Sound — 7
It is with great difficulty that bands leave their mark on niche styles of music. When genre conventions are bound tightly, only subtleties can really set you apart, and this is especially true of metal despite its lack of delicacy. Unfortunately Finland's Kalmah chose melodic death metal, a niche that has progressed very little in the past decade and "Seventh Swamphony" makes no claim to turn the genre on its head. It's their seventh album, their seventh in the same style and their seventh with a mostly stable lineup. We can't be sure that the previous six were all about swamps. They specialise in the glitzy Finnish variety of melodic death, thundering up and down the natural minor scale with constantly moving lead guitar and campy keyboard bringing up the rear. New man behind the keys Veli-Matti Kananen has brought some new presets with him as well, theatrically punctuating blastbeats with organ stabs and cheerfully sprinkling his fairy dust on seven-minute centrepiece "Hollo." The album sounds thick and heavy despite the guitar leads, which are incredibly fidgety and insist on being uber-melodic from start to finish. The sound is big because Kalmah have something going for them that 86 million* other "melodeath" bands don't: a mixing job from Jens Bogren. The experienced engineer, who produces many of Scandinavia's most famous metal exports, gets the best sound out of everybody and turns ordinary closer "The Trapper" into something vaguely enjoyable, while the high-octane "Pikemaster" wouldn't be the highlight it is without his contribution. Musically, next to nothing has changed for Kalmah since 2000's "Swamplord" but Bogren at least ensures that they're getting the most bang for their buck. *Figures accurate at time of writing.
Lyrics — 6
It would be disingenuous to attempt a proper lyrical analysis without any access to the words Pekka Kokko's bellow and shriek is not the easiest to understand but we can infer from the wordplay in the title that the band care far more about music than lyrics.
Overall Impression — 7
Not every band can change the world, and it doesn't look like this one particularly wants to. That in itself is no problem but music that relies on melody (rather than, say, a distinctive vocalist) has to stay fresh somehow. How memorable can a tune be if it's followed by another one 10 seconds later, and another after that, and six more before the end of the track? "Seventh Swamphony" is so oversaturated with melody on the same scale that it would be quite difficult to get through were it any longer. There's no reason to expect Kalmah to change, but perhaps they would do well to take up a more subtle approach to their craft because it's getting rather stale.