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Five Years Worth the Wait - 80%

andrewarchav, April 19th, 2019

It’s been 5 years since Kalmah released my favorite record of 2013, Seventh Swamphony, and the wait is finally over. Palo, their 8th record dropped on April last year, and I couldn’t be more excited. I was, however, immediately turned down by their first single, Evil Kin, in which plodding and droning riffs meet dorky quote-unquote evil lyrics. The song gets interesting during the final part where different vocal layers are laid on top of the chorus. Still, I worried that this track was a dire warning sign. My fears of this album being just a basic, uninteresting and dry melodeath were reverted once my ears met Blood Ran Cold. This is the track that I wanted from Kalmah; a fast paced chorus, guitar melodies laid on top of a frenetic blast beat section, and an aggressive, dry and furious vocals.

I used the word dry twice now and that’s because this album feels dry. If you ever got to use an amp, or any sound design application, you probably once or twice, or a hundred times, put the bass volume to minimum and the treble to max. That’s how this album feels like. The bass is only really a thing when no other instruments are being played (there’s one section in Blood Ran Cold and once in Shallow Waters), and throughout most of the album the second guitar does the bass' job. Still, the crazy thing is; it works. The record feels raw, dry and the more hectic parts work well. The songs I feel that are hindered by the mixing are the final two. Firstly, Erase and Diverge chorus’ is fantastic by itself, but it lacks power and oomph with a drum sound so low. Secondly, the entirety of The Stalker is ruined by such mixing. This mid-paced closer should have been more menacing, alas, it is not. Notwithstanding, there’s a section after the bridge in the Stalker which features this slow drum pattern, a crushing riff and a bombastic synth all in unison and it is by far the best part of the track.

The tracks that benefit most from this low bass/synth heavy style are the best three; World of Rage, which starts with this beautiful melody in some keyboard setting that sounds like a macabre a-ha song, only to then continue the melody with the synthesizer alongside blast beats galore, it's beautiful. Paystreak, which sees intense, fast paced verse and pre-chorus exploding in the most epic, slower paced chorus in the whole album. Last, but not least, Through the Shallow Waters, the one track with a killer opening riff that always blow me away.

Did I mention the keyboards? I should talk about them, because they are the star of Palo. Their last record wasn’t the best keyboard-wise, they had a new guy come in and I don’t know what happened, but that album ended up with very weak synth-sections. I guess those five years of wait paid off, cause in Palo, they are everywhere. It has hooks, solos, melodies, bridges, all done with the keyboard's signature cheesy sound. It never feels out of place however, thanks to the album’s more power metal focus.

Palo isn’t the greatest Kalmah record, but it stands out among the other seven. It does take a couple of spins to adjust to the production style and to the more power/melodic focused songs, but as it is, it is a welcome addition to the swampy world of melodeath.

It's gonna take some time. - 89%

ChildClownOutlet, April 17th, 2019

Our favorite swamplords have finally decided to release their newest album "Palo." After their fantastic "Seventh Swamphony," I was hoping they'd be able to recreate their success. They did.

And they didnt.

Yes my friends, this is the first Kalmah album where you need a second or third listen to let it truly digest in you. And it's a killer album. It's not as catchy as "For The Revolution," but think of it as a continuation of "Seventh Swamphonys" maturity. Let's take songs like "Evil Kin," or "Blood Ran Cold." These would be, in my opinion, the filler of the album. These would be the singles for a reason, catchy melodies but then they just drag on with no sense of closure. “Evil Kin” is the biggest culprit. There is nothing going on in that song except for repetition and dullness. It could’ve easily been tossed away. The saving grace is the chorus riff that plays throughout.

On the plus side, the other songs don’t have these issues. Pekkas vocals are STRONG in “The World of Rage” along with the work of sophomore keyboardist Veli-Matti, whose key work are even better than on “Seventh Swamphony.” “Paystreak” is a roaring thrasher of a song that has one of the best melodies of the album. My personal favorite song. “Through the Shallow Waters” tends to plod along with melodies but think of it as an improved version of “Blood Ran Cold.” Album ender “The Stalker” is a combination of “The Trapper” from their previous album with a dash of “The Black Waltz,” a mid paced stomper that’s absolutely killer. I’m telling you, the keys in this album are a huge improvement from Marco Sneck.

In the end, Kalmah releases another worthy album. Worthy on first listen? I’d say no as it took me 2 extra spins for it to truly sink in. But after all that, it was decided that this album was pretty damn good. Kalmah has never failed and this album is another fantastic release from the masters of melo death.

Really does belong on the clearance sale - 38%

Wilytank, August 10th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Spinefarm Records

Kalmah have been around for a bit of a while longer beginning in 1991 under the name Ancestor before switching names in '98. They didn't quite catch the same commercial break that was caught by Children of Bodom, another Finnish band that uses high flying melodic guitar leads and prominent keyboards, but the consensus is that they have been a lot more consistent throughout their career. Now despite that, Kalmah have never really gotten as great as Children of Bodom at their best (Follow the Reaper is better than Kalmah's entire discography combined), but unlike CoB, I actually think Kalmah have gotten better in their later albums. 12 Gauge is a really fun album as is its followup Seventh Swamphony. Since Seventh Swamphony, the band has spent 5 years in silence; a silence finally broken in 2018 with the release of Palo, and the result is something....that's actually pretty bad.

