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Catchy tunes from the Finnish woods - 94%

Crushader, November 1st, 2008

Korpiklaani have been accused many times of being cheesy, repetitive and an overall blank and pointless band. People coming up with those accusations often fail to see these Finnish folk metallers in a correct context. In my opinion, Korpiklaani's music captures the spirit of Finnish folklore and legends almost without the common heroic and dark aspects of these subjects. Admit it, everything connected with historical and mythological events doesn't always need to be done so seriously. I don't state that Korpiklaani is an ultimately unique band in this style of folk metal but their more positive view to bring up the old tales works very well. Korven kuningas is a great example of that and the best of Korpiklaani's five albums.

Korpiklaani plays folk metal with pure Finnish attitude. Beside the themes mentioned above, Korpiklaani's lyrics tell us stories wider from Finno-Ugric lore. Also the traditional Finnish lumberjack-culture is strongly represented on the album, including the cover art. Musically Korven kuningas is catchy and often upbeat folk metal filled with enjoyable folk instruments like accordion, flute and violin. My recipe for Korven kuningas is the following: traditional heavy metal frame shaped in a folk metal mold and every now and then spiced with thrash metal-influences. Personally I can't find a single trace of power metal on Korven kuningas like many others have managed to find. The album offers its listeners mid-tempo (and a few slower and faster) songs that are combinations of downtuned guitars and bass, strong drumming, skillfully played folk instruments and Jonne Järvelä's excellently fitting, raspy vocals.

I don't deny the fact that the songs are repetitive at times. They follow mostly same structures and casually have the same musical approach to the themes. Still, every one of the songs is easily distinguishable from the others and that tells us something: albeit guys of Korpiklaani use the same formula very often on Korven kuningas, it's so good one and they are so skilled at doing it that it doesn't really matter. The details are still genious and make every song unique, like the album-opener, a heavy and angry track called "Tapporauta". “Tapporauta” is followed by the brilliant "Metsämies" that encapsulates an important part of the Finnish lumberjack-culture. Other superior songs include "Keep on Galloping", "Northern Fall", "Shall We Take a Turn?", "Kantaiso" and "Suden joiku". The last one mentioned is an atmospheric and wistful masterpiece from the northern lands that tells us a tale from a wolf's viewpoint. Best song on Korven kuningas for sure. There is, however, a couple of weaker tracks on the album too. Those are called "Syntykoski syömmehessäin" and "Gods on Fire". The former simply doesn't offer me a significant musical experience and the latter is, though quite melancholic, a somewhat lousy folk-ballad where Jonne's weak English skills can be heard too distinctly on the top. Also the last song "Korven kuningas", being enchanting at first, turns after six minutes into a tiring shaman-drumming for the rest 15 minutes. Unquestionably it would work in a correct, nocturnal atmosphere but otherwise it's just meaningless.

I understand, and often agree with, the views about folk metal which state that so-called true folk metal need not be filled with all kinds of folk instruments. But for me the likes of Korpiklaani will always be more authentic folk metal acts than the likes of, let's say, Primordial. One thing that I don't understand, is people's opinions considering Korven kuningas. Many people hold the other Korpiklaani-albums in a higher value than Korven kuningas even though it clearly is a pinnacle of Korpiklaani's style. The most fitting reason I can think of, is the fact that on Korven kuningas, Korpiklaani has taken a big step towards even more upbeat folk metal. I'm afraid that "Yak! It's so cheesy man!" or "Those Finnish folk-fags are too happy for my tr00 metal taste!" are good examples of likely reactions to Korven kuningas. When it comes to the word "cheese", I mostly hate it. It feels like a stigma that is used to mark "too happy"-albums by those elitists who don't want to admit that this kind of music is an important and excellent part of metal. Well... fuck those idiots! What I suggest is: let's lift our hearts with Korpiklaani and let us be led into to the heart of fascinating tales from the north by one of this year's finest works!

Out of Ideas - 45%

Managarm, October 15th, 2008

Finnish folk-metal act Korpiklaani is nothing if not consistent. Since 2005 they've released one album a year with their latest being Korven Kuningas ("king of the forest" in English). Now, Folk Metal is one of those genres that is often accused (and not baselessly, I might add) of being gimmicky. That is, if you took away the folk instruments, what you'd be left with is rather bland, generic music, which is sadly what best describes this album.

