I've been into Kalmah for a few years now, getting started with the Black Waltz and For the Revolution then backtracking through their discography. Rather ironically, Swamplord, their first album, was the last one i listened to. Now, i'm quite the Kalmah fan and am at no end in waxing lyrical about the genius of They Will Return and Swampsong, but to be honest i wasn't really expecting and fireworks from this one; it was their debut after all. But i was pretty darn surprised with the quality of Swamplord.
For those of you unfamilair with the band, Kalmah play melodic death metal but differ from the likes of COB and Norther in that they are much more aggressive and heavy with a real extreme metal edge to them, maybe even a hint of black metal too. Kalmahs sound differs more in that they give the odd tip of the cap to the old school masters of Dark Tranquility and At the Gates while throwing in heathy doses of thrash and classic metal (does anyone else hear Megadeth lurking around at times?). Also, while they use classical and symphonic sounds in their music like their peers, Kalmahs keyboards give off a very dark, gothic, and renaissance/romantic feel thats quite far removed from the cheesy power metal-isms of their Finnish brethern. I guess this is what My Dying Bride might sound like if they were jamming with Amorphis and covering Slayer songs
All of the elements of their melodic yet hideously heavy sound - blast beats, classic metal riffs, blistering melodic death, neo-classical/reniesance melodies, throat-shredding vocals, virtiolic solos - are accounted for and expressed in some pretty darn good songs. While there sound would be developed to its apex on the following two albums, its pretty damn astonishing just how accomplished Kalmah sound on their debut. Songs like Hertiage of Berija, Alteration and Black Roija show a mastery of their instruments and grasp of melody beyond their then young years. its also rather frightening just how aggressive and fast they can play at times, only to bring you back down to earth with a solid groove section or melodic interlude when you least expect it. And damn me the brothers Kokko really know how to rip up their fretboards and trade riffs with one another.
Sure, anyone can pick out a few flaws with Swamplord. For one its all over too fast, and its pretty obvious that the band had a bit off effort to make in diversifying their song structures and experimenting with different influences. Pekka Kokko's voice, while by no means bad, is still not the demon he would unleash on Swampsong. Finally, more then a few times i get the feeling that the songs kinda explode in your face and leave you wondering where they've dissapeared too; the band doesn't always give their sound 'room to breathe' as it where. They did this on subsquent albums, and that marks the real difference between Swamplord and the albums to follow. But even with these critizisms in mind a huge voice in my head keeps ringning out 'ITS THEIR DEBUT ALBUM!!! CUT THEM SOME SLACK'. yup, and for a debut this is great stuff indeed
So, the bottom line on Swamplord is that if you're a fan of the genre and especially a fan of the band it is worth picking up, but i doubt this will convert and melodeath haters out there. Fans of Norther and COB might be put of by the brutality of the vocals, the blast beats and the darkness of it all, but as far as i'm concerned Kalmah are top dogs in the neo classical-melodeath crossover field and Swamplord, even though greatly surpassd by They Will Return and Swampsong, is a fantastic debut from these Finnish monsters.
p.s. i really think those of you who say Kalmah sound like Bodom really need to sit down and listen to them a bit harder, coz, although they use a lot of the same elements, they sound very different to me as they use much darker melodies and more atmospheric song structures that don't down wind down into endless widdle fests. I love Bodom but Kalmah are defo a much more mature and interesting band