About The Band
Korpiklaani have been around in various forms since 1993 although they didn’t have that name until about 10 years later. They started as a folk band and slowly changed into more of a metal band but those original influences still remain. The band name means “The Forest Clan” hence the genre they were called was/is “forest metal“. The mainstay and only original member Jonne Jarvela once made the comment that they play “old people’s music with heavy metal guitars” and that is pretty accurate. The new album Jylha (meaning either majestic or wild and rugged apparently) is their eleventh since 2003 and their first in 3 years.
The only change from the last album is a new drummer in Samuli Mikkonen. Through the years they have sung in both English and Finnish with them now mostly performing in the latter. The band consists of the normal guitars, bass and drums but also with violin and accordion giving them that folk sound still. The last couple of albums kind of passed me by but this one I found very engaging. There are 13 tracks in all with a running time of around an hour. There is a reasonable mix of that upbeat party style music with the ethereal and reflective, so it doesn’t end up seeming too samey or repetitive.
Some Of The Highlights
Opener “Verikoira” (translated by Google so don’t take it as gospel, as “Bloodhound“) is apparently their tribute to Judas Priest. This is strange as the opening riff (which repeats at various points in the song) sounds like Black Sabbath playing around with T.Rex‘s “20th Century Boy” riff before going into a more jolly piece. There is even a section that is frantic with words spat out that is almost punk in execution.
It is also rather nice of the band to have the drummer open the album with a drum solo for a few seconds just to introduce himself to the fans. Like the last song “Juuret” ( translated as “roots“) this is over 6 minutes long making the top and tail tracks the longest on the album. On the latter, the drums are again quite prominent. This is especially in the verses and the chorus is written to swing your arms around to, probably with a beer in your hand. The choruses are very light and airy. The closing melody played between violin (first) and accordion (second) is delightful.
In between the 2 more epic tracks, there are some tasty morsels to be found. “Niemi” (“peninsula” or “the cape“) is classic Korpiklaani. Strangely for a song which deals in the unsolved murder cases at Bodom, this is quite upbeat with guitars riffing away. There are drums pounding and the 2 more folk instruments playing the melody. The whole thing sounding like polka music from a German Bierkeller heavied up. As said earlier this is “old people’s music with heavy metal guitars”.
“Levaluhta” (“algae” translated) is about a spring where Iron Age bodies were found (the title of the song is in fact the name of that spring). It strangely sounds like music from a French patisserie or coffee shop until the reggae beats come in. That I think is a first for the band! I rather like the little drum flourishes when the music lightens up. Both tracks can be found on YouTube which you can find via the links below this review.
“Kiuru” (“skylark“?) has lots of drum fills and rolls and is one of the heavier tracks on the album apart from a sultry violin section from Tuomas Rounakari which is more or less replicated by accordionist Sami Perttula right afterwards. “Pidot” (“Feasts“?) actually reminded me heavily at the start of The Hooters. There’s a lovely mix of sliding guitar sounds and the folk instruments gently playing between licks until they take over fully.
This is good time music, uplifting the spirit with a groove that makes the toes tap and the head nod. It doesn’t matter a jot that I have no idea what it is all about (going by other tracks I do know about it could be something horrific in history). All I can say is I felt good listening to it.
Talking uplifting there is also “Huolettomat” which Google translated to “Carefree” which is exactly how I feel listening to it. I want to dance like a loon to it. A real party sounding tune for the most part, fast swirling and can I say “carefree?” There is a breakdown in the middle for some reflective fiddle playing which gives a little pause to catch breath before it speeds up once again. Probably a good thing for folks my age as four minutes of this energy could finish us off completely.
The other tracks are of good quality too, but for me personally, those are the highlights. I am sure there are folks that on hearing the album will pick tracks different to me which I can understand as it is a very strong Korpiklaani album.
Comparing it to earlier works I feel there is more maturity and subtlety on show. There may not be a “Beer, Beer” or “Happy Little Boozer” on show, but for me, they seem to be aging gracefully whilst still being very entertaining.
For those who enjoy Viking and folk metal this will definitely hit the spot, whether it will sway those who have never liked this style of metal music is a moot point (sadly). However, I think those in the latter category should still check it out. I grew up loving both Judas Priest and Lindisfarne (and Scottish Country Dance music!) so the idea of both styles merging is fine by me. The fact is this band does it with love and enthusiasm and for me that is contagious. It made me smile, it made me want to dance. So I call the album a total success!
Album out Friday 5 February on Nuclear Blast Records.
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