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O metalhead! Is not the introduction of 'Hollow Heart' the greatest introduction to any melodeath song? And is it not a fine way to kick off an album full almost to the brim with melodic sparkle, guitar brilliance, and pure energy and drive? Sure as shit it is and it certainly makes me feel stupid for not joining the Kalmah party a lot sooner than I did.
For melodic death metal, there is always a teetering tightrope that any band must cross to ensure success: that of being catchy and melodic without being utterly saccharine and twee, that of being heavy and furious without losing any of the music's memorability, and that of sounding familiar without repeating what everyone else has done a thousand times before. Kalmah did a pretty good job of that early in their career, managing not to sound particularly Swedish (not the most difficult part given they're from Finland), nor like anyone else too closely, while still staying true to the ethos of the genre. The Children of Bodom comparisons have been flung around rather wildly, but I don't feel that the similarities stretch too far, aside from some nifty soloing on songs such as 'Swamphell'. Certainly the keyboard presence is used in a different way, often backing the sharp movements of the riffs, but not making a cavernous space like compatriots Insomnium, who went for the "big sound" way more than these guys. There's also more straightforwardly death metal parts in the songs on They Will Return, flashing out some vicious tremolo riffing while Pekka Kokko snarls out his fairly nasty vocals in a more palatable manner than Omnium Gatherum's gruff former singer Antti Filppu.
The songs on this album strike a good balance between being heavy and chaotic and being light and catchy too, usually including a couple of weighty riffs per song while also packing in chorus melodies or standalone hooks. The structures are not terribly surprising, mostly built around choruses and verses, but the pace is very quick at times and the changes in direction or added parts are slipped in with conspicuous skill, so there's rarely a predictable moment. Some of the solos or returns to the chorus come as wonderfully concealed or sudden surprises that continue to excite after several listens (the solo in 'The Blind Leader' will basically rip your pants off as it begins), while that introduction to the first song is like a burst of sun through the clouds every time it arrives and is more effective at starting the day than a litre of coffee. A few songs, like 'Human Fates' and 'My Nation', are mid-paced and feel slightly plodding by comparison, though there is more of a contemplative or atmospheric feel at these moments, which is probably required to make the other songs so elevated in their excitement.
One thing that makes the album work so well is not only the good balance of elements and the songwriting skill of the bandmembers, but also their individual talents that shine through several times each. The guitarists are clearly quite superb in their deployment both of melody and riffing, though in the end the leads take precedence as their most spectacular contribution, not only when they shred their way across the bounding riffs but also when they go for placement, such as on the title track. The keyboards are well done too and avoid the usual pitfalls of the instrument. Firstly, their supporting role is tastefully executed, providing only the necessary hovering lines of ambience and atmosphere at slower moments instead of swamping the sound; secondly, those accompaniments to some of the riffs are clever in making the melodeath guitar shapes bolder than usual; thirdly, the tone when the keyboard gets a lead melody or solo is actually unique, not sounding like flower metal petals but something grubbier and stickier that could have been pulled from the bottom of a swamp. The rhythm players have less time to shine with so much lead going on, though the bass is sprightly when it comes through at the beginning of 'Principle Hero', while the drums keep a glorious feeling of momentum to the faster songs, never giving up the spirit of the charge for a second.
When melodeath is done well it's hard to think of anything really wrong with it, and that's the feeling one gets from this album. Kalmah don't steal from anyone in specifics, nor do they fall into the standard blunders. I would say They Will Return is perfect for those who want more energy in their music and crave adrenaline alongside melodic suss, while the organization and attention to mood feels a little more controlled than Children of Bodom, plus the lyrics actually make sense, which was always CoB's downfall. There are some totally storming songs on here and a couple of decent efforts too. Well worth your time.
This is definitely a huge improvement over the fairly pedestrian Swamplord. Kalmah finally realized the potential they had in keyboardist Pasi Hiltula and let him go to town here. As such, the atmosphere benefits greatly. The production imbalances from the last album are also rectified along with the induction of Kusmin on the kit. They Will Return still can't dethrone Swampsong, but bless it all the same for trying.
