Kalmah - Swampsong (Cover Artwork)


Swampsong (2003)

Century Media

Ok, ok I'm sorry. I silently promised not to review anymore death metal, but this album has been in constant rotation lately so I had to inform the masses about it. The album in question is Kalmah's third effort, entitled Swampsong.

Now Kalmah started off back in 2000, and sounded almost exactly like another little death metal band called Children of Bodom. Then they put out an album in 2002, which was a spastic blend of black and death metal. 2003 brought Swampsong out of the bog, and here the band really nails their style. Building upon what they had done in the past, Kalmah have developed a melodic death metal style with a healthy helping of black metal frenzy. The guitarists play exceptional riffs and solos. Of particular interest is the guitar playing in "Tordah" and the somewhat minimal use in "Burbot's Revenge". The keyboards are phenomenal. Some songs have catchy little melodies, while other songs, such as "Bird of Ill Omen", contain ominous, almost unsettling keys. Yet in "Doubtful of it All", the keys and guitar work together to create an almost classical harmony. Drummer Janne Kusmin wails away on the skins, pounding out quick beats, and occasionally shattering speeds with blackened drumming. I tend to dislike this style of drumming, be it by Dimmu Borgir, Finntroll, or Children of Bodom, but Kalmah uses it masterfully, particularly in "Burbot's Revenge".

Singer (Screamer? Growler?) Pekka Kokko growls and hisses through most of the songs, the exception being the final track, "Moon of My Nights". His voice doesn't really lend itself too well to the music. As opposed to every other melodic death band, his vocals come across a bit cheesier than anyone else. Not too mention his English pronunciation is a bit off at times. The lyrics are competently written, covering topics such as the epic battle between fish and man ("Burbot's Revenge"), being cast as an outsider ("Tordah"), and paranoia ("Doubtful of it All"). They work well with creating a mood for each song. Nothing ground breaking, but it works.

For the most part, the songs blaze by with speed and intensity, with the exception of the last song, which broods slowly for about seven minutes. It's not a bad song per se, but its nothing really worth spending seven minutes on. In case you couldn't tell from the bulk of the review, "Burbot's Revenge" and "Tordah" are standout tracks, but really, this is a standout album. From the first riff though 43 minutes of melodic chaos, and ending on a slow note, Swampsong is a must for any metal fan, be it black metal, death metal, or anything in between (Which really isn't much).

PS: No more death metal reviews, I promise!