Kalmah – Seventh Swamphony

Achintya Venkatesh reviews the new release from Kalmah titled ‘Seventh Swamphony‘, released via Spinefarm Records.

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Cover art was done by the brilliant Juha Vuorma. He’s also done artwork for Autopsy, Edge of Sanity and other bands as well.

Tracklist

‘Seventh Swamphony’
‘Deadfall’
‘Pikemaster’
‘Hollo’
‘Windlake Tale’
‘Wolves on the Throne’
‘Black Marten’s Trace’
‘The Trapper’

Kalmah is one of those bands that I feel haven’t got the their due and deserved attention, even within the realm of melodic death-metal, overshadowed by a range of bands both within their specific sub-genre and furthermore by their world famous fellow ethnic compatriots, Children of Bodom, who in my opinion are even less consistent than the contingent of the second tier melodic death-metal bands from Finland, such as the immensely talented Wintersun (who also combine other eclectic folk/power metal elements in addition to their melodic death-metal style); the now defunct Norther, Swallow the Sun (who also have strong doom/death metal leanings) and Insomnium. Yet this is precisely what I would attribute Kalmah’s strong consistency and stylistic integrity over the years to – their relatively moderate popularity in turn leading to a cult following has only further fuelled the fire in their belly to continue to break boundaries and out do themselves, or at the very least annually churn out some reasonably unique and easily enjoyable tunes. Kalmah’s latest offering, Seventh Swamphony, once again a play on the word symphony in line with their thematic obsession with the environment, particularly revolving around the swamps of Finland, as well as a reference to the fact that the album happens to be their seventh studio album.

The album opener, which is the title track of the album, is a ball-busting start to the record, with blast beats, technical and blistering guitar solos, melodic, sing-along riffs and the right amount of dramatic keyboard work accompanying the riffage. The 2nd track, Deadfall too is in a similar vein. The 3rd track, Pikemaster is one of the standouts of the album and sees Kalmah’s ever so impeccable execution of grandeur in balancing melody and brutality, with a strong leaning to the former, of course. The next track, Hollo, charters into slower-paced territory and is a semi-ballad of sorts with an anthemic edge to it as the track progresses. The track features some emotionally evocative guitar work with harmonies at select and appropriate parts. Pekka Kokko alternates between roared, growled vocals, and subtle but somewhat tenuous clean passages.

 

 

The 5th track Windlake Tale exemplifies epic in every sense of the word – blistering leads; hauntingly emotive and dramatic keyboard work and a barrage of roared vocals. The next track, Wolves on the Throne features some excellent fret-work in the form of uniquely sharp, relentless and hard-hitting riffs complimented by the bombardment of controlled blast-beats courtesy of Janne Kusmin. On the other hand, Veli-Matti Kananen seems to know just how to complement and enhance those heavy riffs with breathtakingly electrifying keyboard work. The 7th track, Black Marten’s Race is a fairly conventional, anthemic Scandinavian melo-death song with some interesting keyboard work. The album closer, The Trapper, has a more marching pace relative to the velocity-driven songs on the rest of the album. This actually makes for a perfect album closer, and kudos to Kalmah for placing this appropriately in the track listing. All the elements, be it the vocals or the instrumentation are in an equilibrium of sorts, working together as opposed to trying to outshine the other, and is perhaps the most balanced track of the album. But to some, this closer might seem too slow or even plodding as compared to the other tracks and might not suffice as the theatrical and dynamic album closer that Kalmah intended it to be.

In conclusion, this album is an undoubtedly solid, but not particular groundbreaking release. The Kokko brothers have retained the crispness and sophistication that they derive from classic/power metal which has in turn lead to a unique brand of refined melodic death-metal, which gives a feel-good, invigorating vibe to the end product. Kananen’s keyboard work handles dramatism in a classy manner without descending into incessant melodrama, while Kusmin’s drum work also alternates between relentlessness and calculated restraint. Unfortunately, Timo Lehtinen’s bass is hardly audible in the mix throughout the album, except during a select segment of Wolves on the Throne.

