Blackened thrash, melodic death/power, folk. Kalmah has been labeled as all that throughout the years, conquering followers and die-hard fans along the way. Whatever their metal weapon may be – death, folk, fish, swamp metal (yes, they call themselves swamp metal) or anything of the sort -, the Finnish quintet rise from the swamps once again to continue their (almost) immaculate legacy and teach the secrets of the fishermen to the masses, kicking some butts while they’re at it.
‘Palo’ is the eight full-album in Kalmah’s history and, as always, is led by the Kokko brothers Antti (guitars) and Pekka (guitars, vocals). With the strength of a thousand lakes and the help of loyal friends in Timo Lehtinen (bass), Janne Kusmin (drums) and their newest member Veli-Matti Kananen (keyboards), they deliver once again a vicious slab of Children of Bodom-esque riffs and Korpiklaani-like energy.
With great hooks and well-constructed leads, the Kokko brothers show inspiration from the start with “Blood Ran Cold”, a cool, yet simplistic, opener. The songwriting feels lucid and the performances run hot, all while paving the way to the better parts of the album. “The Evil Kin” follows a heavier path, which could be traced to the likes of Amon Amarth in the attitude and Pekka’s vocal lines.
The symphonic keyboards and the powerful kitchen provide great background support throughout the album, even when the production and mixing sound a little over-encumbering and crowd the instruments, which doesn’t happen often, but can clearly be spotted in “The World of Rage”, for instance. It’s fast-paced approach and strident guitars end up being too much to bear, but the final result is still satisfactory.
The evilness and that blackened style I mentioned earlier are back in Kalmah’s modus operandi since ‘Seventh Swamphony’, but are definitely more prominent in ‘Palo’. The visceral drumming technique seen in “Into the Black Marsh” is commonly heard in black metal albums, and the song’s entire aesthetic takes you back to the ‘Swampsong’/’They Will Return’ era. For purists like me this is a delicious banquet, as the band makes a statement that they’ve never lost their roots.
Because even badass swamp lords have a soft spot, “Take Me Away” comes to provide a safe harbor to the frenetic experience so far. While not slow in any way, it works as a semi-ballad and should be welcomed by the more melodic-driven ears.
The album picks its pace once again in the second-half with the destructive “Paystreak”, a guitar-enthusiast’s wet dream. The Finnish are on the peak of their steroid use here, bombing and striking everything in their way. “Waiting in the Wings” and “Through the Shallow Waters” make use of the melodic death vein of the band, in the way that the instrumental here is more technical and better crafted than in the previous half; the riffs even sound similar here, actually.
“Erase and Diverge” and “The Stalker” close the album in a worthy manner, by following the same footsteps of the heavier and darker songs of the record. Both are yet another statement that Kalmah has yet to abandon traditional and crafty riffing, thrashier moments and more extreme sounds pertinent to death and black, which is a great thing if you ask me.
‘Palo’ continues where ‘Seventh Swamphony’ left off with plenty of energy and kickass moments; the fact that the visceral elements seem to be back for good are yet another thing to praise, as it’s where Kalmah strives. By sounding so much like everyone and no one at the same time, the band is far past consolidating their unique identity, and so is free to play with their songwriting as they please, making the experience of listening to the record a fun one. It’s not, of course, their best moment (I give that prize to their first two albums), but is most definitely an album worthy of attention. Cheers to the fishermen!