Kalmah - 12/03/2010

KALMAH is a melodic death metal band from Oulu, Finland formed in 1998. Within less than a year after the band’s formation, Kalmah signed with Spinefarm Records. The word "kalmah" is Karelian and could be translated as "to the grave" or "to the death." In 1991, Pekka Kokko and Petri Sankala founded the metal band Ancestor. After Ancestor had recorded two demos, Antti Kokko joined the band as thelead guitarist. In 1998, after five demos, Ancestor disbanded. Later in the same year, Kalmah was formed. The new band consisted of Pekka Kokko performing vocals and guitar, Antti Kokko on lead guitar, Pasi Hiltula on keyboards, Altti Veteläinen on bass, and Petri Sankala on drums.


Kalmah began to write songs for a promotional CD entitled ‘Svieri Obraza’. With this demo they acquired a recording contract with Spinefarm Records and headed to Tico-Tico Studios to record their debut album, ‘Swamplord’. By November 2001, they returned to Tico-Tico Studios to record their second studio album, ‘They Will Return’. By this time, Veteläinen and Sankala were replaced by Timo Lehtinen on bass and Janne Kusmin on drums, respectively. In 2002, Kalmah played shows in Finland and at Wacken Open Air. In February 2003 they recorded their third studio album, ‘Swampsong’. In 2004, keyboardist Pasi Hiltula left and was replaced by Marco Sneck. The band released ‘The Black Waltz’ in 2006 and ‘For the Revolution’ in 2008 and Kalmah toured in Canada and Finland to promote the latter.


Kalmah's sixth studio album was released on March 2 in Europe. The recording and mixing process took place from May to August at Tico-Tico Studios in Finland, and mastering for the disc took place at the Cutting Room in Sweden. The thing that immediately sets ‘12 Gauge’ apart from ‘For the Revolution’ is the speed. ‘12 Gauge’ is the fastest album Kalmah has ever written, maintaining a consistent, driving pace from start to finish. This album also displays a great deal of technical prowess from lead guitarist Antti Kokko and keyboardist Marco Sneck. Their solos are faster, longer, and more intricate than ever before. They also trade off from one to the other more often than on previous albums. The rapid pace of the switches makes the solos even more interesting for listeners, as the alternating instrument patterns help each song to sound unique.



After reviewing the new album we were also given the opportunity to ask Pekka Kokko (Vocals, Guitars) all about Kalmah’s latest effort. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com


First of all, how are you guys doing? Congratulations on your new album ’12 Gauge’ which we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about!


P: I’m doing fine, thank you!


Could you start this interview off with a little update of what’s been happening since your previous release ‘For The Revolution’?


P: Well, many hares have been shot since the days of ‘FTR’ ha ha. I have to say it was quite a difficult project to compose this new record just because we didn’t have much time after all. But we managed to record ‘12 Gauge’ and we are quite proud what we’ve done.


How did you launch into writing material for ’12 Gauge’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?


P: Most of those songs are based on Antti’s riffs and melodies. Some of those songs were composed quite fast but we had difficulties with some of them. But after spending lots of time in our rehearsal camp we were able to record those hardworking ones as well.


Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. Or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?


P: We wanted to have more trash, so that is why some of the songs are quite straightforward. But we didn’t want to give up our melodies. And we wanted to add some acoustic guitars as well. And I think we succeeded.


Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?


P: For my part I have to say writing the lyrics was not easy. And I think it wasn’t easy with Antti’s guitar riffs, either. Sometimes things come easily but sometimes you really need to focus on the composing process. But both ways will do.


What comes first, lyrics or melodies?


P: Definitely melodies and riffs. After we have the whole song done I start to write the lyrics.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ’12 Gauge’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?


P: We just wanted to record a decent album that wouldn’t contain any filling material and as I said we wanted to have tempo changes as well as acoustic parts and choirs.



Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?


P: I don`t think so. Antti always relies on his inspiration and you never know what it gives. Of course there is always Kalmah present in what he does.


How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Kalmah? For example, is it a group process or did some people write more songs than others?


P: We don’t use jamming or stuff like that. Usually Antti has made something in his home and then we process the song in our training camp. But I have done some songs as well as Marco. We add together the drums and basses etc.


What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?


P: I would like to say chorus. I don’t like those albums that contain songs that won’t differentiate. if you have a song you have to have a chorus.


Could you please describe the implications of the title ’12 Gauge’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?


P: Well, me and my brother Antti are both keen on hunting so we picked the name up from a shotgun shell. So this is our cartridge full of power and killing speed.


Who was responsible for the lyrics on this album? Where do you get your inspiration from?


P: I write the lyrics and my inspiration comes from here and there. That process is not easy and I cannot say that there is only one way how I get the lyrics done.


How did the recording process proceed this time, did you work differently than on previous albums? How much time did you spend in the studio?


