Finnish folk metallers Korpiklaani are at it again with their newest album Manala, a continuation of their alcoholic/drunken legacy, and a fine one at that.
Jonne Järvelä formed Shamaani Duo in 1993, a folk group described as an ‘in-house restaurant’ band. Shamaani Duo only released one album, Hunka Lunka, before Jonne relocated and formed a new group called Shaman, based off of Shamaani Duo. Two albums, Idja (1999) and Shamániac (2002), were released under that name until Jonne changed Shaman to the now well-known Korpiklaani. This was not only a name change, but a music change as well. Jonne credits this shift in music to Finntroll, and resulted in occasional collaboration between the two bands, which includes drum sessions with Samu Ruotsalainenand (Finntroll) and joiking with Jonne Järvelä. Finntroll also influenced Korpiklaani’s lyrical theme and helped form it into the kind of lyrics any sane parent would want to raise their child to form their life around (drinking, partying, etc.).
Today the ‘Forest Clan’ continues with the line-up of Jonne Järvelä (vocals, guitar), Kalle Savijärvi (guitar), Matti Johansson (drums), Jarkko Aaltonen (bass), Juho Kauppinen (accordion), and newest member Tuomas Rounakari (violin). Although the band has gone through a few line-up changes, and judging by the sound of Manala, I’d say the current line-up is just as great as it was at their peak back in 2003.
Beginning the album on a happy note, Kunnia is based primarily on Jonne’s vocals, and heavily backed up by guitar and accordion. Like many of their songs, it’s upbeat and one can easily end up with a smile on their face after listening to it. Although Tuonelan Tuvilla is different musically, it has the same spirit as the first song, and Korpiklaani as a whole. Rauta, on the other hand, features a prominent bass track and chanting. Although the lower pitch and lack of a melody in the song could portray darkness, the band still manages to make it seem joyful. Since Rauta took a short break from stringed instruments, the 4th track, Ruuminmultaa, makes up for it before Petoeläimen Kuola counters with a resemblance to the 3rd track.
To be frank, Synkkä is beautiful. It’s soft and thoughtful, relying on the work of various stringed instruments, and a small interjection of vocals. The 7th song is a traditional Finnish Polka, covered for Manala. The composers of Ievan Polkka were given justice, Korpiklaani’s version bears a striking resemblance to the original while adding their special touches to it. Husky Sledge functions as a short 1:42 violin instrumental, and a break in the album before switching to the more serious track that follows. Dolorous has a wholesome feel to it, not the kind of song the band usually creates that make you want to jump around or tap your feet, but one that is slightly tranquil.
Uni reverts back to the style that the beginning of the album presented, with fast paced drums, accordion, and backing guitar. Metsälle, on the other hand, starts out with a regular “folk” (not folk metal) intro, leading the listener to believe it’s similar to Husky Sledge before you hear the drums and fast paced playing kick in. Closing the album, Sumussa Hämärän Aamun proves to be the most diverse song of all. Whereas the guitar is usually in the background accompanying the other instruments, it’s prominent, and the basis for the song. The tone of the guitar was also adjusted for the final track, and features “squealing” (also known as pitch harmonics, if you don’t know what that is, think Zakk Wylde). As the song progresses, it slows more and more before fading to black.
Manala as a whole is jolly, catchy, and, well, Korpiklaani. All of the instruments are easily defined, even the bass, and the musicianship is apparent throughout the entire album.
We also had the opportunity to speak to long time member and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen about his lack of interest in drinking songs, and the band in general.
2. Tuonelan Tuvilla
5. Petoeläimen Kuola
7. Ievan Polkka
12. Sumussa Hämärän Aamun
Korpiklaani is hitting the states this August, and tour dates can be found here.