as well. This is their main cross to bear on For The Revolution, aside from their Achilles heel in the form of songwriting that gets brought to light more so with each release, like how I’m finding this to be with every new spin, a slightly exhausted extension of the excellent Black Waltz. Which, if you paid close enough attention to the last six words of the previous sentence, is not a bad thing at all. However, I can’t see this blemish coming into full view as long as it can live under the skin of their over qualified musicianship, with several guitar tablature sites on your world wide web holding testament enough to the strength and skill of the warriors leading this here ’08 revolution. Alexi Laiho (guitarist; Children Of Bodom) styled guitar hi-jinx not included. This isn’t nail-polished thrash ‘n’ roll fretboard hurdling. This is scathing down-home barn-burning, Oulu style.
There’s rhyme and reason here as always. Kalmah dragged the swamps for the old blueprint that’s worked so well countless times now. Predictable? Yes. You don’t have to dig deep to find their essence. I like that. My work weeks are looooong. Ask me if I feel like excavating come Saturday, and I’ll tell you that I’d rather Kalmah.