P: We had two long sessions. In the spring -09 we recorded the drums and rhythm guitars and basses and it took about two weeks. Then we had the summer off and came back in the autumn. During the summer I wrote the lyrics and Marco had his keyboard parts done so we added vocals, keyboards and solos. And this part took another two weeks or something like that.


Your sound on ‘’12 Gauge’ is excellent, who produced the album and what made him the perfect man for Kalmah?


P: Thanks! I also think that the sound is excellent. We didn’t have a real producer but Ahti Kortelainen from Tico-Tico studios was the man who pushed the buttons and the main producer inside the band is Antti. He was present on mixing and mastering so apparently he does know how to create an excellent Kalmah sound.


In which things/songs on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?


P: Well Ahti never admits his work on producing but at least the way the acoustic parts were done in “Sacramentum” was one of his ideas. Antti has his hands in every song. Most of them 100%, some of them 25%.


The songs on ‘12 Gauge’ seem to be a lot faster and more aggressive than the songs on the last couple of albums, is there a reason for this?


P: Definitely. While we are getting older we are getting angrier as well, ha ha. We just wanted us to sound more aggressive just because you don’t hear many stirring trash metal bands nowadays.



What are the main differences between your last album ‘For The Revolution’ and the new one ‘12 Gauge’?


P: It contains more aggressive thrash material and more acoustic guitar parts. And the overall sound has evolved as well. All in all it still is Kalmah. There are all familiar Kalmah things present. Something new here and there.


One of the most typical songs on the new album I think is “Sacramentum”, a long dark, fast, raw and powerful song with many changes. Is this an influence you wish to develop more in the future?


P: Well, nobody knows! I don’t really know what will happen in the future. We don’t have any plans yet. But I believe “Sacramentum” is not the way...:)


‘For The Revolution’ was already a step forward, but 12 Gauge’ is actually the first album on which Kalmah shows its full capabilities: What are your thoughts on this statement?


P: Yes, I think so too. Probably during all these years we have grown together and now you can actually hear it.


Do you have any favourites on the album?


P: I think “12 Gauge” is the main song.


Have you received any feedback on the album yet?


P: Actually we have had some. It seems that people like the album.


Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?


P: Of course we want to have some feedback and we want to hear people’s opinions. Especially fans are very important. We would not be playing without them. But in the end, whether band members like the music is always the main thing. If we don`t enjoy it then there won’t be any fans who will, either.


Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which element on the CD are you most proud of?


P: Well, I am happy. The CD is looking great and the music sounds great. At least at this point after listening to the album for about half a year I can`t think of anything I would like to add or remove.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?


P: Well I am a poor lonesome reindeer man not so far away from home. I prefer themes like environment, politics, religion, social problems, fishing, hunting, drinking, failure, pessimism etc. grievances concerning our daily lives. Themes of ’12 Gauge’ handle those matters.


Which song is your favourite one to play live? Which song do you find is the most challenging one to play live?


P: I would like to say “Hades” just because it really works with the audience. I think “One of Fail” is one of the most challenging songs to play.



Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:


Metal : Steel

Underground : Velvet

Internet : World

Religion :Christ

Politics : Interesting

The Netherlands : a Great country

Finland : a Mickey Mouse country


With several albums under your belt, how far has Kalmah surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?


P: Absolutely the moment when you have just done your part in the studio. And of course when a brand new CD is coming out! All my dreams have come true but one is missing. I want to be on stage and shout “Hello Amsterdam!”. Hopefully we will get a chance to do it.


What were the highlights and low points throughout your career?


P: Probably when we were playing live at Tuska-festival back in 2008. We played the main stage and the crowd was amazing. And it was big. Well, my personal low point was a gig in Helsinki a few years ago. It just didn’t go well because I wasn’t in good shape.


What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?


P: Well there are lots of bands like you said and unfortunately there are many bands that should not exist. But I have also noticed that there are some great new bands as well. But what we need is a new leader like Metallica once was.


What can we expect from Kalmah in the near future, any touring plans?


P: Well we have some upcoming gigs but I don’t think we are going to have a massive tour. At least we haven`t gotten a decent offer yet.


Where do you see the band going within the next couple of years and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?


P: Well, it is too early to say anything about that.


A last statement?


Stay Kalmah!


Best regards,

Eugene Straver




Current members: 

Pekka Kokko - Vocals, Guitars

Antti Kokko - Guitars

Janne Kusmin - Drums

Timo "Lede" Lehtinen - Bass

Marco Sneck - Keyboards


Former musicians: 

Petri Sankala - drums   

Anssi Seppänen - guitars   

Pasi Puhakka - bass   

Sauli Ylilehto - bass   

Antti-Matti "Antza" Talala - keyboards   

Altti Veteläinen - bass   

Pasi Hiltula - keyboards   



(2000) - Swamplord 

(2002) - They Will Return 

(2003) - Swampsong 

(2006) - The Black Waltz 

(2008) - For The Revolution 

(2010) - 12 Gauge