Kalmah’s hunt continues.
Created in Finland in 1998, after a first series of five demos under the name Ancestor, the band is led by brothers Antti (guitar, ex-Eternal Tears of Sorrow) and Pekka Kokko (guitar/vocals, ex-Eternal Tears of Sorrow live), completed by Timo Lehtinen (bass, Clown Parade, Deimhal, ex-Catamenia), Janne Kusmin (drums, Clown Parade, Deimhal, Wrathage, ex-Catamenia) and Veli-Matti Kananen (keyboards, Fleetburner, Violet Sin, ex-Vintergata), the band announces in 2023 the release of Kalmah, their ninth album.
Haunted by Guilt, the first track, immediately plunges us back into this epic and aggressive atmosphere fed by a martial rhythmic to which motivating leads and wild screams are added. The band also plays with sudden accelerations and jerky riffs to create catchy sounds, just like on Veil of Sin, a darker and more disturbing track keeping the cold and melodic approach. It’s impossible not to get carried away by the lively and energetic instrumental supported by mystical sounding keyboards, which leads us to Scarred by Sadness, a track invoking bleak tones before crushing us with its sudden rage. Dissonant leads add a mysterious touch to the raw charge and impressive riffs complemented by effective drums, creating an extremely tasty contrast before No Words Sad Enough offers an overtly melancholic sound along with violins. The much slower but just as intense composition allows us to breathe while it mesmerizes us with a haunting mix of heavy saturated parts and softer moments before the chorus comes to haunt us before releasing us on Serve the Untrue, a track which goes back to raw and energetic sounds with jerky riffs. Heady leads are again skillfully mixed with solid and unifying rhythmic while bringing them a mystical dimension before fading out to make room for Home Sweet Hell, a majestic track at first, which will not fail to place a martial basis on which guitars and keyboards develop enthusiastic melodies. There’s also an acceleration with Thrash influences, followed by Tons of Chaos, a track letting its rhythmic go wild under galvanizing leads which will undoubtedly lead the crowd. Don’t think the break will calm the atmosphere, because the charge will resume very quickly with warlike choirs before braking again for Red and Black and its soaring introduction. But saturation will give these melodies an energetic touch again, and it won’t fail to create a contrast within catchy tones, also letting a battle sample lead us to the final, then to Taken Before Given, a composition announced as one of the band’s oldest one, honoring its Thrash roots. Unbridled riffs, pure energy and visceral screams combine to make it one of the rawest tracks on the album, but the band doesn’t let aggression crush leads’ complexity, before Drifting in a Dream closes the album with a slower, heavier approach, combining heavy sounds with softer touches to make us shake our heads one last time.
As always, Kalmah traps us between its catchy riffs, breaks our neck with wild screams and lacerates us with intense melodies. Kalmah only confirms the band’s status, which perfectly masters its Melodic Death cold tones!
Few questions to Antti Kokko, lead guitar player and original member of the band Kalmah.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Kalmah, which you describe as a “Swamp Metal” band?
Antti Kokko (guitar): Thank you ! My name is Antti Kokko and I’m the main composer for Kalmah songs and I also handle the lead guitar. Back then we started there was genres for everything so we came up with Swamp metal ? I believe the more accurate genre is Melodic Death Metal but it is Swamp Metal because we say so.
How did you create the name Kalmah back in time, and how do you link it to the music you play?
Antti: We did several demos under the name Ancestor in the beginning of 90’s. Then in 1996-1997 we took a keyboard player in the band and found out recording artist with an almost similar name to Ancestor. So we decided to clear the table and change the name. Kalmah is a word from Karelian dialect which is spoken by not so many people anymore and from the area which belonged to Finland before the second world war. We have family that was evacuated during the war to Finland and still speak that language. It means « To the grave » or « To the death ». So it fits Metal music pretty well ?
Kalmah, your ninth album, will be out at the end of the month, how do you feel about it? Do you already have some feedback?
Antti: Feedback so far has been pretty minimalistic but the singles of course have been welcomed very well. The reporters that have been contacted and listened to the album in advance have pretty much praised the album. But at the end we in the band are really happy with the songs and the overall result and that is what matters to us.
