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Kalmah - "For The Revolution" (CD)

Kalmah - "For The Revolution" CD cover image

"For The Revolution" track listing:

1. For the Revolution (5:07)
2. Dead Man's Shadow (5:01)
3. Holy Symphony of War (4:45)
4. Wings of Blackening (5:01)
5. Ready for Salvation (4:27)
6. Towards the Sky (5:09)
7. Outremer (4:40)
8. Coward (5:08)
9. Like a Slave (4:41)

Reviewed by on May 2, 2008

"The title track kicks in with a delightfully creative chorus that will have you slam-dancing with your nearest co-worker if you’re not careful."

2006's “The Black Waltz” was such a far cry from Kalmah’s previous releases that the plain fact that it was sonic perfection took some time to sink in. Some fans were disgruntled at the lack of the highly stylized, arcane material they had grown accustomed to, but most metalheads applauded the album, recognizing it as solid from start to finish. Now, Kalmah's fifth album, “For The Revolution,” is evidencing some self-exploration, as the sound transitions from their bold newer work into the depths of the swamp with their earlier releases. This arrangement disrupts the release's overall continuity, but certainly presents an interesting insight into the direction that the group is choosing to take.

Thematically, it is more in keeping with “They Will Return” and some of "The Black Waltz,” in discussing war and revolution -- you won't find any tales about burbots here. The second half of the album drops the energy and features the increased technicality of “They Will Return,” as well. Then again, although there is a stretching across different realms of their musical territory, these songs are undeniably new, not rhythmic regurgitations of what they’ve already offered.

Ah, but the vocals! What has Pekka been up to on this release? The vocals are in keeping with the harshness of “The Black Waltz,” yet there’s a bit more versatility this time around, as he doesn’t feel obligated to produce little else than guttural growls during the course of "For The Revolution." There’s nothing terribly high-pitched put forth either, and his voice typically explores a normal death-metal range. This brings about a “crowd-pleaser” feel, and it is unquestionably great to hear Kokko utilizing his entire vocal range, yet he’s not quite the powerhouse he was on the last album.

The title track kicks in with a delightfully creative chorus that will have you slam-dancing with your nearest co-worker if you’re not careful. The brothers Kokko shred their Finnish fingers off while Marco Sneck duels them with his legendary keyboards. True to form, this relentless rhythm is carried through to the synth-laden “Dead Man’s Shadow,” whose frantic nature is allusive of “Defeat” on the previous album.

“Holy Symphony of War” revisits excellent, older Kalmah beats, like “Heroes To Us,” yet the refrain is a bit silly and it doesn’t even sound that good. After this song, Kalmah’s signature frantic playing tapers off into more atmospheric songs. The songs proceed in a quick progression and become somewhat lost on the listener as the tempo slows.

“Ready For Salvation” has a lovely intro that brings up echoes of acoustic and organ-inspired melodies of the past, yet the dreamy song doesn’t really develop, unlike most of their tracks which explode into metal from a classical intro. “Towards The Sky” is packed with great riffing, and the work on “Like A Slave” is also inspired and uplifting. “Outremer” gets a lot closer to the “Swamplord” / “Swampsong” style, keeping things speedy as Kokko projects his most toxic vocals.

When considering the broad sweep of material that Kalmah has offered melo-death fans, this latest album comes up a bit short. “For The Revolution” lacks the ballsy experimentation that Kalmah tends to be successful with. There is no insane “Hades” to make you fling yourself into the pit, no “Groan of the Wind” to fill you with awe, no “Moon Of My Nights” to make you weep like an emo kid. While the display of talent is no less than on its predecessors, “For The Revolution” has an important flaw – it’s too safe and fails to amaze, just like “They Will Return.”

Melody and brutality danced comfortably alongside each other during “The Black Waltz,” but with the furthering intensity that “For The Revolution” puts forth, it appears that the mysticism and haunting ballads may be lost to the swamps permanently. One can only hope that the “The Black Waltz” wasn’t their magnum opus, and hopefully the devoted fans will see more of that gorgeous, powerful work in the future.

Highs: Technical, precise singing and instrumentation is utilized as the band synthesizes older and newer sounds

Lows: Slower, less brutal, less experimental, has the feeling of trying to please everyone

Bottom line: Fans of "They Will Return" will welcome this release warmly, but much of the die-hard swamp metal clan will find that this is not what they have come to love, as it barely touches upon the swamp sound or the waltz sound.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)