Overall this album seems to only further reinforce the fact that Kalmah is a somewhat underrated yet formidable force in the melodic death-metal world and adds to their solid catalogue. Kalmah are well and back in shape after the sub-par For The Revolution and the return-to-form release 12 Gauge. They have lost that touch of blackened ferocity they once had and instead have replaced that with something vaguely thrashy, making them less unique but very enjoyable nevertheless.

 

 

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Besieged – Victims Beyond All Help

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the reissue of the album from Besieged titled Victims Beyond All Help, released via Unspeakable Axe Records.

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Tracklisting:

‘Internal Suffering’
‘Death’
‘Buried Alive’
‘The End’
‘Victims Beyond All Help’
‘Trapped Inside’
‘Black’

This is fierce! Besieged isn’t just another gang of wistful reprobates longing for a mid-80s utopia of denim vests and white hi-top sneakers. They’re a fast, furious band who prove that thrash metal isn’t just an outmoded subgenre or an exercise in nostalgia. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few thrash revival acts out there worth listening to, and Besieged’s straight-for-the-jugular attack and relentless barrage of whipcracking riffage make it clear that they’re here to chew gum and kick some ass.

Remember when Sepultura was awesome? I’m talking Beneath The Remains and Arise. Remember Dark Angel at their peak? Remember how there was a time when death metal and thrash weren’t that far apart, when you could hear the genres bleeding into each other at the edges? Besieged operates in that space, but that’s not to say that their sound is a throwback. A song like the simply-titled, aggressively perfect ‘Death’ with its swirling riffs constantly ratcheting up the heaviness factor isn’t just an attempt to recreate the past; it’s an absolutely up-to-the-minute, vital and immediate song in a genre that still has a lot of life in it in the right hands. Nolan Smit’s furious, barked-out vocal delivery is pleasingly reminiscent of Max Cavalera at his most furious or Mille Petroza in his earlier years. Unlike the usual Bay Area necrophilia, the riffing draws as much on the Teutonic thunder of very Sodom as it does on American thrash. This makes for a volatile cocktail, one that erupts with dazzling incendiary violence on another album highlight, ‘The End’ or the title track, a veritable feast of riffs with enough chunky, sizzling mosh fodder to whet even the most jaded appetite.

There’s nary a misstep on this steaming platter of some of the juiciest thrash metal it has been my pleasure to consume in the past decade or so. The album was originally independently released, and major props are due to Dark Descent’s thrash sub-label, Unspeakable Axe who’ve picked another real winner for their sophomore release. I can’t wait to see what this band, and this label, has lined up for us next!

 

 

Diamonds in the Rough – April – Part II

Diamonds in the Rough

Damn it! We are almost at the end of May and here i am typing away last month’s Diamonds in the Rough. As usual i’ve been giving the lords of procrastination a run for their money. To be frank a combination of the much dreaded office work and and downright laziness have been a cause of immense self loathing for sometime now, and this is probably a byproduct. Ah well, lets get on with it already. With this second edition i to visit the more modern side of last month’s releases. Now flush out all your previous playlists, and make space for this one.

P.S. Hope you’ve listened to the first part of our playlist.

THE PLAYLIST

 

 

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1. EMPYRIOS

Music can be infectious, yes. But when it comes to metal, it takes an altogether different level of precedence. Although not being an avid fan of Power metal, Empyrios from  Italy seems to do it for me rather wonderfully well. They combine the downtuned grooves of djent with the aural range of power metal, and yet they cannot be pigeonholed as being cheesy as most of power metal usually ends up being. They even have a good  amount of electronica tagging along and it suits their brand of music pretty well . An added fact is that the vocalist is not even close to being whiny, which is always a plus. In fact at times, sounds much like the gifted Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge (one of the few mainstream bands that is worth a dime). The track from comes from their new album Zion released via Scarlet Records.

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2. NEGATOR

When scouring the metal holy lands of Germany, you are likely to come across bands from all the given subgenres of metal. Yet Black metal is one genre, which the country is not really known for. Despite having a more than active underground, there have been far too little for people to take up and notice. Yet last year brought some surprisingly good albums from bands such as the long running Desaster and Secrets of the Moon. This year seems geared to be no different with Endstille, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult and the Ruins of Bevarest coming out with interesting releases. Another such promising new band is Negator. They play a brand of black metal more close to the styles of Dark Funeral and Belphegor. An interesting fact is that since Lord Caligula retired from the Dark Funeral early this year, none other than Negator’s vocalist Nachtgarm replaces him in the live set. Serenading everything unholy, the band unleashes a scathing attack on the senses with their song The Last Sermon. The track comes off their new album Gates to the Pantheon released via Viva Hate Records.

