Release DetailsLABEL Spinefarm
RELEASED ON 2/22/2006
The Black Waltz
posted on 5/2006 By:
In today’s fast-paced music world where the defining characteristics are exploiting the sound of the moment, it is rare for a band to release consistently excellent material. So many bands either start off strong and suffer a sophomore slump, or begin sloppy and gradually improve to where they have a lengthy discography before they achieve any wider notice. In light of these usual paths, Kalmah’s career is all the more impressive as every one of their four albums has been superb. How many other acts start off their career so strongly? Perhaps the only criticism that may be deserved is that every Kalmah song sounds like a Kalmah song.
The Kokko brothers, Antti and Pekka, from Oulu, Finland, formed Kalmah in the wake of a prior band entitled Ancestor. They play fast, melodic death/black metal, with loads of swirling melodies and keyboard action – what we’ve come to expect from Finland. Their first album, Swamplord, showcased the deft guitarwork of the Kokko’s, while smartly limiting the vocals, which was an undeveloped rasp at that point. It played like a melodic death shred album. The follow-up album, They Will Return, refined this style, with them writing better songs, including stronger vocals and lyrics. 2003’s Swampsong was more of the same.
The Black Waltz displays a further development in their sound, especially in the vocal department. Pekka’s vocals have transformed from a passable rasp to a stout roar, and with the improvement, his voice plays a larger role. The opening riff of the opening track, “Defeat”, is actually pretty lame, however, the song quickly picks up. This song has a different feel then some of the rest, maybe a bit of post-thrash-Metallica influence? The next song (“Bitter Metallic Side”) gets right down to business, with blast-beat drumming, rapid-fire riffing and haunted house keys. Classic Kalmah, tons of guitar and keyboard soloing.
The title track is one of the best songs they’ve written, right up there with “Hades”, “Bird of Ill Omen”, and “Swamphell”. An epic keyboard line ushers in the song, leading up to a steady, fist-pumping verse. The chorus is mesmerizing with great interplay between the vocals and a meandering guitar lead. A quiet interlude precedes a solo. This album features some of the best production Kalmah has received to date, with a strong low end that you can actually hear, backing up highs that cut right through. A video was cut for “The Groan of Wind”, one of the more catchy and melodic songs on the disc. Nearly constant noodling throughout the song culminates in solo that ends the song.
I’ll admit some bias here because Kalmah plays their metal exactly as I want to hear it. But bias aside, this is a fine album by a great band. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Kalmah isn’t getting the acclaim and praise of some of their countrymates. Children of Bodom play all over the world, while a band that sounds more serious about their craft and appeals to the same crowd hardly ever leaves Finland. So to all the big record label execs that read MetalReview.com daily: give these guys a five-album, worldwide deal with touring. To all the melodic death fans out there: buy this album or be poorer for having missed out.
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