How would you sum Kalmah up in only three words?
Antti: Aggressive, melodic, swampmetal.
How did the composition process happen for Kalmah? Did you notice some changes with the previous records?
Antti: Yes. I have mostly done nearly all songs for the albums but this time we have two songs from Pekka, one song from bass player Timo and one with co-op Veli-Matti who did the initial work and I arranged/tuned the guitar riffs a little. So in that way all in all it is still Kalmah recognizable but there is good variation.
What were the guidelines for the artwork, and how do they fit with the music you created?
Antti: We just gave the idea to Niklas Sundin who did the art also for Palo and the idea and all we wanted was there pretty much right from the first sketches. He also did research from the area where we live up in northern Finland and did some great details based on our local culture. Niklas is just an amazing artist and we are more than happy with the result for this album as well. The idea on the cover represents the current situation we have. We don’t know if this is the last album for us but yet you can find it as the beginning of something new.
Where do you find inspiration to create music?
Antti: My inspiration comes from everything else than music. Especially when I go out in the woods and swamps of Finland to hunt or pick berries etc. I usually just listen to the silence or birds singing etc. and my inspiration starts to give me ideas. And then when I just grab the guitar and start playing after a while something good may come up.
About the songs themselves, you released Taken Before Given, a composition you stated as one of the most ancient ones the band created. Why did you keep it secret for so long, and how did the idea to come back to it come to life?
Antti: We have actually always re-recorded old stuff on every album. It is our payback since we could not get the recording deal back then ? But now we don’t have much left maybe song or two.
I also noticed the song No Words Sad Enough, which is one of the slowest and more melancholic the band created. Does it have a special story?
Antti: This is the one our bass player came up with. He has tried to offer a song for every album before but the jury bar is high and those have not passed. This time this very song fits in perfectly. Keyboard player Veli-Matti has of course a strong role with this with all amazing keys. He arranged the real cellos too.
Maybe you have a favorite song on this album? Or maybe the most natural one you created for the album?
Antti: Well I like of course every song I have written ? I must say Haunted by Guilt is maybe the song because it was the first song written for this album and it showed the way for other songs as well.
Do you think you are still improving yourself as a musician and songwriter?
Antti: Yes, I’m was actually pretty amazed when inspiration gave me new ideas and the songs I wrote have much more variation in structure than before so after all I’m still able to renew my skin. This time also the solos started playing in my head in the phase the song was taking last shape. I believe the album has the best solos I have ever created.
According to the internet, the majority of the shows you played were in Finland, your home country, and America. Do you consider touring more in the future?
Antti: It depends on the offers. We do touring if the offer is good enough. With this experience and years we have no need to do “promotion” anymore. And at the end this is not the real job for us but more a hobby.
While talking about live shows, I attended the first and for now only show Kalmah played in Paris back in 2018, but you were temporarily replaced by a live guitarist. Do you plan to fully tour with the band in the future?
Antti: I do tours if possible. Long tours are not my thing anymore. I have seen it and I do like the hour on stage but all the waiting, travelling etc. is not for me anymore. I would rather do something else. But it is good we have a tour guitarist so there are no obstacles if the other guys want to do those.
Which is the funniest live memory you would like to share with us?
Antti: Well there are lots of all kinds of happenings. I mention the first time in Montreal. The whole house was full packed and the band had to come back from stage through the audience. We were not used to have a path made by twenty bodybuilder type of bouncers for a band to go through.
Are there any musicians or artists you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, or maybe more.
Antti: I have to mention Marty Friedman. He is the guitarist for me. Amazing player and artist. Maybe I’ll try to contact him for our next album if there will be one ?
If you had to organize a concert for Kalmah’s release show, with which bands would you love to play with? I let you create a poster with Kalmah headlining and three other bands!
Antti: From still existing bands I’d choose Paradise Lost, Megadeth and Pantera. But we would be playing first. From the band not existing anymore I’d choose Death.
Funny and last question: which dish would you compare Kalmah’s music with?
Antti: Rosmarine and black pepper spiced willow grouse with creamy ear fungus sauce. And of course block potatoes.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Antti: Thank you very much! Get us to Hellfest!