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3. HORD

The French! Need i say more?  Redefining ingenuity as they are, the country is hardly the cesspool that most nations where metal took its roots from, are now. It seems that nothing can go wrong with anything remotely French. To be precise when they are not at their creative best, they produce downright catchy stuff, much like Hord here in Unleash the Hermod.  Drawing inspiration from most of the modern melodic death metal veterans as well as adding in tons of spaced out atmosphere, this is aural bliss. Clean vocals, strangely similar to Anders Friden’s that are far from today’s cheesefest and several downright infectious hooks are the order of the day.

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4. THY ART IS MURDER

As much as i dislike Deathcore there are a few bands that are truly worth the time. All Shall Perish, the Akeldama era The Faceless and yes Whitechapel too. I’ve been a fan of Whitechapel’s post- This is Exile work while all of their early stuff was uninteresting metal drivel. Yes i might  draw some serious flak for this, but what the hell! I better be frank and true to myself than be Mr.Blatant Poseur. Now lets get to the crux of the matter here. Very similar in style to Whitechapel is Thy Art is Murder from Australia. Its got everything that makes Deathcore a much maligned genre, the no middle ground deep guttaral/high pitch screams  , layered growls, bassdrops and the one thing that has almost attained ubiquitous status, Breakdowns. But Thy Art is Murder mixes it up in such a way that it retains a certain freshness much unlike the general stale and saturated state of the genre. The song Shadow of Eternal Hate best exemplifies their sound and quite easily is their best song. Goddamnit listen to that intro groove/riff. Absolutely mauling!! The song comes off their new alum Hate released via Nuclear Blast Records.

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5. AGRIMONIA

A band that might as well have gone under everybody’s radar,  the Swedish Agrimonia play a dark and sludgy variant of post- metal. At times their songs, hint at the bleakness inherent to most of Black metal, and with the raspy vocals it does seem more like it. Eerie and melodic, they eschew the generally seamless meandering tendencies of post-metal/hardcore for a more directed approach. This makes their songwriting more precise and as a result, potent. With the production duties handled by the now legendary Fredrik Nordstrom, every little nuance becomes discernible. This particular song The Battle Fought comes off their latest offering Rites of Separation released via Southern Lord.

Devourment – Conceived in Sewage

The Old Disgruntled Bastard reviews the new album from Devourment titled Conceived in Sewage, released via Relapse Records.

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Tracklisting:

01. Legalize Homicide
02. Fifty Ton War Machine
03. Conceived In Sewage
04. Fucked With Rats
05. March to Megiddo
06. Today We Die, Tomorrow We Kill
07. Heaving Acid
08. Carved Into Ecstasy
09. Parasitic Eruption

Notorious Devourment, harbingers of an entire sub genre frowned upon by death metal purists, return to bash skulls in with their first full length in four years. Brutality is a much-touted byword in this particular scene, and while I can occasionally enjoy simplistic chugathons, to me oppressive, violent death metal has always been more synonymous with bands predating the style in question; when it comes down to it, few, in my estimation, can rival the sheer bloody-nosed irreverence of titles like ‘Lunatic Of God’s Creation’, ”Your Rotting Face’, Coronation Of Our Domain’, ‘Slowly We Rot’, ‘Liege Of Inveracity’, ‘Benedictine Convulsions’, etc, songs you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the term “brutal death metal” (other than Suffocation, of course). Bands like Infester and Embalmer, still grimier offshoots, exhibited far more backwoods brutality and an innate sense of perversion, intimately woven into the fabric of the overall sound, never faked, than what has come to be called slam/brutal death; a vibe achieved through a general tone of malice fostered by the arrangements, and not just overt use of gruesome, politically incorrect audio samples or uniformly dumbed down riffing.

