Release DetailsLABEL Fullsteam Records
RELEASED ON 2/20/2004
posted on 4/2004 By:
To call the Swedish band Koma newcomers would be an overstatement. While Koma have been a cohesive unit for nearly two years, it is only now that they have released their debut album, Tsunami.
Koma (which translates as ‘coming home’ in old Norse), is comprised of members from Swedish hardcore and metal bands as diverse as Cult of Luna, Plastic Pride and the late, great, Refused. If you're a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, do not expect Tsunami to lead you into familiar territory. While it is true that they share certain mild similarities, the album as a whole emerges as unique, divergent and independent entity.
The disc features eight tracks that add up to a disappointing playtime of thirty eight minutes. The dissatisfaction experienced by the album's short length represents a tribute to their surprising achievements with this album, as music of such high caliber deserves as much play time as possible. The production wouldn’t feel out of place on a Devin Townsend album, as it’s very reminiscent of Dev’s “wall of sound” approach to work. However, this is not a bad thing. While the sound becomes slightly muddled at times, the instruments manage to sound clear in the mix, with the possible exception of the keys; which get a little lost amongst the dense musical chaos of Tsunami. Each of the eight tracks has a thick, distinct atmosphere. This is not surprising, since according to vocalist Jan Jämte, the band wanted their songs to sound as if one were “crying in a storm” or “receiving a soft kiss from a vampire”. Whether or not the atmosphere achieves what the band intended is completely subjective. What can’t be denied, however, is that the album sounds both heavy and opaque, and manages to sound only mildly aggressive. Its ambience finds the perfect cadence between aggression and melody, allowing Tsunami to be a unique combination of simultaneous violence and tenderness.
The album begins with the politically tinged “Stop Making Speeches.” Immediately, the intriguing, tribal-like drumming captures your attention. The next thing you’re likely to notice is that the vocals sound somewhat reminiscent of Muse vocalist Matthew Bellamy, yet slightly less wailing. This is possibly the most aggressive track on the album, and is a great opener that leaves you craving for more . Next up, Koma tone it down a notch for the second track, “Like Coming Home” (which is closely related to the band's name). This is arguably the album’s most pensive and personal moment, as vocalist Jan Jämte sings “just like rain hits the ground, scatters to bring life, or great waves come crashing down, turned this life around” with a display of doleful emotion similar to that of Radiohead's Tom Yorke. Personally, I would have to say the highlight of the album comes halfway through, with the song “One of Us Must Hang”. This track stands out above the rest due to its infectious chorus and somber (yet beautiful) outro which makes the song stand out as one of the most melancholic, yearning tracks on Tsunami. The rest of the songs are all relatively similar, which is not a bad thing, as they share similar melodic hooks which perfectly compliment the dense production. Recurrent themes throughout the album include loss, the act of longing and despair. There are certain lyrical political overtones, but they are subtle enough as to not provide a distraction to the thematic content of the work, or detract objectors of the band’s political ideals. The closing track “Fifth Colon (I’ve Seen Evil)” is perhaps the record’s most controversial track, with lyrics such as “All that money, weapons of war. Slit their throat, US vampire”. This particular song builds up to a violent crescendo of guitars and drums which, combined with deeply emotive vocals, create a chilling climax that concludes the album impeccably. The title Tsunami suits the album perfectly, as the roaring guitars create such a thick atmosphere that one could compare it to a tidal wave of sound.
So far, I’ve given nothing but praise to this album. There have to be some downsides, right? Well, there are, but these are few and not significant enough to detract from my enjoyment of Tsunami. Aside from the short length, I have to admit that the album seemed a little too dense for me to enjoy upon first listening. Since most of the songs share a similar structure, they can get a little repetitive until you explore them further. At first, I thought the length was adequate, as I figured more of this could turn into a boring yawnfest. However, the album started to grow on me upon repeated listenings, so much so, that by the third time I listened to it, I was completely sold. There’s just something about Jan’s vocals that compliment the music perfectly; I couldn’t help but be touched.
If you haven’t realized by now, I’m entirely enamored by this recording. Whether you’re looking for aggression or emotional compassion, Tsunami has the rare ability to please both metal and rock fans alike. As I said previously, there are some downsides; it can sound a little repetitive at first, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll start to fully appreciate Tsunami upon repeated listenings. Once it grows on you (and chances are, it will), the short length of the album becomes a little disappointing. Still, these are only marginal gripes, and they don't hinder my enjoyment of this album. One can’t help but want more from this promising band; finding oneself hitting the repeat button at the album's conclusion is almost inevitable. This is definitely among the best albums I’ve heard released thus far in 2004. The fact that it’s Koma's debut record is all the more impressive. Whether you’re a fan of metal or aggressive hard rock, I doubt that you’ll be disappointed by Tsunami, as it has enough of both worlds to please even the most demanding fans of either genre.
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