It’s hard to imagine a modern metal without Finnish bands, isn’t it? These guys have been pushing the scene forward for quite a while after having burst onto it with such a forceful manner a decade (or more) ago. One of the bands that has been sadly overlooked in this process has been Kalmah. These guys, while popular, have often taken a back seat to bands like Ensiferum and Children of Bodom in the international scene. This is a shame, because at least The Black Waltz put everything that Children of Bodom ever put out to shame and they make some of the later Ensiferum stuff look pretty weak, as well. While For the Revolution was a pretty big letdown for many fans, Kalmah has returned in 2010 with a scorcher called 12 Gauge.
Clocking in at an LP safe 42 minutes, 12 Gauge follows Angry Metal Guy’s rules for thrashy records with few dynamics: keep the songs short, and keep the record as a whole shorter. If you’ve only got a few tricks up your sleeve, show off those tricks and then run to hills before anybody notices that you’re not doing much more than something fairly simple. 12 Gauge fits this bill perfectly because what Kalmah is doing is very straight forward: they’re making melodic death metal which is meant to be energetic, fun to listen to and cathartic. It, however, is not at all “jaw dropping”, “technical” and it certainly doesn’t really push the envelope very much.
But hell, we don’t need every band in the world to push the envelope. Sometimes you just want some good melodic death metal to listen to while drinking a beer and banging your head, and that’s what Kalmah delivers in spades on 12 Gauge! Tracks like “Bullets are Blind” and “Hook the Monster” are blast happy, speed monsters with great melodies, the latter even containing a chant chorus! How do you fight with that? The band even breaks out their simple, melodic intros and puts them to good use on the title track and “Better Not Tell”. The melodies are, of course, addictive and the song writing is poppy and keeps you interested by not overstaying its welcome.
However, the downsides to this should be obvious as well. There were times when I didn’t even notice the track had changed at times, such as between “Hook the Monster” and “Godeye”. They’re both great songs, but man do they sound alike. And, while the claim that they’re just writing the same song over and over is demonstrably wrong, there is a sense that this record gets a little tired towards the end. Were 12 Gauge 10 minutes longer, it probably would destroy the appeal for me.
If you love fun, fast and melodic death metal, then 12 Gauge is definitely up your alley. The band has definitely composed a number of awesome tracks that will pull fans in. For the doubting fan, this record is definitely superior to For the Revolution, but we’re not sure if it really surpasses The Black Waltz in scope and originality. While the style is definitely the same, the novelty hasn’t stayed on as strongly. Still, 12 Gauge is a record that is enjoyable and innovation be damned.