Perhaps most damning about Korven Kuningas is that, aside from the better production, there's nothing to distinguish it from the band's first, second, third, or any other release. With most bands you can chart a progression (or regression, in some instances) of sound as the band matures and grows. Korpiklaani, on the other hand, have steadfastly refused to do either. You have to admire it in a way; they've clearly got a style of music pinned down and damn it, they're gonna stick to it! Unfortunately, while their frenzied folkish sound might have sounded fresh on their first two or three releases, it gets rather tiresome after the fourth or fifth.

What irritates me about this album, like most of Korpiklaani albums, is that the band just doesn't know when to dial it back. The folk instruments stand front and center, in fact you could probably cut the guitars out entirely and you'd be left with a perfectly acceptable slab of Finnish folk music. And that's the problem, really. The band's sound isn't really a marriage of folk instruments and metal instruments; it's more like the two of them running parallel and only occasionally intersecting. Rather than the guitars providing the foundation for the songs with the folk instruments accompanying, it's the other way around. If you focus solely on the guitars, what you have are rather bland Power Metal-esque music.

But saying all these things is to ignore the giant elephant sitting on the corner, which is that Korpiklaani's music has a bit of a Doctor Jekyl and Hyde aspect to it. At first, the manic, upbeat "let's drink and party!" atmosphere is snappy and fun. However, it's not long before the dark side of the music rears it head and suddenly the band becomes ANNOYING AS FUCK. Sorry to put it in such blunt terms, but the human brain can only take so much accordion and fiddle music played at the same upbeat tempo before it slams down its hands and screams "enough!" On Korven Kuningas that point came on track 5, "Shall We Take a Turn?" where the domineering accordion melody simply turned unbearably grating and I had stop listening at that point because there was still MORE THAN HALF the album to go and I had lost all appetite for it. You know how sweet candy tastes good at first but after eating a heap of it suddenly you become sick at the thought of taking another bite? Korpiklaani fits that to a 'T'. It's the sort of music that's best taken in small doses.

And up to that point, however, the music is very catchy and demands to be sung along to. And that's all the band is, really. Some harmless good fun, but don't go looking for anything particularly deep or that will stand up well to repeated listenings. And whatever you do, don't listen to it for more than a few tracks because damn, it gets old fast. With the release of Korven Kuningas the question is where the band is going to go after this.

Decent...in Small Doses - 30%

DawnoftheShred, August 26th, 2008

Though I’ve only heard a handful of bands that could be classified as “folk metal,” it is incredibly safe for me to presume that the entire subgenre is a novelty. The rationale behind a novelty genre is that once the mechanics of it are no longer unusual to you, it loses most of its appeal. Usually the first few bands of the style that a listener hears are beloved, but mostly this is simply because the sound is strange and unusual. After a while, the listener realizes that all of the bands that seemed so unique and innovative are just exploiting a niche and are lacking in real musical integrity.

Case in point: Korpiklaani is the first and so far the only band I’ve ever heard that features a full-time accordion player in their ranks. The sound that this creates when mixed with distorted guitars and up-tempo drums likens to a bizarre heavy metal polka that is simultaneously unsettling and fascinating. But once the novelty of this very non-metal instrument’s application in metal wears off the music becomes much less desirable. Restraint is the key: using ideas like this in small doses can be potent and creative. But after a dozen similarly crafted songs (in the case of Korven Kuningas it’s fifteen), the magic is lost and the music becomes predictable.

This is the principle flaw in Korpklaani’s approach on Korven Kuningas. It appears to me that they’re just using the folk imagery to try and spice up their unimaginative songwriting approach. It’s not that they’re particularly untalented (in fact, the bass player and the guy who plays the miscellaneous instruments like flute and mandolin are quite good), but they haven’t a clue how to write a good power metal tune. And when all the folk elements are stripped away that’s all this is: generic Finnish power metal with rougher vocals. I believe this was to keep true to their folk roots (folk songs are typically short and repetitive so as to be easily sung along to), but I’d really have preferred this release if they’d completely dropped the metal pretense and just released an acoustic folk album (more songs like “Gods On Fire” and less like “Kantaiso”). It may have had a smaller audience, but at least it’d have been more honest and a damned lot more interesting.