The melodies are more memorable and infectious than ever before, and the heavier guitar presence counterpoints the harmonious assault quite effectively. "Swamphell" and the title track blend Hiltula's keys with the sonic weaving of the axes, forming the backbone of the aural assault. Kusmin's frenetic thrash patterns blow Sankala out of the water, serving as a potent introduction to his percussive capabilities. Add Pekka's two-dimensional, caustic vocal delivery and you have the magic formula. My favorite is without a doubt "My Nation", featuring a more deliberate, midpaced tempo and piano-infused verses. Hiltula's keyboard solo near the end is also memorable, and this can be viewed as a stylistic precursor to "The Third, the Magical" from Swampsong.
The guitars sound rightfully massive. Their tone isn't quite as powerful as on Swampsong, but they feature bold chords and well-honed leads. The rest of the band often drops completely out save for the drums, allowing Hiltula to do his melodic thing. His thick, exaggerated lead has in hindsight become of the most defining hallmarks of early Kalmah. I can't help but love his off-kilter soloing style and overuse of the pitch bend. That's not to say that he doesn't experiment with other sounds, as there are a multitude of throbbing strings and organs ebbing and flowing throughout nearly every track. The riffs also feature more thrash inclinations here, for some reason. The guitars are quick and explosive in their delivery, played with calculated abandon by the brothers Kokko. Individual standout moments include the groove evoked at around 3:30 in the opener "Hollow Heart" and the chugging passages of "The Blind Leader". I am also exceptionally fond of the lead section right before the solo during "Kill the Idealist", which resurrects the main melody of "Heritance of Berija", one of the standouts from the previous album.
The vocal performance isn't amazing, but Pekka wisely injected some variety into his approach. They Will Return introduces some of the gritty, cleanly delivered choruses that later became more prevalent. He rips out some primal, guttural roars during the final seconds of "Hollow Heart" that evoke overtones of pure enthusiasm. His primary approach is his typical raspy croak, which is inoffensive on the whole and becomes an afterthought considering the leadwork. They Will Return's riffs are at least as good as it's direct predecessor, but a marginal lack of variety and slightly less keys cause it to just miss the high watermark set by Swampsong a year later. As such, it is easily Kalmah's second best record, a prize it should still be very proud of.
This album rules Finnish melodic death. It’s got the same formula as the last album: inventive riffs, enchanting keyboard leads and solos, power metal influences, black metal’s malice, and timeless guitar leads. The only thing to knock this album down on is the inclusion of the Megadeth cover which, while Kalmah immaculately applied using their style, might not have been a wise choice in regard to the album’s more somber tone. Yes, They Will Return is a slightly darker direction that has the band more obligated in their procedure, but I’d say it’s more creative in its wholesome execution.
From the tsunami of guitar and keyboard solos in “Hollow Heart” to the melancholic segments in “My Nation,” They Will Return is relentless in its conveyance of exciting melodic death. The band’s delivery in fierce riffs, rancorous growls, callous screams, and prominent keys had them a plateau above their peers. The production on this one is a tad better than before, aiming for the same cold yet clear articulation of the instruments. It’s the kind that brings out the stimulating character of the leads (songs like the title track) while still absorbing the warmth of the moving segments (songs like “Kill The Idealist”). It’s a well-rounded job that suits the music while not being as harsh as the crispy tone of Swampsong.
Bass and drums are much like they were before, this time being played by the current members of the band. Not to say that they’re any more competent than the previous members, but there’s a real sense of cohesion and flow with this album better than the last one. Not to say that the debut lacked in consistency, but its memorability was in the songs themselves, not the whole package. That’s a strength of this sophomore, and one that keeps the entertainment value high throughout. With influences from power, black, and even thrash (it’s a dead giveaway for songs like “The Blind Leader”), Kalmah’s craftsmanship is superb. There are always showcased leads, classy harmonies, and never a dull moment when playing this album.
Kalmah’s first three full-lengths exemplify solid musicianship and the maximum potential that musicianship could reach. Even on the Megadeth cover, Pekka Kokko’s ghoulish screams are fitting with the energetic music at hand. With direction, configuration, and sophisticated savagery, They Will Return is a commendable album. It’s got its own identity to set it apart from its two companion albums and an enduring significance that’ll keep it relevant for a long time.