 

Stream the entire album below:

 

To their credit, though, Devourment switch things up on Conceived In Sewage. While they aren’t about to be mistaken for Pavor anytime soon, the progenitors of slam choose, for the most part, to give wide berth to the gratuituous breakdown. Now I don’t mean to suggest that there is nothing of the sort on display here; the band still chug away to glory for more than equitable portions of the album but Devourment have certainly upped the tempo on these sections, almost to the extent of dissuading pit ninjas and assorted martial artists from honing their chops to the nuisance of all gathered. It’s a funny thing; played just a touch slowly, these parts would yet resemble the archetypal slam, but as they stand, they resemble a slam band hurrying through their set to meet the closing call. And it works better than it has ever worked, or has worked, at least since Molesting The Decapitated.

I mean, I could make out Mike Majewski growling ‘I watch them die.  Their dying eyes burned in my mind’ on opener ‘Legalize Homicide’ without referring the lyric sheet. Surely that has to be a first for this band? The piglet-gargling-down-the-toilet burps, once Ruben Rosas’ specialty, are somewhat held back in favour of a more traditional lower register; of course, this being Devourment, “traditional” is somewhat of an event parallax.

But it is the little things done differently that will ultimately bear favourable testimony to Conceived In Sewage. The title song begins with a doomy intro that lapses into one of the most infectious breakdowns the band has penned; good luck staying still when this is played live. An instrumental, ‘March To Megiddo’, with its staggered, stabbing chords and the martial beat underneath, is something you’d expect on a Hail Of Bullets record, but it is startlingly effective respite before plunging headlong into the remainder of the album’s groove-obsessed charnel grounds. Elsewhere, Devourment channel Cannibal Corpse, and old death metal, in general, more than they ever have, giving it their distinct, neanderthal slant; I just wonder how much more exotic the whole thing would’ve been with a solo or three thrown into the mix.

Some may call Devourment low-brow entertainment but, much like Mortician, there is a niche, and a need, for bands like them. That is not to condone  the hordes of imitators, but Devourment are genuine originators and Conceived In Sewage shows a veteran band caring enough to diversify their basic template.

Through Music….. Through Harmony….

No modern medical marvel nor one’s overriding faith in religious philosophy can heal wounds, both mental and physical, as much as music can. Music has brought communities together, developed relations and better, sown seeds of trust among a species who are more inclined to breed hostility. We metalheads ought to know better, for there is no better example of a community more tightly knit than ours. Today Raj Sharma catches up with British lecturer/journalist Ray Holroyd who runs his own record label Revolution Harmony, with the sole intend to help talented artists come up and in the same vein, help the world to be a better place, in his own little way. The profits of the label are channeled directly to charity. There is nothing but massive respect for the dude from our side. Here is the interview where he talks about the new single from Revolution Harmony featuring an all start cast. Head down and see for yourself who they are..

“Revolution Harmony’s debut All-Star charity single ‘We Are’ features vocals from Serj Tankian (System Of A Down) and Ihsahn (Emperor), as well as guitar solos by Devin Townsend. Composed, arranged, programmed and produced by Ray Holroyd in Vancouver, the complex international studio project was recorded in North America, England, Norway and New Zealand, then mixed by Rohan Onraet (Slipknot, Machine Head) in London, and mastered by Ted Jensen (Green Day, Muse) in New York. The single also features Stefan Loh (We Claimed Sentience Once – signed to Revolution Harmony) on guitars, and additional vocals from the young up-and-coming UK singer Abbie Johnson.”

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1. Greetings Ray, the main motive of Revolution Harmony is finally getting started with the Release of We are?? When and what exactly was it that motivated you to lead such a good cause??

Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words and support, I’m deeply grateful. To answer your question, I feel that my motivation to make a positive change in the world started at a very young age, though I didn’t have the resources to materialise my empathy into something like Revolution Harmony until fairly recently. Most people are only finding out about me now, but it has taken almost three decades of practicing, studying, and networking to lay the foundation on which I could build Revolution Harmony. Growing up in South Africa, I saw first-hand how unimaginably difficult life was for people in the townships, like Khayelitsha that was down the road from me. I was beyond fortunate to have had the opportunity to study and play music as a child. Music has the power to literally save lives, and all children should have access to music education, especially those in underprivileged areas.

