Sunday, August 10, 2008
CD Review: Swamplord, by Kalmah (2001)
It really should be not possible for a band to deliver a debut CD of such excellence, but in Swamplord, Kalmah produce an outstanding collection of eight songs that can stand proudly with the best heavy metal ever.
The band's formula is simple: tremendous melodies tied to strong riffs and pure power. The unique sound is delivered through the layering of Antti Kokko's lead guitar, who effectively plays continuous independent lead melodies for the entire length of most songs without ever getting pretentious, on top of the mammoth foundation of bass, keyboards, drums and rhythm guitar that the other four members deliver with ridiculous ease.
Pekka Kokko's vocals are mostly a medium-pitched growl, mixed fairly to the rear, and supplement the music without ever interfering with it.
The band's musicianship and instrument control is stunning: there are never any moments of uncertainty in any of the songs, even when the arrangements get complex and speed changes are introduced. The style of music is strongly classically-infused metal, where controlled speed, melody, and artistic arrangements meet in perfect harmony.
It is rare enough for a debut CD to include one great song. On Swamplord, three of the songs gain immediate entry into the all-time Hall of Fame: Opener Evil In You, Hades, and CD closer Using the Word. Evil In You quickly gets into a jaw-dropping groove that is an epic combination of complex arrangements with a simple melody, and it ranks up there as one of the greatest CD openers ever. Hades introduces an incredibly soulful, emotive lead guitar riff in combination with a powerful yet controlled melody. And finally Using the Word confirms the brilliance of the CD by closing it out with a seemingly effortless lead guitar-in-story-telling mode, evoking a grand landscape.
The other five songs? They are simply great, and would stand out on any other CD. On Swamplord, great becomes normal. Kalmah earn respect for limiting this CD to eight songs, the correct length for most epic heavy metal CDs, and not cramming it with filler and inferior material.
Kalmah are one of the best heavy metal bands of this era. It's now up to the music world to catch on.
Altti Vetelainen - Bass
Pasi Hiltula - Keyboards
Antti Kokko - Lead Guitar
Petri Sankala - Drums
Pekka Kokko - Vocals, Guitar
Songlist (Ratings out of 10):
1. Evil In You - 10 *See audio link below*
2. Withering Away - 9
3. Heritance of Berija - 9
4. Black Roija - 9
5. Dance of the Water - 8
6. Hades - 10
7. Alteration - 9
8. Using the Word - 10
Produced by Kalmah and Ahti Kortelainen.
Mastered by Mika Jussila.
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