Like a few albums before it, They Will Return has a place in my heart as one of the ones that have changed my life. First off, I’d like to say that Kalmah really does not sound like Children of Bodom besides being a part of the Finnish wave of melodeath along with them, and is in fact superior in every way. Kalmah’s “They Will Return” blends melody, aggression, and technicality flawlessly. Every song has incredibly catchy guitar melodies harmonized with some very tasteful keyboard, fast and aggressive drumming, and great raspy vocals. Most songs also feature some great thrash/speed metal guitar solos, with the cover that closes the album nodding to Megadeth as an influence. The overall sound is a perfect amalgam of thrash/speed metal and the Finnish wave of melodic death metal that Kalmah is often considered a part of, along with bands like Bodom and Norther. The only reason this gets a 99 and not an 100 is because of the less-than-perfect lyrics, and when I say less-than-perfect, I do not mean bad, they just don’t match up to the epic beauty of the instrumentals. SInce I have heard this album, I have, in fact, been obsessively looking for bands that sound like Kalmah. And I have found none that are nearly as good.
Every track on this album is amazing, and there really are absolutely no weak points. Hollowheart fades in from a sample of footsteps in a swamp (for some reason the band is obsessed with them) to a typical great Kalmah lead part. The highlight of the second track, Swamphell, is a part where everything stops, leaving the bass, and then the lead guitar explodes in with a great thrashy lead. Principle Hero is easily one of the best tracks on the album, with great blast beats, and both a keyboard and guitar solo (in fact, many songs on this album have keyboard solos). The best part of the song is a calm part when epic synth strings come in, and chuggy guitar enters from the background. Kalmah calms things down a bit with the semi-ballad Human Fates, and Pekka Kokko introduces some deeper vocals in the chorus that complement his typical snarl (these vocals would become more common with later releases). The title track is a short and very sweet piece of melodic thrash with an absolutely addictive chorus. Kill The Idealist, the song that got me into Kalmah, has some very classic melodeath style switching between clean and distorted guitar, which is of course executed masterfully. The Blind Leader starts with a very Slayer-esque riff and drum beat, before getting more shreddy and melodic. My Nation would be a very proper end to the album, a very soothing semi-ballad with some great piano/keyboard, whispery vocals, and a heavier chorus. But to close off the album, Kalmah instead chose to take a classic Megadeth song and do what is, at this point, the only good cover of Megadeth I have ever heard. Faster than the original with raspy snarls that actually fit the song, Kalmah makes Skin o’ My Teeth their own. Lead guitarist Antti Kokko manages to nail the solo, and the band doesn’t have to cheat and use keyboard and/or cut it short, as some contemporaries did (ex. Norther – Tornado of Souls).
Overall, this album is absolutely amazing and the only reason it gets a less than perfect score is because I’m a guy that likes beautful, poetic lyrics, and theirs aren't really that special. Regardless, Kalmah is a great band that it pains me not to give an 100%, and I suggest that you forget about Children of Boredom and go buy this, now.
I love old Kalmah (not a big fan of the new Black Waltz mp3 samples I've heard on their site, but I'm praying it'll be good). Alot of people say this band is "power metal with harsh vocals", but that doesn't do them any justice. Kalmah sounds like they took some WASP influenced riffs and played them fast as hell, with a black metal feel and atmosphere behind it (think Dissection or old Emperor). So it's more like a black metal album with an 80's metal feel, with harsh vocals. It's a strange contrast but it works amazingly well. The songs themselves absolutely rip. Kalmah wastes no time in making what i think are some of the best riffs I've ever heard. Lots of soaring guitar melodies mixed with thrashy riffs and drumming and shredding guitar/keyboard solos, and a demonic evil sort of feel. Some songs have a "chorusy" feel without being bad. Once again reminding me of the glory days of the 80's (WASP in particular), but in no way overly emotional or dramatic. They seem to really have their act together and the songs have a really personal feel thats missing from a lot of bands. Really fucking cool to say the least. Not much else to say other than, give this band a chance if you haven't heard them yet. Don't let the fact that you may associate them with Children of Bodom keep you from checking it out. This thing shreds, and when it doesn't, it still kills with its amazingly good sense of song writing. This is what I would almost call a modern masterpiece. This is what modern metal should sound like.
First off, Kalmah is NOT a Children of Bodom clone. It is true that Swampsong leans more in that direction, and thus, I was dissapointed in it, but that's for another review. Listen to They Will Return, and tell me Children of Bodom is that atmospheric. Tell me that Children of Bodom is that brutal and heavy. Tell me that Children of Bodom is that fast. Just try to lie to me, and say that. Kalmah's sound leans much more toward atmospheric death metal. Their guitarist and keyboardists have different styles, as well. NOW, for the review ...
