Kalmah is yet another band to go unpunished by the Time Preservation Society. Too many bands are culpable for digging up forgotten riffs and solos, and then giving them a nice modern production job, adding in some angry growly vocals, and calling it original. Kalmah is not, in fact, one of those bands. They are responsible for future theft. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it is the most logical explanation for *They Will Return*. Kalmah does not repeat anything that has been and gone, but they do use many riffs and solos from future albums by Children of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity, in addition to a riff or two from the unexpected Mithotyn reunion of 2005.
I believe this is where some of Kalmah's quality song-writing comes from. It's not that I think the band is replete with thieves. It's not that I expect any new metal band to have ripped off other metal bands in some way. Rather, I just don't see how else Kalmah could have written material that feels like it belongs to other bands, but hasn't been done yet and doesn't sound derivative in the slightest.
"Hollow Heart" sets things in motion with some speedy metal riffs and solos that conjure to mind images of Children of Bodom. Or sounds of Children to Bodom, as images tend to have very little volume, or none at all. "Principle Hero" is another future-Children of Bodom influenced song, and it happens to be one of my favorites. It features some excellent and very fast progressive guitar soloing and keyboard melodies that layer the sound effectively. The vocals are pretty typical rasps - they don't get boring, but for the most part only because you learn to listen to the other instruments more. The drumming on this track is full of variety, as it is on the rest of "They Will Return." Kalmah's drummer is a lot more interesting than the drummers of related bands, so drum-fans should find a lot to get into here.
Kalmah's complete approach to several notable metal styles is what keeps this sophomore release engaging. They may not be wholly original, but they only borrow from future recordings of other bands sparingly. The resultant mix is distinctly Kalmah. I'm not sure what separates a band like Kalmah from less original metal groups playing similar music. If I had to speculate, I'd say the energy and the sheer conviction they play with allows "They Will Return" to be a rather invigorating release.
Still, when you hear songs like "Kill The Idealist," I won't be surprised if you're reminded of songs from Dark Tranquillity's *The Gallery*. It's truly amazing how much Kalmah can remind me of another band, without sounding like anything the band in question has done before. This is why, as I've expounded already, I'm quite convinced Kalmah has a time machine and is stealing from the future. "Kill The Idealist" is the only song on They Will Return that slightly borrows from the past. Parts of it are incredibly similar to Dark Tranquillity's title track off The Gallery, down to the slow section with distinctly non-metal percussion.
For the most part, Kalmah plays top-notch metal that is worth the attention of metal fans. A simple description of their sound might be this: A more symphonic and black metal oriented version of Children of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity. I'm desensitized to fast metal, for the most part, and it takes some exceptionally arousing metal to get me going. Not arousing in the dark erotic Cradle of Filth sense (eek), but moreso the spirited-makes-you-want-to-beat-people sense. They Will Return is an adrenaline rush in a CD.
The last thing I need to point out is the quality of the solos - they're really high quality. The solos, that is. Kalmah's guitarists possess rather incredible skill, at a level that you don't normally see in this style of metal. So much of today's metal regards soloing as a forgotten and archaic art. "It's boring!" they say, "Music with no soloing whatsoever is so much less predictable than bands that solo all the time!" they say. "They", if you're wondering, are the people who've decided soloing is lame and whiny and should be built into some kind of humanoid robot that can be set on fire and shot. I say they're all wrong! Kalmah is a great example as to why. They cover soloing styles that range from the more melodic, progressive shredding, and even various emotive rock styles, which I found surprising.
Kalmah also covers Megadeth's "Skin O' My Teeth," and they do an admirable job. The soloing in particular has that tried and true kick ass feel. Kalmah, clever band that they are, probably figured that if they were going to steal from the past, they might as well do so in the acceptable cover format. All in all, They Will Return is a surprisingly good album, and I definitely recommend picking up a copy before the Time Preservation Society winks it out of existence.
Kalmah - Official Site: http://www.kalmah.com/
Century Media Records (US distribution): http://www.centurymedia.com
Spikefarm Records: http://www.spinefarm.fi/metal