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Blood is thicker than swamp water. - 75%

Diamhea, January 28th, 2014

Of Kalmah's first three records, which all feature a consistent atmosphere courtesy of Hiltula, Swamplord easily comes off as the least impressive. The pieces to the puzzle had yet to fully cement themselves, yielding a performance that lacks much of the identity and sophistication present on albums like Swampsong.

I respect Sankala for his long-standing tenure in Ancestor, as he and Pekka can be both be viewed as Kalmah's true originators. Regardless, he definitely pales in comparison to his successor Kusmin. His inability to gather any modicum of speed holds some of these tracks back, settling into an upper-midpaced velocity instead. That's not to say there is a dearth of melody, as tracks like "Withering Away" and "Using the Word" scratch that itch to some extent. The main riff of the latter is potent, making it the most impressive cut on Swamplord after the smoke clears. I am also partial to "Heritance of Berija", as the melody that comes in after the keyboard-driven break is quite infectious and searing.

Alternatively, songs like "Dance of the Water" and "Black Roija" fail to live up to the promise of their opening melodies. Many of these tracks open with Hiltula delivering the atmospheric goods, but once he drops out the riffs fail to inspire on a level even approaching Kalmah's later output. The rhythm section has a heavier, more deliberate inclination to it, which does come off as novel and potent during "Hades"; but without a significant keyboard presence it just can't maintain interest effectively. Hiltula's elegant leads have yet to be fully realized here. The only keyboard solo comes near the end of "Using the Word", and he drops out for large sections of songs, deferring to the churning riffs and Kokko's parched rasp. "Dance of the Water" and "Alteration" can be viewed as twins in this regard, opening with great keyboard melodies but devolving into average vehicles for solos by the time they wrap up.

Veteläinen's bass is non-existent, as per Swamplord's thin sonic aesthetics. Sankala's kit is mixed okay, but the snare sounds unusual, especially during moments of controlled blasting like during "Hades" and "Heritance of Berija". The rhythm guitar is also buried compared to They Will Return and Swampsong, but the production is hardly the biggest problem here. I can go either way on Kokko's vocals. From a modern standpoint, I prefer his guttural roars from albums like The Black Waltz, but he is functional enough here.

For a debut record, Swamplord is promising and at the very least contains a consistent atmosphere throughout. Time has not served it well, however, as Kalmah's later output renders this obsolete save for a few decent tracks. Get Swampsong instead.

Ruskea - 96%

OzzyApu, April 9th, 2013

Kalmah’s debut goes way back for me. It, along with its two follow-ups, is one of my favorite albums ever. Their spiteful melodic death with lots of black metal maliciousness and power metal sophistication (for the leads) are so perfectly crafted that it turns an otherwise wildly energetic album into something profound and esteemed. Of this style, not unlike to Children Of Bodom and their endeavors, Kalmah embark on their own branding and successful claim of melodic death refinement. Aside from the not-so clear and fat production, which is a preference of mine that the later albums have, this is still a captivating body of work. Front to back, it showcases some of the best riffs, harmonies, and memorable compositions the band invented.

Like the Amott brothers’ guitarwork on the early Arch Enemy albums, the guitarwork fired by the Kokko brothers is inspired by heavy / power metal. Crisp, cutting, and precise, it’s a flawlessly compatible combination of aggression and melody. Fast, furious, and stylish are ways of describing the leads, while the riffs pound and are played wrathfully. Right from the pummeling opening of “Evil In You,” this type of fretwork is well-portrayed: sharp, strident, and vicious. Of those three traits, let vicious sum up the band’s take on melodic death. The music is so free of the bullshit that plagues a lot of bands in the genre that it’s almost bolstering at times how detailed and intensive it becomes. Add the vocals on top of this – a combination of razor-like screams and low growls – and it’s a merciless depiction of the genre.

Nonetheless, the album has a very positive, invigorating vibe and tone throughout. The subsequent albums took a somewhat darker direction, but it’s still very exultant music. While the guitars are laying the groundwork for each song, other instruments like the keyboards play a huge role addressing atmosphere and complimenting the (often twin) leads and solos. Pasi Hiltula was one of those keyboardists who easily shined in this band and Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, as his playing was pronounced and at the front. The (sometimes twinkly) melodies he played with Antti Kokko’s lead blitz’ provides itself a spot in a three-way between the leads and Pekka Kokko’s unruly riffs. Songs like “Heritance Of Berija,” “Hades,” and “Alteration” are impeccable examples of this style.

This first album proved that Kalmah had something to say without sounding too close to their peers. It’s a melodic death angle that doesn’t suck, and it pushes that angle to its fullest potential for two more albums. The vile vocal delivery, riveting guitars, and enchanting keys will do their all to grab your attention. Praise can be given to the rhythm section, where it adapts well to the frantic work laid forth by the spotlight roles. The drumming and bass playing are more than competent, providing firm, assertive backing. However, this is an album very focused on the other instruments and the rhythm adheres to this high standard set by said instruments. The music isn’t technical, nor does it become too lenient toward melody to the point that things become melodramatic. It’s got anything one would need in music of this caliber.

Pure melodic death metal - 100%

HowlingMoon666, March 26th, 2012

Kalmah is one of the few bands that has that certain magic which makes my hair raising up. I listen to this album every morning while I drink my coffee and I swear with the hand on my heart that I never get bored of it. It is kinda addictive.

From the epic start with "Alteration" to the epic ending with "Withering away" this is a total finnish metal masterpiece and one of the greatest albums which came out from this awesome country in the latest time. Every song on this album is a masterpiece in it's own way, a mind-fucking journey into the depths of what means melodic. Antti delivers beautiful crafted riffs and insane solos throughout the whole album and the climax is surely "Heritance of Berija" which starts easy and steady and continues like this for thirthy seconds then hell unleashes with the monstrous riff and the magical keys. Though Pekka' s voice is not performed correctly and seems he's ripping his throat out this is a fact that somehow adds magic to the songs. His voice is similar to Altti's from Eternal tears of Sorrow, a band in which Antti himself played for a while.

The guitars are weeping melodic notes every second without repeating themselves more than two times and this is what we all call, I suppose, originality. And yes, this is a debut album, believe it or not. Although they are one of the greatest bands Finland borned out from its cold and dark womb, they are very underrated, and this is a shameful . This band should be known everywhere, everyplace, everytime. Kalmah is a promising band which has a fucking bright future ahead.Check them out and you won't be able to rennounce their music.

The most important fact regarding this band is that they love what they do. You can see this in every Kalmah concert. They are not hypocrytes like all that faggots which think that they are huge and kings...They know exactly who they are and they enjoy themselves as they are. I bow in the front of Kalmah and I will always will.

Do yourself a favor, Don't pass this album up. - 96%

joshnackh, April 10th, 2008

Although Kalmah has been criticized as being another "Children of Bodom" copycat band from Finland, anyone who actually had the time to listen to this album several times should know that this is quite the opposite. When you first pop this CD into your player, the listener is introduced to an intense drum line that showcases one of the several aspects of how Kalmah that separates themselves from the others: the complex drumming. The drumming never gets repetitive, and actually helps contribute "feeling" to the music alongside the guitars and keyboards. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single moment of this album where the drumming repeats a mundane and basic 4/4 double bass beat for more than a minute.

Typical of many melodic death metal bands, this album is chock full of lovely dual-guitar leads. But If you're a fan of dual-guitar harmonies (and who isn't?), this album still manages to stand out from the rest. The guitar melodies aren't exactly as predictable as other melodic death metal bands, yet Kalmah still remains to be extremely catchy without being overly repetitive.
The guitar solos are abundant; you’ll find at least one on every song. But the special thing about Kalmah’s guitar solos is that they help contribute feeling/emotion to the songs. Thankfully you won’t find any random sweep-picking and tapping solos during any of the songs, which, in my opinion, do nothing musically except showcase the guitar player's ability. And rather than trying to “show off” and keep up with the guitars by inserting crazy keyboard solos here and there, Kalmah's keyboards act as an emotional and atmospheric layer, something that is hard to find in good melodeath these days. I would say that the vocal style is influenced more by medium-pitched black metal screams than death metal grunting.

This album is not perfect. However, the positives severely outnumber the negatives in my opinion. One criticism I would like to make is the similarity between some of the songs. To be specific, the rhythm guitar’s chord progression on ‘Withering Away’ is almost identical to the chord progression in ‘Hades’. It feels as if Hades/Withering Away was once one song, and Kalmah decided to split it up.

With the negatives aside, this album marks a special place in my play list and is a must-have for any metal-fan, regardless of their preferred sub genre.

For those people who already own the original pressing of this album, the newest re-release of this album is completely untouched, with an exception to the two bonus tracks taken from their 1999 Promo ‘Svieri Obraza’ added to the end. While the first bonus track may sound familiar to those who own a copy of ‘They Will Return’, but the second bonus track, ‘Vezi Doroga’, is well worth re-buying the album.

Awesome melodic death album - 90%

invaded, June 16th, 2006

Kalmah are one of the few remaining melodic death bands that stormed through the metal community in the late nineties and early on in the new millenium. This is the record that got people to notice them a little more. This is a very consistent release, with no major noticeable flaws.

The sound is very much that of the melodic death trademark of the onstant melodic touch of the guitars with a strong rythm section and some growling vocals to match. However Kalmah add a certain subtlety to it that a lot of bands from this genre lack. The keyborads are not overpowering and do not drown the guitar in any way. In fact if anything the keyboards are a little low in the mix.

The Kokko brothers display an awesome array of chops on this record with tight melodic harmonies and leads that just seem to flow so casually. The guitar work on the record is most defintely its strongest suit. The vocals are also very good, with a dry delivery and powerful sense of command, you know where he band is going and I for one find it very enjoyable. The drums and bass are also very solid, laying down a good foundation for the guitarists to work over.

Tracks such as "Withering Away", "Hades" and "Alteration" are a perfect display of what melodic death should sound like. The difference is the fact that most of these melodic lines are verytasteful and well thought out. This is a very enjoyable listen to say the least. A heavy dose of melodic metal which is catchy and fresh.

Once again, Finland has another gift to offer! - 93%

Headbangingcorpse, September 5th, 2004

Good God! When I was first heard “Evil in You” by this band, I must say I was very impressed. But I thought, oh they’re probably exactly like Children of Bodom except shittier. Well, I would have probably killed myself for saying that. I can’t lie-Kalmah do have their similarities to CoB, but at the same time, they are completely different, and maybe even better.

To give you a brief description of Kalmah’s sound, they are very melodic death metal with a lot of atmospheric background keyboards. They are kind of like Children of Bodom combined with Norther. Swamplord starts out with, as I mentioned before, “Evil in You”, which is a fast paced, heavy song, filled with solos. After that, the songs grab hold of you and don’t let go. The vocals of Kalmah are very high, like CoB, but they are more death, instead of hardcore-ish. They sound better and mix better with the music. Also, occasionally he goes into low guttural growls, either overlapping, or next to the high ones, and they are very evil and are just awesome. The guitars are just incredible, having a solo in basically every song. They always dual at the same time, making it extremely melodic, and the keyboards are mostly used as a background instrument in a way, unlike for CoB, to keep it atmospheric.

The only minor downsides to this album are that sometimes the sound is uneven, and they just fuck up. Also, they could’ve made much better tunes and melodies with their apparent potential, not that they didn’t have good ones on Swamplord, but their album “They Will Return” is much better. Anyways, if you haven’t heard these people, I HIGHLY SUGGEST you buy this or any other of their CDs. This is an incredible first attempt,and Kalmah are not a band to be overlooked.

Thing of beauty - 90%

Guy, March 26th, 2004

Kalmahs Century Media debut Swamplord is by far one of the best debut full lengths I’ve heard since Bodom’s Something Wild In Flames Lunar Strain. Many might see this album as Children of Bodom wannabe, but Kalmah, while sounding similar to their fellow Finland brethren, still find ways to plow your ass over in their own special way.

Evil in You starts Swamplord off with an up-tempo Bass rhythm chug that whirls into an all out Thrasher.
Pekka Kokko lets out an Ihsahn-esque screech before the song breaks into all out fury. Combined with some melodic keyboard and some maiden-like fretting this song is a perfect showcase for Kalmah’s creativity and talent (listen as the song fades out into a funeral dirge thingy)

Withering Away is a definitely designed to show off Kalmahs technical prowess as Antti Kokko’s lead riffs are at center stage through most of the song, and he’s able to do it with a good sense of harmony and tempo which makes it easy to listen to and not get bored with it.

The duel guitar dance in Heritance of Berija is impressive enough, throw a brutal but catchy rhythm underneath some beautiful keyboard fills in there and you have one of the better tracks of Swamplord.