( Hollow Heart ) What can be said about this song? It's masterful. Brutal, fast, melodic and atmospheric as Hell. An amazing guitar/keyboard switch-off solo, with a style MUCH DIFFERENT than Children Of Bodom. Every member of the band contributes, and I can say just as much for every other track on this CD. 10/10
( SwampHell ) A very melodic, flowing beginning, going right into a thrash riff, and then into keyboard layered death/heavy metal. Great drumming, the song has a great structure. Awesome keyboard playing - as always. Again, here's another difference, you will notice, when the guitar solo picks up, it is a Dave Mustaine sounding solo. Another perfect song, in my opinion. 10/10
( Principle Hero ) Another fast, heavy melodic guitar intro. Leading into a death/black metal riff that will kick your ass. Once more, the keyboardist lays down magic. A climatic complex start into the bridge, where there's some majorly kick ass black metal riffing. And a ending to the bridge that leads back into the rest of the song ... that part always gives me chills. A third, flawless song. 10/10.
( Human Fate ) An awesome bass/keyboard intro. Leading into a soaring melodic death riff. The following parts are layered with powerful keyboard harmonies. The bridge comes in with a Transylvanian style key part, here again, I point out, it sounds nothing like Children of Bodom. Nor does the solo that follows. This song is very atmospheric, and mytic sounding. I'm not just being lazy here, by giving these all 10's, I really do think these songs are flawless. 10/10.
( They Will Return ) Starting off with a heavy metal guitar solo, leading into some more masterful riffing. This song is ridden with brilliant lead after brilliant lead. Another very atmospheric, powerful song ... and again, perfect. 10/10.
( Kill The Idealist ) Another melodic black/death masterpeice. And another track where I have to say their drummer accents, and compliments every part of the music perfectly. A superb power metal chorus, minus the vocals, of course ... 10/10
( Blind Leader ) This is a song with a vague power metal feel again, but, with the exeption of brutal drumming, and Pekka's awesomely killer vocals. Fast and crushing ... and then a chugging power metal bridge, with an astonishing guitar solo. And you guessed it ... 10/10
( My Nation ) A slower song, with an old school thrash/heavy/power metal feel ... piano parts are awesome ... *sigh* and yes, a truly beautiful and otherworldy keyboard solo. 10/10
( Skin O' My Teeth ) As fans of old school thrash will know, this is a Medadeth cover ... and I must say, it's something I feel should not be on the CD. I absolutely love the original, and the cover, but it's just something that I feel should not be on this otherwise flawless album. It stands out too much, though, it is very enjoyable to heard one of my favorite bands cover one of my favorite bands. But ... it's the only song on the CD I will not give a perfect rating. 9/10.
So, in conclusion, I say - even from the things you see in my review, you cannot think they sound like Children of Bodom - also, political, intelligent lyrics. It's something I noticed no one really comments on, lyrics, that is. Here are the things that I find better about Kalmah - heavier, faster, more intelligent lyrics, and much more atmospheric and real. Children of Bodom is also one of my favorite bands, but this CD, I think beats all their's with the exception of maybe Hatebreeder. To their credit also is the fact that at least two of the members (keyboardist and guitarist) graduated from music school. Also, their songs are very diverse, at least on this album. This CD, to me, is absolutely perfect ... and one of a kind. I recommend anyone reading reviews on Kalmah, disregard anything they've heard about Kalmah emulating Children of Bodom, because it is just not true. Give them a fair listen, and I know you will like them.
Ok, so basically, this album sounds just like 'Swamplord'. Kalmah never fails to stay consistent (which is a good and bad thing), and this album is built on the same stuff, so if you liked Swamplord, you'll like this.
I have one beef with Kalmah's song-writing techniques. I've noticed that in nearly all their songs, they start off with this catchy 30 second intro that sucks you in right off the bat, and then they immediately jump into the typical melodic death drumming and riffing. Now I'm not saying anything against their talent as musicians, but this makes every song get rather mediocre after a while and they all start to sound the same aside from a small guitar solo or two. If these guys would just switch it up a little, they'd probably get an automatic 100% from me. Luckily on 'Swampsong', they finally start to add a little diversity to their songs.
The riffs on here are very crunchy, often fast, and these guys have obvious talent. That's really what keeps me listening to them. The drummers double bassing becomes pretty assaulting at certain times, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you look for in your metal. The vocals are just your typical death metal vocals, nothing impressive, but they more than get the job done. And finally, the bassist does a good job of adding some depth to the songs.
