Kalmah – 12 Gauge

By Cara Cross

I’m just going to come right out and say it: 12 Gauge is a great album. At a time when so many other bands seem content to dial it in, releasing yet another record that sounds just like their last, Kalmah digs deep to offer fans a fresh take on their unique brand of melodic death metal.

There’s a few reasons why I’m stoked on this album. First off, it’s got heart — an ingredient largely missing from the band’s 2007 release, For the Revolution. You can tell they’ve poured every last ounce of energy into making these nine tracks the best they can possibly be.

Second, 12 Gauge pushes the band’s sonic boundaries, introducing new and different musical elements into the mix. Acoustic interludes bump up against the jagged edges of aggressive thrash, blended together with the band’s signature swampy sound. At first, I wasn’t sure how well this thrash/swamp mashup worked. But the more I listened the more it grew on me. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

12 Gauge derives much of its momentum from its thrashier side, so much so I’d be curious to see what the boys could do if they focused exclusively on this impulse and took it to its fullest expression. But here it remains in its most basic form – a driving force that propels listeners forward at a blistering pace.

Which brings me to my third point: this album just doesn’t let up. Every track is intense. But when you reach the end of the record, you don’t feel wrung out. There’s enough variation in the individual tracks to hold your interest, with more than enough agro to keep you going.

There are some moments when the band takes its sound experimentation a step too far. “Sanctarum” layers chorals and keyboards over blast beats, with frequent key and timing changes. While well executed, I think it ultimately asks too much of the listener. But hey, you’ve gotta hand it to them for trying something new.

12 Gauge proves once again why Kalmah deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the greats of Finnish metal. I’d recommend this album to Kalmah fans and anyone who’s looking for fresh cuts in melodic death.

(Spinefarm Records)

Rating: 8.5

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.

Read more about...