Warriors on the Metal Path
CoC talks to Antti Kokko of Kalmah
by: Adrian Bromley
Having been an avid metal fan for almost two decades, I always find it exciting while listening to metal music to just sit back and enjoy it as it unfolds. The chemistry of abrasive sounds, passionate rhythms, and the occasional melody flowing through me, transports me to a plane of existence that leaves me full of excitement.

I had one of those experiences while listening to Kalmah's debut disc, _Swamplord_ (Spinefarm Records) [CoC #51], late one night. It wasn't some huge religious experience, but I did make note of the qualities that Kalmah were able to create within its melodic death metal sound. I enjoyed the music and I wanted to get in touch with the band and find out what makes them tick. So what's the secret of the debut disc, Antti?

"Our main goal had always been about playing skillfully on this debut disc", starts Antti Kokko, guitarist for the Finnish outfit. "We had five months to prepare for this record, and both Pekka [Kokko, brother/guitarist/singer] and I made sure that we used the time wisely. Everything was ready about a month before we went into Tico-Tico Studios, so we had lots of time to polish these eight songs we recorded. We had an extra song, but we dropped it off the album because it wasn't complete and the studio time we had planned had to be used efficiently. I mean, we only had three weeks to finish up the record in the studio. That also included the mixing process."

One listen to Kalmah (the band is rounded out by bassist Altti Vetelainen, drummer Petri Sankala and keyboardist Pasi Hiltula) and it is quite obvious the band draws a lot of their sound and inspiration from the likes of Iron Maiden, Helloween and other '80s veterans. Melody and metal collide quite nicely on _Swamplord_. As the guitar player, what kind of sound and style did Kokko try to bring to Kalmah?

"As a guitarist I have aimed at bringing something new to the metal music", he states. "It is hard to do that, you know, but I think the way I play is different from others. I play guitar with an extreme hard touch when it comes to rhythm guitar riffs. Listen to the solos and melodies of the music and you can see what I bring to the band."

When asked to explain the meaning behind the _Swamplord_ moniker, Kokko replies: "_Swamplord_ as the album's title is something that we considered to symbolize an inner warrior feeling. We wanted a different album title, different from what you usually see out there in the metal scene. We wanted a title that describes our metal path from the very beginning to this day. We live in the middle of a barren swamp landscape here in Pudasjarvi and many of our songs got their inspiration from this kind of environment. We just think the album title arouses and gets people thinking about what type of music we might play."

The band in their earlier days used to go by the name Ancestor. They released a few demo tapes before they eventually changed their name and sound. Does Kokko notice a big difference in each band's ideas and musical inspiration?

"The line-up has been the same for both bands, but of course we have changed over the years", explains Kokko. "First of all, our musical development as individuals has certainly changed to a better direction, but I'd have to say that the sources of inspiration have been pretty much the same all this time. Our music really didn't change until we brought keyboards into it. The keyboards brought a huge expanded sound to the music we were playing and it really opened our eyes. We finally found -the- sound and -the- style we wanted to have! At the same time we changed our name. We somehow wanted to express this change and came up with a new band name."

Kokko mentions how their culture and surroundings have somehow dictated how the band has grown and evolved. Does he really see a lot of culture in what they do?

"Our name Kalmah and some of our song titles have cultural traces. Kalmah is taken from a Karelian dialect, which was spoken and is still spoken by people who lived or live in Karelia. Karelia belonged to Finland before the Second World War, but nowadays it belongs to Russia. Anyway, Pekka and some of my relatives speak this language. Their parents were evacuated to Finland during the war. It's a fading traditional language, so we want to keep it up although we don't speak it very much.

"There are also elements of traditional Finnish folk tunes in our music too", he concludes. "We offer a bit of everything."

(article submitted 13/3/2001)


CHATS
7/3/2002 A Bromley Kalmah: They'Re Back
ALBUMS
5/29/2010 M Dolson 10 Kalmah - 12 Gauge
12/5/2003 Q Kalis 8 Kalmah - Swampsong
1/10/2001 A Bromley 8 Kalmah - Swamplord
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