2. The single is dedicated to Nelson Mandela and the memory of Lucky Dube , any particular reasons behind it ??

As a South African who lived through the apartheid years, I found Nelson Mandela and Lucky Dube to be unwavering in their visionary work to heal the country’s horrific wounds, and move everyone away from the violent black/white past and into the peaceful rainbow-nation future. Thankfully everyone knows about Mandela, but not many people outside of South Africa are familiar with Lucky Dube, which is why I wanted to bring awareness to him and his music. He was a truly inspirational revolutionary and a phenomenally talented musician, like our very own Bob Marley. However, the whole country wept in October 2007 when he was sadly shot dead, which was definitely one of South Africa’s greatest losses. Both Mandela and Dube have inspired me and countless others, by proving that one person truly can make the world a better place. Imagine a world where everyone felt empowered like them to make a difference!

3. Do you intend to do more of such Charity single as “We are” in future or you have anything else planned after this release??

Yes, definitely! In fact, I’m working on our second All-Star charity single right now and I’ve already confirmed two artists for it. I’m aiming to release the next single at Christmas, and my goal is to do three or four every year after that. All the proceeds from each single will go to a different smaller charity.

4.Besides Devin, Ihsahn and Serj was there anyone else that you wished to joined this all-star release? Give us and little more insight on the track

This was my ultimate dream team for our debut single! However, there are two really soft sections in the song that needed a female voice, so my friend Stefan Loh (We Claimed Sentience Once) who also played guitar on the track, recommended a friend of his called Abbie Johnson. As soon as I heard Abbie’s unique vocals I knew she was the only one for these parts, so I got her on board right away. I also love how the single features a Grammy winner but also a young unknown singer, though hopefully she won’t be unknown for much longer! This is an idea I will be repeating on every single too.

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5. As quoted by Serj , the song structure seems to be“ intertwining genres and vibes”, what is your take on it ??

Haha, it’s a difficult song to describe, but I’ll try. It’s a dark six-and-a-half minute epic, with captivating vocal melodies/harmonies and unusual instrumentation, as there are piano and trumpet playing alongside heavy guitars and beautiful strings!

6. “We are” is Composed, arranged, programmed by you, it seem Ihsahn is only doing vocals not guitars along with Serj, this surely is a crazy collaboration on the vocals how did you came up with that ?

My musical goal with these All-Star charity singles is to create collaborations that nobody would ever expect. These rare line-ups get everyone talking, and therefore raise awareness of our causes and the charities. I wanted to match two singers from extremely contrasting musical backgrounds, which I could hear in my head singing perfectly together. I’ve been a loyal fan of both Serj and Ihsahn since the ’90s, and I know everyone is going to be amazed when they hear how well their voices work together!

7.Coming on to production, the song is going to be mixed by Rohan Onraet (Slipknot, Machine Head) in London, and mastered by Ted Jensen (Green Day, Muse) in New York. What makes you get them on these duties?

Rohan is actually an old friend of mine from Cape Town, we grew up together, and he ended up moving to London and becoming a successful recording/mixing engineer, so we started working together back in 2001 when I relocated to London. With regards to Ted, so many of my favourite albums are mastered by him, so it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing the mastering engineer.

8.Your first milestone for Revolution Harmony, and to share it with three of your musical heroes, Serj, Ihsahn and Devin?? How do you feel about it, knowing that such great musicians totally supporting your vision by getting involved in this charity release?

To be honest, I’m still in complete shock, haha! Everyone always talks about how selfish and cut-throat the music industry is, and for the most part I do agree, but, there are also a lot of wonderfully kind and compassionate artists out there who are dedicated to good causes and giving back. Having the support of these three heroes of mine has left me overflowing with gratitude and hope.

9. All three of them have worked in a different genre mostly , was it easy convincing them to work along together?

Yeah it was. I actually had a whole speech ready to go in order to convince them of why it was a great idea, but I never even had to use it, haha!

10. Thanks for your time, Any last words for the readers??

Thank you sincerely for your support, as together we are Revolution Harmony! In the words of the wise woman Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 

Revolution Harmony’s single “We are” will be officially out on July 18.