As for someone's accusations of this being a Children of Bodom rip-off band? Not in the least! Both of these bands are melodic death, so obviously there will be some similarities, but Kalmah and COB tend to have very different styles of songwriting.
Best Tracks: They Will Return, Kill the Idealist, and Hollow Heart.
This second offer from Melodo-Black Metallers Kalmah is considerably tastier than their last which was still a solid album, to say the least. It’s still the same variety of Metal, but “They Will Return” is somehow a more convincing album. Everything that was good about Kalmah before has somehow been augmented or improved upon, producing a most fascinating and enjoyable record. Although I liked their debut without question, my biggest complain about it was that despite having listened to it numerous times, few song stuck in my memory. That issue has been resolved; compositions are stronger and more interesting, while there is a generally more varied feel to the album. Writing in general is much better—the melodies are more engaging and diverse, while lyrically Kalmah’s style has also evolved. With powerful melodies and lyrics hand in hand, “They Will Return” makes for a truly emotional album. Like the music, the lyrics are in the same vain as the previous record; they’re just better. Beautifully written, the lyrics concern themselves with personal and social issues (more of the latter on this album)—they’re firmly planted in reality with only a hint of mysticism or magic.
One of Kalmah’s many strong points is amazing fills/time changes/interludes, whatever you want to call them. That, like all other positive aspects of Kalmah’s style, has really grown to become an integral part of their music. All the time changes are really natural and fluid, fitting the main bulk of the song cleverly. Yet another musical growth comes in the form of more classical influences. There isn’t an overwhelming presence thereof; only enough to further broaden the diversity of the album.
One thing that really stuck out about Kalmah was the keyboard parts. They were very atmospheric and were retained mainly to the background with few moments in the limelight. “They Will Return,” however, has diversified the use of this instrument a bit so that it serves as that same, often eerie atmospheric synth and also gets more show-off opportunities. Other than that, performances haven’t really changed a whole lot (it’s more the way the parts are used). The band somehow sounds more convincing as a while, but I guess that’s due to more mature writing. The riffs and solos (Antti Kokko, Pekka Kokko) are awesome, while the drumming is also a huge part of the music. I love that drummer Janne Kusmin doesn’t always use crazy double kick; Kalmah is one of those bands who have successfully proven that you don’t need lightning speed bass drums to be Metal!
“Hollowheart” fades in over the sound of squishy footsteps in a marsh. It’s a good, solid opening track with a great guitar solo—but the album only goes up from here. The ensuing “Swmpspell” rushes in with a great melody and admirable lyrics. One thing I liked about this second song was that pretty much every instrument has its time to shine. A bass fill at the 1:00 mark, some nice time changes show off the keyboard work, and singer Pekka Kokko is paced in such a way as to let the rest of the band really be heard. “Kill the Idealist, “Blind Leader” and “Principal Hero” are also awesome—in the latter, there is a most brilliant interlude around the 2:10 mark, which slowly builds back up… wow. “Human Fates” is a tad slower, with an almost folksy melody and absolutely creepy keyboards. I like the words “Life is nothing but a gift…” It’s funny timing; I heard this album right after discussing the quote “Life is a gift, not a right.” This song seemed to confirm that theory…
The title track is a definite favorite for me. It’s a quick, bouncing song with some awesome energetic guitar work. The chorus, too, is really amazing. There is something really empowering and prophetic about it that I really like—and the keyboards are cool too… Along with “They Will Return,” my other favorite is “My Nation.” Beautiful harmonizing guitars open this wonder of composing and emotion. For some reason songs about patriotism, exile etc really creep me out. Those subjects bring out a really bizarre and inexplicable emotion in me… funny, I’m not really patriotic or anything. Anyway… I like the extremes in this piece—the verses are slow, quiet and Kokko is almost whispering the words; the choruses are a tad faster and are sung at normal volume, though there is something oddly subdued about it. The drumming is great, too—especially near the end.
The album concludes with a cover of Megadeth’s “Skin O’ My Teeth.” It’s a great cover—Kalmah has sort of made it their own; nevertheless it’s a bizarre way to end the album. It’s in such a different tone than the rest of the record, so I don’t quite know what to think of it as a finale. “My Nation” might have been a better choice. Still, “They Will Return” is one of my favorite albums of the genre, and I would recommend any Melodo-Black fan pick it up. Hail Kalmah!