If there’s one thing metal does better than any other popular genre (with the possible exception of jazz) is taking itself seriously. Bands, and sub sub genres, want to be SERIOUS and produce SERIOUS music. And I certainly like a lot of bands that fall into that category. But I also like a bit of fun as well, and so have a soft spot for folk metal because though the bands are often technically very skilled and serious about what they do, they are clearly having a good time while doing it. So when I saw Finland’s Korpiklaani’s (whom I was unfamiliar with) upcoming album ‘Kulkija’ (Wanderer) up for review I decided to take a chance and I’m very glad that I did.
Like many folk metal bands, Korpiklaani sing in some version of their native dialect, which I most certainly do not speak. They could be singing their local yellow pages and I wouldn’t be any the wiser. The result is I can focus squarely on the music and vocal delivery and the fun and enjoyment is derived exclusively from that. And Korpiklaani is an incredibly fun and enjoyable band to listen to. Some cursory reading has shown that their lyrics tend to revolve around drinking and partying and listening to the album I can’t help but think of a folk dancing mosh pit in a pub.
The album kicks off with “Neito” and slow booming drums before jumping full on into folk metal craziness. The song really jumps out at the listener in a good way and draws them into the album. The way it’s formed it is just begging to be the opening of their concerts supporting the album.
The album is the longest of their career at over 70 minutes, and with 14 tracks I’m not going to go into a ton of them individually, but as they have at least one single out, “Koitkonnut,” it is obviously necessary to be spoken out. It starts out with their now signature use of accordion before moving into the metal portion. It’s a highly melodic song, and with its subdued yet constant motion gives the impression of a journey, perhaps along the lonely path that graces the album’s cover.
The seventh track, “Kallon malja,” is the longest song on the album, clocking in at nearly 10 minutes in length. I (nearly) always like it when bands take the time to build and grow a song, and they certainly do that with this song. There are a lot of the slower folk elements before the more aggressive vocals and heavier, faster music become dominant, but they often return to a main melodic motif and slow the music down again.
I also love instrumental music done in this style, so “Pellervoinen” is a highlight for me. Driven mainly by violin, the metal takes a backseat through this song, and the faster, happier folk element shines. It makes one want to get up and dance a jig with a pretty lass and just have a good time. And if there’s anything this band is clearly good at, it’s having a good time.
The album closes with “Tuttu on tie” and it is by and large a slow paced, rather mellow song. The melody is tinged with sorrow and the vocals are slower and seem to convey a tone of regret or sadness as well. Again, not knowing the language or translations of the song titles I can’t be sure, but given the name of the album translates as “Wanderer” perhaps this is meant to be the end of the wanderer’s journey. Regardless, it is a quite fitting closer to the album, and I think works very well as such.
With ‘Kulkija’ Korpiklaani have crafted a joyous musical journey and one that you don’t need to understand a word of to enjoy and feel their sense of purpose. I imagine this will be an album that their long term fans will love; and I can testify that it makes a great introduction to people who have never heard a note the band had previously recorded. Fans of folk metal or just fun, enjoyable music to relax or head bang while dancing around with beer to, will find a lot to love here.