Thursday, October 21

Kalmah - 12 Gauge

12 Gauge


A steady rain beats upon the window to my immediate left and, even though it is nearly the middle of May, I feel as if autumn is approaching as it does at summer's end and, even if just for a fleeting moment, it is Kalmah's season once again. Indeed, Kalmah have, to these ears, always captured the essence of autumn quite well with their unique and instantly recognizable form of melodic death metal (which possesses a rather melancholy atmosphere, despite the otherwise high-energy compositions) and, to celebrate the release of their most recent album - 12 Gauge - with a review, I can think of no better time nor circumstance to do so than now.

The album begins with two acoustic guitars interplaying rather gloomy melodies off of one another and, only moments afterward, does a lonely trumpet begin to float atop the guitars; aye, the atmosphere is already set only 30 seconds into the album. It is not too long (less than a minute, in fact) after that the metallic ferocity kicks-in and, thus, the album begins full-force. Rust Never Sleeps is an unquestionably good opener, showcasing the melodic breadth Kalmah have always displayed from album-to-album and, as is a staple in the band's sound, there's plenty of killer guitar and keyboard solos to feed upon, too. One To Fail follows with some fantastic guitar/keyboard interplay opening the track up and, before the song's end, you'll undoubtedly be shouting "Hiiop!" with Pekka Kokko all the way home.

Venturing further into the album's swampy and morose depths do we find some of Kalmah's best work, easily. The title-cut is one of the Finn's most well-crafted pieces all-together, beginning (like the opener) with a reflective acoustic moment that quickly becomes a head-banging one and, as the lyrics swirl about regarding the dangers of utilizing medication and substances to take care of problems that assuredly cannot be cured in such a manner, one can't help but to realize just how far the band has come since Swamplord (Kalmah's debut album). Both of Marco Sneck's (the band's keyboardist) compositions are impeccable, with Godeye's mid-section being one of the catchiest of the band's career and Sacramentum being the band's most epic piece yet, undoubtedly. Yes, Sacramentum is quite a beast in its own right, taking the melancholy grandeur of 12 Gauge to its towering pinnacle; this is definitely a song that is better heard than written about, so I suggest you do the same. ;)

I'd like to take a brief moment to highlight the production, as the album truly sounds fantastic; it is hard-hitting, dirty (but clean enough for all of the instruments to come through in their own right) and dark. Granted, I've never felt that any of Kalmah's albums were badly produced or mixed in any regard, however, I feel the purely audible aesthetic of 12 Gauge eclipses all past production jobs.

If the old man wading through the bog on the cover were to figuratively be Kalmah, he would certainly slay the fish-headed-hawk beast with ease and, really, that is just what 12 Gauge is: a triumph! The band started off amidst the shadow of Children Of Bodom (though, between you and I, I have always thought they were better) and, now, they're a force all their own, with a sound that has grown to be uniquely their sound, and no one else's. I cannot help but to think that the Finns must be quite proud of the direction they have taken and, without question, 12 Gauge is the utmost justification of such, as the musical craftsmanship showcased here is simply immaculate. Finland's melodic death metal movement has a king, valorous and stern upon his throne, and the diadem that rests upon his mighty brow crowns none other than Kalmah, and Kalmah alone; hail!

8.75 // 10

- - -

- - -

Originally written for Belgium's Fueled Magazine.

No comments: