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Three years after Swampsong, Kalmah returned with a successor to their trilogy that kicked off their career. Kalmah’s sound became more cemented in melodic death metal without the extraordinary fervor of the previous material. Therefore, this album sounds tamer in comparison. Each album thus far has brought a less explored avenue for Kalmah, with this one taking that concept further into stability. This time it’s a slightly thrashier Kalmah, but overall it feels like a natural transition from the eclectic early years.
My main gripe is that this album isn’t very memorable. It’s a very well-produced, disciplined album that goes further into a melodic death frame than the power / black one that put the finish on their previous melodic death works. From the riffs to the melodies, The Black Waltz is an album with a one phenomenal peak, a couple highlights, and then a drop-off of good songs. So yes, while it is a step down from Swamplord, They Will Return, and Swampsong, it’s a professionally potent album in its own right. Songs like “Time Takes Us All,” “With Terminal Intensity,” and the title track are ripe with furious riffing, thunderous drum assaults, and leads sunk in epicness. It’s got the heavy metal vibe with the power metal-influenced harmonies and the thicker rhythm to support each song’s zealous endeavors. Overall though, The Black Waltz feels like a less exhibitionist Kalmah.
Focusing on the album as a whole isn’t as convincing as focusing on the best. This is where “The Groan Of Wind” comes in, as it displays the finest of Kalmah’s qualities on a level that matches the greatest from the previous albums. From the colossal opener to the excited riffs and the expressive keys, this is the album’s most fascinating song. It’s got charisma in the leads and a very cinematic style, particularly around the chorus where Pekka’s growled vocals are accompanied by a mesmeric guitar harmony. Pekka’s style on the album switched from mutual ghoulish screams and growls to the predominately dry, thick growls, which I wouldn’t exactly call a change for the better. The bass is dense and there is a lot of hard-hitting drumming here and on the album keeping it entertaining and inspired.
The Black Waltz is not a bad album at all. On its own, it’s a very particular melodic death album that’s got an upbeat side to it. In comparison to the first three, it just doesn’t capture that same energy. There’s less atmosphere to it than I’d hope (the loss of Pasi Hiltula really hurt), and the length of it can get a little tiring with one song after another, but it’s still fun.
Kalmah has been such a consistent entity throughout the years, it becomes doggedly difficult to pinpoint any specifics points of transition throughout their careers. Regardless, the most glaring shift in sound occurred between Swampsong and The Black Waltz. I find it funny how big of a change can occur due to a single member being replaced, but that is what we have here. Former keymaster Pasi Hiltula deserves more recognition than he gets. Just look at him, working double-duty in Kalmah and Eternal Tears of Sorrow around the early 2000's. Go listen to any early Kalmah release or A Virgin and a Whore and you know exactly who you are listening to, his thick lead sound and off-kilter (but still killer) solos were a highpoint of early Kalmah.
Marco Sneck is an apt replacement, but he wouldn't show his true colors until For The Revolution. Sure, he has plenty of room to emote with his solos, or tinker with different sounds on here, but it doesn't reach the same level as any of the band's other albums. Pekka Kokko also decided to shift his vocal onslaught to a fundamentally guttural affair. This results in a Kalmah release unique at the time of its release. Does it all work?
Well, yes and no. The Black Waltz runs hot and cold, with some seriously killer cuts such as "The Groan of Wind" which has an absolutely unrelenting opening two minutes, and the best track on the album: "One from the Stands", with some intoxicating melodies. On the flip side we have the overlong opener "Defeat" and the meandering "Mindrust" which makes the album more difficult to navigate at times. Other tracks fall in between, although "Man of The King" stands out and elicits a few laughs, as these guys have the trademark Finnish sense of humor - just watch the music video for 12 Gauge.
The brothers Kokko play with some serious chops, and The Black Waltz features perhaps the best Kalmah soundscape up to this point, with a significantly heavier sounding core allowing Timo Lehtinen to finally get some room to fill up the low end along with Kusmin's affable drumming. I really want to love this release, as it was well received by most fans upon its release. I think it's biggest flaw is it's length. By a margin the longest Kalmah album, it overstays its welcome a little bit. Could have trimmed some fat off of this one, kusipääs.
Choice cuts: "The Groan of Wind", "One From The Stands", "Bitter Metallic Side"
So, I previously reviewed two Kalmah albums, but they were rejected due to the fact that my inner fanboy was showing. So l'll try not to give too much praise on this, but it's difficult. I mean, this is everything melodic death metal should stand for. See, Kalmah are the Bolt Thrower of melo-death. They have the ability to churn out classic and consistent albums that never fail to impress. Sure, they can be considered a Children Of Bodom clone, but Kalmah are far greater than Alexi and company. Everything about this album screams "BUY ME YOU SON OF A GOLDEN RETRIEVER, BUY ME!". The bombastic keys, the melodic riffs, and the vocals, goodness the vocals - this album is just fantastic.
With TBW, Kalmah have begun to mature in their sound with their darker side showing than in previous albums like "Swampsong." "Bitter Metallic Side" begins with a dark sound from the keyboard and then rips with a riff that destroys anything in its path, and all of a sudden Pekka Kokkos' growls shine. Yes, his vocals are more death metal sounding rather than his black metal screeches, which I'm thankful for due to most melodic death metal bands bore me with those vocals. Of course, this is only the beginning of the melodic onslaught. With "Mindrust", Kalmah brings up images of '80's thrash with Antti's wonderful leads and Marko's keys flowing all over the song. Aggressive yet beautiful, which is exactly why Kalmah are in a league of their own. My personal favorite would have to be "The Groan Of Wind", the "single" of the album. The reason why this song appeals to me more than the others is the fact that each member shines; the small bass interlude towards the end, the keyboard solo at the finish, Pekka's vocals that combine his deep growls and his screeches, and the opening riff that brings to mind epic battles. This sorrowful song is nothing short of amazing.
In the end, Kalmah does it again. With TBW, they have proven and continue to prove that they are the kings of Finnish melodic death metal, pushing aside peers such as Norther and Children Of Bodom. The swamplords' ability to create catchy music and sorrowful melodies make fans continue to flock to their cds. I can only hope that they continue this trend of quality music. Thank you, Kalmah, for taking my breathe away.
The Black Waltz took me by shock. I had listened to Kalmah before – I really liked what I had heard. But when a friend of mine sent me this latest masterpiece my jaw dropped to the floor. This album is almost perfect.
Kalmah are one of those bands that are hard to classify. They definitely have death metal influence but one can also pick out parts (mostly the melodies) that are more fitting in the category of power metal. Kalmah is part of this category of metal which I fondly refer to as Powered Death Metal (as includes bands such as Children of Bodom and Norther). So if you are new to Kalmah expect something a little different. They definitely lean more towards the death side of metal but I’ll get to that in a moment.
When one first plays The Black Waltz there is going to be a moment of “yeah, I’ve heard this before.” But by half-way through the first track you will realize that – yes, you may have heard this music before (mostly in Kalmah’s back catalog) but it’s never been this GOOD. Don’t be fooled by the similarity of the sound – this is a monster ready to be unleashed.
The Black Waltz is full of heavy guitar work. The riffs are quick and well varied to allow a great metallic feel to the album. The guitars are varied enough to keep a person from zoning out in the middle of the album but similar enough to add great flow to the album. The leads and solos on the album really shred – and the keep the music from just bombarding your senses. It gives a lot of the album depth. And if you think death metal can’t be emotionally linked – this album displays many emotions and the acoustic track (“Svieri Doroga”) is borderline heartfelt.
The drumming really makes the album stand towards a death metal performance. The drums have a lot of double-bass work that is placed towards the front of the mix. The last song really has stand out drumming and the entire album has some wonderful work with drum variety. The bass work is also as good as the drumming and the last song has a killer bass line intro – for an example of standout bass work.
Any kind of metal that has keyboard solos – is pretty brutal (in a melodic way). Kalmah has some very killer keyboard solos but the focus is drawn away from those and more on the lines of the guitars and vocals.
Vocally, Kalmah are very death metal and not power metal. His vocals are harsher and heavier this time around with very little enunciation going on so that listeners can understand him. His vocals could use a little variety at times to keep them interesting but since the music is so powerful – his vocals don’t bother me as much as it normally would.
Overall, The Black Waltz is one of the most impressive albums of the year. Full of both brutality and beauty – this album goes right up on my list of favorite albums of all time.
Songs to check out: Defeat, The Black Waltz, One From the Stands
Imagine music that never gets boring and will be relevant to every emotion life throws at you, something that even the most stubborn thrash metallist can enjoy, and something that exudes vibrancy and positive ambiance without being embarrassing nor soft-spoken.
The thing that I like best about Kalmah is that every part of the band is always heard and can shine through; there is no dominant member and this creates for a very multi-faceted, atmospheric sound quality. Rarely is bass guitar showcased in metal music, and it is often taken for granted. The Black Waltz uses bass efficiently and the bass lines are intricate and satisfying and even a little bit jazzy at times. Played loud, this CD shines brightest, evoking testosterone-driven strength and empowerment that surges through my entire body. Listening to this CD becomes a ritual and an at least weekly regimen for me; I can’t ever completely fulfill my Kalmah fix.
Kalmah probably really does have something for everyone. It’s got sassy, upbeat keyboards, which sparkle and enhance the music to evoke several different moods. Kalmah is in a league of its own and uses Celtic riffs as well as a sometimes more new-age sound, depending on the song. Not only is the music always well crafted and planned out, the lyrics inspire and empower when sat down and read through. This isn’t juvenile bullshit; it often touches on Nordic folklore and mythology and philosophy.
Bitter Metallic Side is probably my most favorite song off of TBW. It begins with an eerie buildup to the most powerful riff I have ever heard in my life. The trip this song takes me through can’t be described. Another brilliant track is With Terminal Intensity because the intro is so great. I think some people dispute over whether Kalmah sounds best with death or black vocals, but the death vocals in this album seem to go along really well with the music. I really like this album a lot, and there are few filler staple interludes. I really think that a lot of care and time went into writing these songs, and if not, then that proves just how genius this band really is. In other words, there are no particular songs that I hit the skip button on, because everything shines in its own way, and I can listen to this CD all the way through during car rides, whilst relaxing or working out, and it’s just a very pleasing thing to own and well worth the money. I also think that this CD is an excellent choice for any person curious about Kalmah’s music which will allow them to test the waters. The Black Waltz exemplifies their style, although I wouldn’t say that this is one of their very best works, so I can’t give it a perfect score.
Kalmah is very original in that they somehow incorporate the most stellar keyboard solos into the album, yet it is never cheesy, nor comparable to most power metal bands. In addition, none of their songs seem to sound the same yet they all have a unified feel which makes anything they produce recognizably Kalmah. Kalmah’s got it all: heaviness, catchiness, soul, power, energy, and loyalty.
After hearing a lot of good things about Kalmah, I decided to check them out especially since their genre is one I very much love. I am happy I did check them out because Kalmah definitely proves themselves here to be a very capable band, and I don't find them at all to be a copycat of Children of Bodom or Norther or Catamenia like some other people claim. I think each of these bands has different qualities that separate their music quite a bit.
The music on here is often quite heavy, I'm not sure how this compares to previous Kalmah albums as I have not checked them out yet, however it definitely is heavier than most music from similar bands. This is not a bad thing however. I also find there to be a lot of great melodies, the instruments are all heard well with the great production, the vocals are very good as well, they sound very thick and heavy which is a good quality. Some of the songs on this album also sound even a bit symphonic, which is just absolutely beautiful.
Not all of the songs on here are outstanding, but there are no throw-away tracks. Some highlights are "Defeat", "Time Takes Us All", "The Black Waltz", "The Groan of Wind", and "Mindrust". "Defeat" does not start off well. The first few seconds of the song are not impressive at all, and sound rather dull. There are no real melodies but about half a minute into the song, it explodes, with synths coming in, as well as the pace quickening, with quick and heavy riffs, and the vocals on here are just amazing. The synths are what add to a symphonic feel on some of the songs, and you can definitely hear that in "Defeat". The vocals here sound especially thick, it must be awfully hard to have such a thick and low growly voice but it is a great talent.
"Time Takes Us All" isn't one of the best songs as a whole, but the opening to the song is one of the best I have ever heard. It starts off with furious drumming and synths to create an extremely angry, harsh, yet melodic atmosphere which is truly beautiful if you listen closely to it. "The Black Waltz" is also a great song. It is slower-paced but you can hear the synths very well giving it a symphonic and almost operatic feeling. The melodies in this song are very nice and the tone moves around a lot so it doesn't feel repetitive. The vocals on here are classic. "The Groan of Wind" besides being a very good song has a decent music video to it as well which you should check out if you are interested in hearing the band's sound before buying the album. The song is rather melodic and it is a longer song by Kalmah standards so it could even feel a little epic. The melodies on here also change tone a lot and quickly, makes the song sound very chaotic, sorrowful, and beautiful all at the same time. This is something that only metal has been able to accomplish in my opinion. At the end of the song there is even a nice but short guitar solo.
"Mindrust" is a great but different song than most on the album. It is heavy, fast, and has almost a late 80s trash feel at times when you don't have the melodic guitar riffs, and when you do have them you get a very loud, angry, agressive, and chaotic feel yet again becuase of the production. This is a varied song, a very fast one, and simply amazing. It also has guitar solos which are melodic and almost give an Arch Enemy feel (of course from their older days).
Overall this album is excellent. You may not like it that much the first or second time you listen to it, but if you give it time, many of the songs will become your all time favorites. Even though all the songs aren't as excellent, the great songs are superior to most other songs by bands in this genre, and that is why the album will get such a high rating from me.
The Black Waltz might just be Kalmah’s best work ever. They have really progressed quite well and moved far away from the typical and common Children of Bodom structure of Extreme Power Metal or whatever you would like to call it, and have created a truly beautiful and devastating opus, blurring the lines that separate Black Metal, Death Metal and even Power Metal.
Kalmah has really moved forward and their music is much more mature now. The new guitars have an amazing tone, they sound dreadful, beautiful and evil all at once. The guitar parts are not as complicated as before, and the strange repetition that Antti Kokko used to utilize [ex. “Heroes to Us”] has also disappeared. What we are left with are absolutely breathtaking guitar parts that are not just about showing off Kokko’s guitar skills, but about adding to the over all atmosphere of the music. Luckily, Antti did preserve the guitar solos and they are as blisteringly fast as ever before.
The new keyboardist has really fit into the band quite well and adds some great musical elements to Kalmah. There is no way to even compare Kalmah with Children of Bodom anymore, because everything has changed. Especially the keyboards, which no longer sound like they’re pumping out stupid video game music for a Super Nintendo version of Mario.
The next and most prominent change is the vocals. OH THE VOCALS. Pekka Kokko has really done it. Somewhere in hell the metal gods are laughing with glee at what they have created. The new style is very deep, very low and very powerful. No more of those cheesy vocals that 1000 out of 100 Finnish bands utilize. Kalmah has blown them all out of the water.
I personally love every single song on this album… There is no song I skip, but my favourites would definitely have to be “Defeat”, “To the Gallows”, “Svieri Doroga” and the title track “The Black Waltz”.
If you don’t own this album, go out and get it. This is quite possibly the best metal of all time.
Kalmah's Fourth Release, "The Black Waltz" is a defiant turning point for the band and as well as its listeners. This album is somewhat of a throw-back for Kalmah, back to their days as Ancestor (their former name). The direction of the music has shifted from the windy melodies I have always loved about Kalmah, to more of a plain death metal sound.
The vocals are low, deep and while still heavily distorted are not reminiscent of the classic tone the lead singer has used primarily in the past. While many songs from the first three albums have occasional low growls to mostly back up the lead vocals, it was an even fit and added more punch to the delivery.
The keyboards take on much more of a dominant role to provide melodies while the lead guitar work seems to have backed off, which is a heavy blow to the overall quality, in my opinion. The mind-blowing guitar solos and lead presence are close to disintergrated, leaving an obvious void.
The percussion (bass, drums) is just about the only thing that has not undergone major change for this album. The quality of the recording, the mixing, etc., etc. is nothing short of top-notched but does not even come close to compensating for the loss of melodic endeavor.
Many express the concern that Kalmah may have intentionally waivered the use of high-pitched harsh vocals to distance themselves from the likes of Children of Bodom and bands like them. I call "bullshit". Kalmah has always been a much better performer than C.O.B. and the like. If anything, Kalmah has developed more of a kinship with those style of musicians by backing off on the effort put into the melodies. I cannot stress this idea enough.
I have little praise overall for this release and pray this album is highly experimental and not a serious indication of the direction that Kalmah plans to move in permanently. I have been in total awe of this band throughout their first three releases and hope they welcome my criticism for the future.
Holy crap. I'm blown away.
I've been listening to Kalmah since about a year after the release of Swamplord, and this is easily the best work that the band has ever put out. All the instruments are wreaking havoc on the disks’ 11 tracks without a single sign of stopping. Kalmah have always been known for playing something similar to Children of Bodom, but their songs are at a slower pace than the Children, and they don’t let it rip very often. Usually, you’d get about 3 speedy songs, while the rest of the material would be mid-paced stuff that could get boring after repeated listens. However, Kalmah must have decided to stop screwing around and go for it, because I don’t think that Kalmah could get much more intense than this. The songs (With the exception of the instrumental, Svieri Doroga, and the Title track, The Black Waltz) all blaze, but never sound too similar. Interestingly enough, all this great new material seems to have sprouted from the new style that Kalmah has adopted. Let us go through their changes…
First and foremost, there are the vocals. Those who are familiar with Kalmah know that Pekka Kokko could death metal growl, but he only did it sparingly, usually layered underneath his black metal screams and shrieks. Now, the vocals are the opposite. Death growls, with very few black screams. I know that many fans will have trouble digesting this, but I didn’t. While I think that I enjoy the black screams more, the vocals add new depth and intensity to the music that I’m seriously digging. The guitar tones have changed a bit, they sound a bit heavier, methinks. The bass still kicks ass and several songs feature roughly 10 seconds of solo bass lines, like older Kalmah did. Another big different are the keyboards. There’s less atmosphere in the music now. The first keys sound you hear are Strings/Orchestral sounds that help open up the first track. These are used quite a bit, but often, you’ll hear the classic dual guitar/keys melodies that seem to be a bit of a Kalmah trademark and you’ll hear Keyboard solos. Yes, you read that right, fucking KEYBOARD solos. In Kalmah. They kicks ass, and often do duelling solos with the guitars. Fucking great stuff, though the guitar solos are still in the forefront. And of course, the drums are full of variety. From well placed double bass, to occasional blast beats and crazy fills, the drumming is very solid on this disk.
The songs themselves have never been better. Some start off slow and foreboding, then click into a speedier gear later on, Such as the opening track, “Defeat”, or “Bitter Metallic Side”, while other simply start off raging, and stay that way, some examples being “Time Takes Us All”, or “Mindrust”. And of course, there are a couple of mid-paced songs, such as the beautifully orchestrated titled track, “The Black Waltz”, which is actually the slowest song on the CD. Oh yes, there’s also a short, soothing tune that provides a bit of an interlude, or something. It’s quite nice.
