KALMAH - Palo
April 26, 2018, a year ago
The unfortunate perception around Kalmah is that this Finnish band is pretty much a B-rate, Children Of Bodom wannabe, sort of like Norther or Mors Principium Est. Which is unfair to all four bands in that sentence, as all are excellent and unique in their own right, though Alexi and Janne have evidently reached different plateaus. But if the world was a fair place, Bodom and Kalmah would co-headline tours the globe over, as Kalmah has written fantastic, and often underappreciated, records over the last twenty years.
I know, that last sentence sounds like exaggeration. But go back to the Kalmah catalogue and take another listen (or many). Most of the songwriting on those records is exceptional, with standouts "Pikemaster", "Hook The Monster", "Seventh Swamphony", "For The Revolution", and "Dance Of The Water" acting as memorable and anthemic melodic death that can be equally listened to during the coldest of winter months or during the midnight sun of late June. Kalmah is a versatile band that, somehow, has seeped into the consciousness slowly and subtly over the last two decades, and has unbelievably become indispensable.
Which brings us to Palo, the group's seventh full-length. The first thing that stands out here is the absolutely 1992 production, almost completely opposite to the pristine and modern sound of Kalmah's previous three albums. It's not that the production on Palo is bad, it's just very retro in a way that seems not to have been done purposely. But we can't know that for sure, of course. Maybe Kalmah wanted a specific early-'90s sound and, if so, the band and studio people have achieved that.
Musically, Palo is another album that showcases Kalmah's strengths: soaring melody, unrelenting energy, and strong songwriting. The atmosphere evoked is, once again, paramount, and Palo is clearly an effort that was skillfully put together. Palo - in spirit, though not in sound - evokes Children of Bodom's Halo of Blood, as both records feel like groups bringing elements of their early catalogue into a new album while also simultaneously writing with a sense of something to prove. The result is compelling art: "Through The Shallow Waters", "The World Of Rage", "Erase and Diverge", "Into The Black Marsh", and "Paystreak" are tracks that recall every reason while Kalmah resonates.
So here we are with another over-achieving Kalmah album added to the list of under-rated ones, and it fits right in. Which is no surprise, really. All that's left is to hear these new tracks live, and marvel that Kalmah can write so consistently at this high level.