Black Roija throws itself in a few different directions and makes for a good listen, some tempo changes keep the song interesting enough amid some more Emperor like howls.

Dance of the Water slows things down a little bit, not to much though, the mid tempo rhythm allows Pekka to show his raspy growl off a bit, if you’re a fan of Thomas Lindberg vocals you should have no trouble listening to Pekka jabber away.

Hades is another straight forward track, meant to kick some ass and take a few names, the little bass fills and the jazzy little lead interlude spice this track up a little bit so your not bored

The keys are shown off beautifully in Alteration and the lead guitars matching solo make this the standout track on Swamplord. This track mixes some brutal chugging rhythms and harmonious keys and soloing to make it a thing of anarchic beauty.

Using the Word ends off the album nicely with some more beautiful solemn keys and up-tempo solos, and a better track for Pekkas vocals (listen to him spit at the end..priceless)

All in all this isn’t a particularly groundbreaking album, nothing you haven’t heard before on previous releases by other Melodic Death Metal heavy weights. But it’s still a quality CD that shouldn’t disappoint fans of Bodom, (old) In Flames, At the Gates, even an Emperor fan or Two. Beautiful guitar leads, Brutal rhythms, Harmonious keys, furious drums(blast beat here and there) Savage vocals. Solid release, one of the better debuts.

A Solid Debut, but a bit wanting... - 80%

Iron_Thunder, December 1st, 2003

I guess it was easy to see that I’d like these Finns, since I’m on a huge Melodo-Black Metal kick... You’ll probably hear the name Kalmah associated with Children of Bodom and all those guys which is fair enough, since they’re the same genre, but they’re not a carbon copy or anything! Kalmah has a style all their own, both musically and lyrically—one which I find a bit more akin to my personal tastes…harmonic guitar work, convincing vocals, diverse drumming (it’s not all double bass) and—of course, keyboards. I was relieved to find that Kalmah’s use of keyboards is a little less obvious than many other Metal bands…it’s noticeable, but often it’s more atmospheric and more of a background tool rather than squealing all over the place (which happens only occasionally).

Aside from the more subtle keyboard work, there are other differences which lead me to somewhat resent the Children of Bodom comparisons; for instance, Kalmah is less classically influenced, the vocals are a bit deeper and also there are major differences thematically. Well… we all know what Children of Bodom sings about; Kalmah’s expressions tend to come from personal or social struggles. The words are very realistic, while there are also moments of mysticism laced in here and there. Whoever writes the lyrics is a real poet—not only are they perceptive, but they’re beautifully phrased. Similarly, the music is layered—compositions are rich and never boring. Time changes are fluid, and everything is tastefully interspersed. There is a lot of attention to detail, and production is also commendable. My only problem with the album is that it took a lot of listens for songs to stick in my head; while it is, as I said, never dull to listen to in the moment, afterwards I’m not left humming much. Nevertheless, there are still many songs which I enjoy! The album opens with “Evil in You,” which is a very strong track, along with “Heritance of Berija.” My very favorites are “Black Roija” and “Dance of the Water.” Wow. If you’re into this whole Melodo-Black Metal stuff, you cannot miss these guys, they’re a truly splendid act!

100% melodic death metal - 98%

ThePharao, November 20th, 2002

Kalmah's debut CD is over all expectations I had for this Finish band. They have created something they really can call their own. The sound isn't like any other death metal band. All though they often are taken for Children Of Bodom copies, I can't say they are. Children Of Bodom has much more classical influences then Kalmah.

Kalmah really is a technical band. The guitarist of the band is, at least what I would call, a raw model of a great technical metal guitarist. The melodies and harmonies of Kalmah is great. They mix keyboards and guitars very good. The song "Heritance Of Berija" shows this very good.

One thing really great about Kalmah is that they often let their riffs and melodies continue through out the entire verse. Heritance Of Berija is a great example also for this. And something that really suppriced me is that this CD doesn't contain one single bad song. They never gets boring.

Not to forget is that Kalmah shares three of their musicians with the other Finish death metal band Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, which means that these musicians have a couple of years in their backs.
This is a CD that every fan of metal should own, so if you already haven't bought it, do it before your friends get to know about it.
- The Pharao 20/11 -02