Kalmah – Lords of the Swamp

Thursday, 28th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

It just keeps coming back, this new Kalmah record. For the Revolution is leaps and bounds ahead of the melodic death metal competition for 2008, a contingent that includes heavyweights In Flames and Children of Bodom, no less. For Kalmah, the return of the sanguine, but hard-edged melodic angle of their earlier efforts sealed the deal for this scribe, as glowing numbers like “Towards the Sky,” “Outreamer,” and “Like A Slave” are instant classics, veritable throwbacks to the era when Finnish melodic death metal was still fresh in our minds.

Widely considered to be the third rung on the Finnish melodic death metal scale behind Bodom and Norther, Kalmah has proven to be more consistent than both Bodom and Norther, with 2002’s monumental (but band disowned – see below)They Will Return and 2003’s charming Swampsong putting the Kalmah boys in striking distance of the melo-death crown.

Yet the band remains a cult commodity in North America, the result of poor domestic backing after a short-lived union with Century Media for the band’s first three albums. After a three year layoff, the band returned in 2006 with the average The Black Waltz, which lacked the dicey melodic flourishes the band was known for. And while Laiho and co. raced across the US with flash, zeal, and a teeny-bopper following, Kalmah were left to sit at home and stew. Not exactly the stuff melodic death metal dreams are made of, eh?

With Blooddrunk failing to hold up after four months and no real competition in sight outside of the very mighty Omnium Gatherum, 2008 is the year of Kalmah. Naturally, the very humble Antti Kokko (lead guitars) is totally unaware of this fact and the constraints of an email interview prevented Blistering.com from showering Kokko with verbal pleasantries. Still, we had to get to the bottom ofFor the Revolution and try to pick Kokko’s brain on the aforementioned They Will Return, an advance Kokko would quickly dismiss.

Blistering.com: Are you pleased that For the Revolution is now getting a proper North American release?

Antti Kokko: Yes, definitely. I have already heard about the sales numbers and it seems there was surely need for a proper release.

Blistering.com: At this point, how much of a priority is the American market? Better yet, do you feel you have the chance of ever making a name for yourself?

AK: Well, everyone knows that the American market is big, but for us right now it is only a plus that we get albums sold all over the world and our fan base gets bigger and bigger. We are not professional metalheads, so there is no absolute need for us to actually conquer the US right away. We can take it slowly. We had a chance to come for a first tour to US in October but unluckily it didn’t fit to our schedules.

Blistering.com: Do you look at what Bodom has done and think Kalmah can do it better, or is it just not in the band to write such commercial and poppy songs?

AK: We are not looking any bands in that way and we don’t care what they do. We just concentrate on our own music and try to enjoy it as much as possible. If someone else likes our music, that is just a bonus for us.

Blistering.com: For the Revolution is much more melodic than The Black Waltz. Going into the recording of the new album, were you and the band dedicated to the idea of being more melodic?

AK: We had no guidelines for the new album. We just trusted the inspiration as with all previous albums and this time the inspiration came up with more melodies. This album turned out to be some kind of mix of all our albums. There are feelings from Swamplord and the heavy riffs of The Black Waltz combined with the new sound we managed to pull out. For me, this album has the best sound we have ever managed to do.

Blistering.com: One of the more melodic songs on the album is “Outremer.” What’s the story behind this one?

AK: That is the only song Marco (Sneck, keyboards) did for the record. The rest of the songs are written by me or Pekka (Kokko, vocals/guitars). Marco is into power metal and symphonic stuff and for me, that song is very much written in vein of power and symphonic metal. Marco did the song from the beginning to the end and we just learned how to play it. On The Black Waltz, Marco had all in all three songs. Of course, I added some extra to the melodies to get it Kalmah-like, but not much.

Blistering.com: “Ready for Salvation” is certainly a departure song for Kalmah. What made you want to try something more slow and atmospheric?

AK: Actually, that song was written back in 1994 and now it was time to really put it on track. We have never even recorded the song for demos. It has been waiting for the right time to come and we thought it was now. For me that song represents some of the roots of our influences and leads us to the great records of Paradise Lost [like] Shades of God and Icon.

Blistering.com: “Towards the Sky” sounds like it could have been on They Will Return. Do you share that sentiment?

AK: Yes I do. Pekka wrote both of the songs and they have same kind of atmosphere. Even the riffs and tempo are pretty close to each other if I think of them in-depth.

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