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I'm a fan of Korpiklaani - they've made some solid bombastic anthems, convincing ballads and folk-heavy headbangers (my favorite). Prior to this album, they were pretty good at understanding the importance of balance - moderation, if you will. But on Karkelo? Well, it lacks flow, the riffs vary from mildly catchy melodic stuff to the dullest of chugs and it randomly bounces between simple drinking songs and pagan epics. It's like schizophrenia in album form. Listening to this album is frustrating as hell.
Starting out, hopes are high with "Vodka". It's one of their better drinking songs, not amazing but it's definitely a fun sing-along song. But then track 2, despite a couple okay folk melodies, barely leaves a mark. This is a trend that continues throughout the album - Uniaika is pretty catchy and heavy, but Kultanainen tries to stretch a few half-decent melodies out for over 6 minutes. Bring Us Pints of Beer is kinda catchy and has funny lyrics, but the song after it trudges along so slow and with such a lack of ideas/folk instruments, I had to replay it 10 minutes later just to remember how it goes. I figure the bassist actually fell asleep on this one. This good/bad/decent/dreadful trend just shreds the flow of the album.
There are a couple of other good songs here besides the single. "Mettaanpeiton Valtiaalle" at least attempts to hearken back to the mid-tempo pagan pride rockers of the past, and for the most part it holds up. The cover song is so giddy and folky it's impossible not to enjoy. Decent instrumental. But overall, there's an EP's worth of enjoyment on a 1-hour album. All but lost are the epics and power ballads. Gone are the guest instrumentalists. When the single is the stand-out, you've mucked something up badly.
So, three cool tracks, an okay instrumental and a load of half-assery and fails. Disappointing, that. Personally, I blame Jonne's dreadlocks.
KORPIKLAANI are nothing if not prolific and fun-loving little Finns. Just about anything and everything pertaining to the KLAANI lads should be taken at face value, with little to no well-meaning, deep-rooted messages to be found; no diatribes, proliferation, or intrisic messages. Just anthems of boozing it up in taverns, boozing it up in the forest, boozing it up...well, just about anywhere they can. That's not usually a bad thing; such a devil-may-care attitude makes for fun romps of the musical kind. And while the ride itself prompts one to dosedo with the best of 'em, could there be such a thing as partying too much? Not for these guys. One albums' night sleep clears up stylistic hangovers well enough, it seems.
Calling KORPIKLAANI a one-trick pony is both a positive and negative justification...their albums can be considered a big, continuous, trash-the-place party of the medieval tavern variety. However, each successive romp, while entertaining, ran the risk of seeming like the same party, the same theme, time and time again. They had things going for them with "Songs of Wilderness" and "Torviskanto", but by the time "Korvus Kuningas" came sidling to the bar the booze was starting to run a little dry. This new night of stomping good fun, "Karkelo", seems to come off the same party wagon as the previously mentioned "Korvus" stylistically, with plentiful tasty melodies, infectious hooks, and an epic atmosphere to boot, albeit a bit more sophisticated in approach. It's easily a more entertaining cascade of alcohol-fueled insanity that sticks to you like half-brewed mead. Songs like the subtlely titled "Vodka", the dirgey "Mettänpeiton Valtiaalle" the party-hearty "Juodaan Viinaa" and the bouncy "Kultanainen" showcase the now familier formula of upbeat folk melodies with chaotically thrashy metal of the Finnish echelon in spades, revealing a sense of energetic enjoyment, where guitar riffs, accordian and fiddle movements, and booming, drunken Viking choruses hold sway to sty-swinging good times. The over-all delivery of instrumentation comes off just as happily performed, the stage being set for an apparent sense of commerodary between the band mates. It's all sorts of fun, a rarity amongst the ever-so-serious throngs of metal bands hell-bent on usurping the ears of the unfortunately just as ever-so-serious metal fans. Sometimes it just has to be that way, boy-oes.
So in the end this is yet another satisfying release by the KORPI-klaan. In times such as these musical escapism of even the drunken variety can prove essential to the most ardently true metal folk. Fill it to the brim, take a big swig, and enjoy!