I feel that Kalmah went 5 years without releasing anything because they ran out of ideas, and now that Palo is released, I can confirm that they are in fact out of ideas. The songs on the previous two albums were hyper, but in a way that really got me fired up. That feeling just doesn't exist anymore. The hooks are weak, the solos aren't as impressive, and there's nothing really that makes me want to go back and listen again. The only two tracks I genuinely thought were fun were "Into the Black Marsh" and "Paystreak". Other than that, we've got stuff that feels like half-hearted recreations of stuff on 12 Gauge or Seventh Swamphony like "Waiting in the Wings" or "Erase and Diverge". They certainly weren't doing themselves any favors by releasing the track "Blood Ran Cold" early either. That's a bland, mid-paced piece that goes nowhere if there ever was one.

And speaking of tracks released early, what the fuck is up with "The Evil Kin"? Are Kalmah so out of gas that they've resorted to writing poppy sounding shit like this? There's three tracks on this album that sound like this, the other two being "Take Me Away" and "The Stalker". Finnish melo-death tends to sound sugary enough as it is, but these tracks take that too far. They're standard mid-paced tracks with (again) no awesome solos, flowery key work, and cheese laden lyrics. Going from the best songs on 12 Gauge to tracks like these three feels like going from some Dragonball Super Saiyan fight sequence to some montage of anime high school girls dancing in their show's opening sequence. There's a drop-off. There's a major fucking drop-off.

So with all that taken into consideration, I have to say congratulations to Kalmah. After all, they finally made an album that can be definitively called their worst. Don't be taken in by some delusion that Palo can compare favorably to their older material; it cannot. If you really want to experience that magic again, all I can suggest is to go listen to their older albums instead.

Of false divinity. - 85%

Diamhea, April 20th, 2018

Palo represents the longest wait between full-length albums for this Finnish melodeath institution, and with precious few other regional exports delivering quality material in this perennially-aging subgenre, most with a balanced head on their shoulders would look to Kalmah to reignite the punishing majesty of days long gone. And it isn't even as if these Oulu natives needs to lean heavily on the nostalgia trump card to appease their listener base - they have never released a bum record, with Seventh Swamphony and 12 Gauge delivering a gelid one-two punch of modernizing their style without sacrificing the dexterous, sinewy triumphant feel of the earlier records. Palo stands out in that regard right away, sounding a lot like For the Revolution with reedy, higher-register synths and a stronger emphasis on straight-line melodies rather than the prioritization of muscular bravado riffage like The Black Waltz.

Even better, the production strikes a laser-sharp agglomeration between old and new, rather than the flaccid, forceless pitter-patter that dogged For the Revolution. Veli-Matti Kananen really steps into his own here, doing his best Marco Sneck impersonation ala "Towards the Sky," "Dead Man's Shadow" and the like. Certain melodies on Palo sound straight out of Swamplord or They Will Return, although the absence of Pasi Hiltula's eternally-distinctive playing style consigns this album to a respectable tribute to the band's genesis - certainly a wise decision in hindsight. What wasn't so wise was releasing "Evil Kin" as the first single, with it easily being the worst track here and in fact the only arguable miss among a cadre of rich melodeath gems, all utilizing the key ingredients that work best in their favor. Take "Blood Ran Cold" for instance, featuring a riff-centric assault and somehow excelling with minimal keyboard interference. My personal favorite would have to be "Waiting in the Wings," this album's "The Trapper" and home to one of the most "Kalmah" sounding riffs on the record. Plus I love that descending drum/guitar tandem that locks into a mean percussive salvo.

Other highlights include... well the entire middle section of the record. "Paystreak" feels like the most comprehensive cut here, and tunes like "Take Me Away" and "The World of Rage" utilize "Alteration"-esque synth flourishes that give Palo a rather distinct identity in the band's canon, what with the balancing back-and-forth juggled between those old-school fist-raisers and powerful lower-register exercises like "Into the Black Marsh" and the swinging riffs of "Through the Shallow Waters." If any further complaint can be levied against the record, it is that "Erase and Diverge" feels underwhelming compared to the quality streak that precedes it, and closer "The Stalker" struggles to build up steam, despite showing good proof-of-concept regarding Kalmah's ability to deliver in the blueprint of "Sacramentum." Still, melodies sound fleshed-out no matter where you are in the record, evoking the grisly fusion that hallmarks melodic death as we have come to appreciate it.

Along with these few misfires, the longer break since Seventh Swamphony along with Antti's absence during some recent touring had me worried that these Finns were beginning to lose interest, since these guys still have full-time day jobs, but an approachable standard is maintained throughout Palo. And while I noticed a distinct lack of soloing along with melodies that don't fully grasp the llistener's throat until repeated listens, there is certainly no doubt about it: they have returned.