Kalmah - The Black Waltz review
|Album:||The Black Waltz|
|Release date:||February 2006|
02. Bitter Metallic Side
03. Time Takes Us All
04. To The Gallows
05. Svieri Doroga
06. The Black Waltz
07. With Terminal Intensity
08. Man Of The King
09. The Groan Of Wind
11. One From The Stands
12. This Mortal Coil [Carcass cover] [Japanese bonus]
Well, from the first dark, crunchy guitar riff, it's obvious that that this isn't a typical Kalmah album. One of the most standout (and very probably the most controversial) changes lies in the vocal style, which have changed from phlegm-drenched black metal shrieks to low-register "cookie monster" death growls. I'm not a fan of the new vocals (take the terribly under-melodic vocal intro to "Time Takes Us All", for example), but I wasn't a huge fan of the old ones either, so this isn't a deal-breaking issue for me. Eventually I got used to the old ones, but they were very grating for quite a while. The quality and creativity haven't really changed; they've simply switched ends of the spectrum, so this issue really comes down to personal preference. However, a lot more than the vocals changed here.
Kalmah dropped most (all?) of their power metal influences in this album, and adapted to more firmly melo-death territory. The tempos have slowed a bit, and the guitar work has (for the most part; some of their old guitar style remains) converted to a heavier, more riff-based format. One plus is that the bass is given much more room to shine and a much more audible mix. This, along with vastly improved drumming, which incorporates much more rhythmic variety (especially breaks), give the band a much deeper, darker, more developed sound than that of previous recordings. Finally, the production has vastly improved to boot.
The guitar technicality seems to me to be at a similar level to old Kalmah during the meat of the songs, though the slower tempos and focus on melody may subtract a bit. The rhythm guitar seems to have improved significantly and is much more prominent here, though the lead guitar is a bit less frequently present than old Kalmah. Fortunately the soloing is at least on par with their previous work with regards to both keys and guitar IMO. Unfortunately, the keys sometimes step back a bit in comparison to before (even in mix volume), providing atmosphere and accents more often than the blistering polymelodic work so prevalent before. This is very much a guitar-driven and guitar-focused album. The melodies on this album are excellent and far more appreciable than before, though (to my personal disappointment) most neoclassical elements have been dropped in favor of greater focus on Kalmah's vaguely folkish "swamp" feel/theme.
In short, Kalmah died and was reborn with this disk; they're still distinctly Kalmah, but their focus, sound, strengths, and perhaps even sub-genre have shifted. Both more melodic and more rhythmically interesting, yet less keyboard-centric and a bit slower, they became a much deeper, darker, and more unified band in my opinion equally good while vastly different.
|This are interesting times to take a look at the Extreme Metal in Finland, a lot of releases are showing beloved bands evolving and adapting to the times. Kalmah is one of them, once tagged as a copycat of Children Of Bodom (yeah, other one), they have changed so much through the time that comparing them to the after mentioned act is quite ridiculous.
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