Contrary to what the stark, black-and-white cover art suggests, Kalmah’s “Seventh Swamphony” is a flashy and fun combination of melodic and “extreme” Metal styles. I suppose that this is technically Melodic Death Metal – and indeed it was introduced to me as such – but in many ways it reminds me much more of Power, Symphonic, and even Neoclassical Metal, particularly with regards to the gaudy lead guitars and keyboards that are the driving force behind this music. In fact, the only aspect of this album that is particularly evocative of any sort of Death Metal is the growled vocals.
There is also an accessibility to this music. There is a focus on mid-paced grooves and songs like “Deadfall” are just begging to be shouted along to at concerts. Combine this with the album’s bouncy leads, pentatonic chord changes, and lyrics about hunting animals and you almost have a Folk Metal release.
Despite the garish indulgence and broad appeal, this music is not without substance. Power ballad “Hollo” has a nice arc, and when the band goes into 9/4 during “Pikemaster” it really helps to break the monotony of the album’s common-time chugging. Refreshing, too, is the meandering lead guitar line that gives life to the cliché chord progression that backs the chorus of “Wolves on the Throne.”
Unfortunately, there is plenty here that does simply feel mundane and during the second half of the album the band starts to sound like they’re running out of ideas. It doesn’t help that the album, aesthetically, is so lifeless. The ironic thing about this kind of production is that it ends up being just as muddy as the blackest of Black Metal.
“Seventh Swamphony” is a lively medley of disparate ideas by a band that – for better or worse – has been doing this for a long time and is clearly still having a good time. And while I remain fairly ambivalent, I think that people who enjoy bands like Children of Bodom or Wintersun or are just looking for an easy, fun listen will find plenty to enjoy here.
Album: Seventh Swamphony
Released: June 14th, 2013
Label: Spinefarm Records
Score: 5/9 Hammers