Released: 2010, Spinefarm Records
Kalmah have come a long way since their somewhat humble beginnings as a Children of Bodom-influenced melodic death metal band. Back then (2000’s SWAMPLORD), Kalmah were very similar to their more famous Finnish brethren, but with each successive effort since then, they have forged a more unique identity. Starting with 2003’s SWAMPSONG, the band have trod their own path, gaining their own fans and critical acclaim. For me, a new Kalmah album is something to celebrate, as I’ve been hooked ever since I heard “Heritance of Berija” off of their debut album. So when I saw 12 GAUGE on the racks, I immediately bought it.
After listening to this album non-stop for almost four weeks, I can safely say that it represents yet another step forward for Kalmah, even if it’s not a revolutionary one. They’re still ripping out their melo-death riffs with heavy keyboard overtures, but 12 GAUGE is a deeper continuation of the heavier vibe they’ve gained on the last couple of albums. Pekka Kokko’s vocals are deeper and more vicious than ever, and some of the riffs are arguably heavier than anything they’ve done before (“Better Not To Tell”). Still, the catchy melodies and almost sing-along choruses that we all love (or hate) about Kalmah are very much still in effect, leading the charge as always.
As always with Kalmah, there are no bad songs on this album. Some hit faster and harder than others though, so some highlights would be the speedy “Swampwar”, the whisper-to-roar of the opening “Rust Never Sleeps”, and the closing melancholy dirge “Sacramentum”. But like I said, there aren’t any bad songs to be heard.
Kalmah is one of the few bands still proudly flying the flag of Finnish melo-death and doing it well. You know exactly what you’re going to get with 12 GAUGE, but I defy you to show me a band that’s doing this style better. In fact, I’d go as a far as to say that Kalmah’s past four albums in a row are as good as you’ll ever hear in this genre. Therefore the decision is simple; if you at all like melo-death, you need to check out 12 GAUGE.