The Riffs are great on this CD. They’re all really melodic and powery (Though still heavy) and occasionally there’s a slight Viking/folk touch (And, dare I say, “Epic”?). The guitar solos are enjoyable as always, with Antti Kokko shredding his Finnish ass off. The solos on this disk are either Paired solos with Guitar and Keyboards, or they’re very short ones that open the song, or bridge into other parts of the song. A couple of songs completely lack a solo of any sort, but they’re usually replaced with intricate dual melodies with the guitars and keyboards.
Overall, this release is stunning. The only thing stopping it from getting a full 100% score is the fact that the Death Metal growls get boring, and droning after many listens. I wish Kalmah stuck with the cool Black metal screams, but the growls are still pretty well done to my ears. I can see where some Kalmah fans will get pissed off, but I enjoy it, so I won’t complain too much. However, the music is heavier, generally faster, and very intense, so I give Kalmah full props for coming out with many new twists to their sound, and for truly stepping out of their role as “Children of Bodom clone”. Easily Kalmah’s best work to date.
Must listen: Defeat, Bitter Metallic Side, Time Takes us All, The Black Waltz, The Groan of Wind, Mindrust, and One from the Stands.
This album is quite a surprise. After being a fairly big fan of Kalmah for a while now I Found myself hyping this album up big time. Now that it’s finally out, I feel that even though the sweet out weighs the bitter (big time), I do have one slight complaint. The vocals have gone in a direction that I am not too happy with but at the same time I don’t hate at all. Now don’t get me wrong, Pekka’s new vocals sound great but the problem is that they are consistently deeper and harder to decipher now. This change makes the general sound of the entire album feel slightly more monotone then previous albums. I would have liked to see some of the higher pitched, throaty growls we heard in the previous albums mixed in a bit more. My guess is they got sick of people comparing them to Children of Bodom. If this is the case, they succeeded because TBW doesn’t sound much like COB at all. Now that I got the bitter out of the way lets get to the sweet. This album must have been recorded and mastered by Jesus Christ himself because it sounds nothing short of miraculous. One thing that definitely hasn’t changed is kalmah's fast paced, intense guitar and keyboard barrage that I’ve grown to love. The entire album has a very epic sound to it. It’s also very clear that a lot of work was put into this album. All the songs are very well composed and have a lot of depth to them. Many of the songs have different parts or “chapters” to them that include interesting and unpredictable intros, solos and outros. If you’re a fan of the three previous albums you will not be disappointed with this one. If I was forced to have a complaint about this album it would be the slight over use of the deeper vocals but this hardly hurts it as a whole. Bottom line is, get it!
Within the first 30 seconds you know this album is coming from a completely reborn band. Guitar tones, keyboards and vocals sound completely different. The vocals have taken on a deeper death metal feel from the almost black metal vocals of the past albums. It is done in such a fashion that you won't be missing the past vocals.
The opening track throws you right into the mess. The keys, drums and even the bass during the "Kalmah" moments (You know what they are when you hear them) are spot on. You know the band has been perfectly tuning their war machine while away from the frontline.
It is quite apparant that the addition of Petri Sankala on the drums was a smart move. NEVER had the drumming sounded so complete. He keeps up with the pace of the songs perfectly and his spuratic blast beats sound perfectly on time.
Standing out is the instrumental track "Svieri Doroga". Clocking in at 1:08 it is chocked full of clean tone guitar work that sounds absolutely mystifying. It doesn't slow down the album at all but only leads into the title track (And possibly the best track). The clean tone break down near the 3 minute mark makes this track stand out beyond the others. Leading into some beautiful solos after that are near perfect.
Once again the vocals powerfully deliver on this album. The welcome of collective group yelling from the band is excellently done. Low and sorrowful, much like the music Kalmah has been known for.
Some songs may be lacking in the blazing solo department but it is hardly noticable because of the beautiful way each song is built. No instrument is left out to "fill in". Each one comes out perfectly adding new dimensions to the music.
A solid release by a solid band. No fan will disaprove of this one.