Considering my miniscule bank of knowledge when it comes to European folk music and its integration into the metal scene, you’re probably asking yourself what the fuck my opinion matters. All I can say is that I know a good song when I hear it, and I didn’t hear a single one on this album. Enjoy the novelty if you like, but there are far better records out there that absolutely nail what these guys could not grasp.

Truly awful. - 7%

caspian, July 19th, 2008

There are some things that when combined are really quite the abomination; a blight against humanity, if you will. Muslims and planes. Electro and Screamo (www.myspace.com/brokencyde). The Internet and Social Networking. Germans and National Socialism. All of these things are fine (or at least barely tolerable, on some level) when by themselves, but when combined it's all pretty horrible.

It's weird, really; I wouldn't automatically lump folk metal in with said abominations. Both genres of music tend to have a similar outlook on life- the rebellious outsider, the somewhat antisocial "the whole world sucks, let's drink a huge amount" attitude - but yet when you get metal and add some folky instrumentation the result is normally fairly average, to say the least. And just as Mohamed Atta al-Sayed, MySpace and Hermann Goering are fairly ghastly examples of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph, Korpiklaani are the embodiment of the many problems that arise when you mix cheesy finnish folk with, er, "metal". In a way I liken Korpiklaani's efforts to Nightwish's attempts to combine classical and power metal- however, while Nightwish at least had some level of competency with the power metal or the classical (never both at the same time, though), Korpi manage to inject some extremely cliche folk into some incredibly flaccid attempts at metal.

You've probably heard variations of this kind of stuff before, I imagine. The guitars provide the backing- chugging away at the chords, playing maybe one riff every four or five songs- while the keys (or in this case, the dude that plays all the folky instruments) provide some sort of melody. The stuff on display here - almost monophonic at times, extremely repetitive- would almost be hypnotic if it wasn't so freakin' irritating. There's the slow ballads (in 6/8 time, naturally), and the 'party hard' tunes that are probably even more annoying- sorry, but adding a galloping guitar line to an old style drinking song is possibly the only thing more annoying then "remixing" an old song by adding a fast beat. The vocals bring to mind a 70 year old Finn squeezing out a particularly stubborn turd, except that said vocals are a good deal less passionate then that metaphor describes. Admittedly, the dude that plays the bagpipes and accordion and whatnot does a decent enough job- the folky stuff is pretty damn predictable (Korpi really seem to love their mellow 3/4 folky moments, and you've heard all the faster bagpipes/violin lines a hundred times before) but he has chops, I'll give him that, managing to occasionally transcend the boredom that the other musicians ruthlessly plug away at. Still, a few slightly technical accordion and violin parts do not successfully cover up 14 (!!!) tracks of incredibly boring, generic backing track stuff from the other instruments.

But you know, it's not really the music that annoys me here. Based solely off the music this might get a 20%- boring (very, very boring- and this is coming from a drone fan) but inoffensive. Nope, it's just the total lack of effort that really bugs me. I can conceivably see that folk metal would make decent drinking music- both genres on their own can be quite good at the whole hell raising, heavy drinking sort of thing- but that sort of vibe isn't here at all. Instead of a genuinely rebellious, outlaw attitude, this album brings to mind a vibe of "I just clocked off from my accountancy job, think I'll have a cup of tea". It's so sterile; and while I know I've already used erection metaphors a few times it's really, really flaccid, very limp. There's no energy at all, just a total lack of any emotion, playing it as safe as possible- for those who haven't heard this band before, I guess I could sum it up quickly by saying "This sounds like Matchbox 20 with distorted guitars and accordions", but even Rob Thomas and co. sound more aggressive then this.

The whole album leaves an extremely sour taste in my mouth- we're basically talking folky pop/rock with distorted guitars, so I guess that's not terribly surprising. It's an impressive marketing strategy, I guess; these guys will doubtless be competing for the alt-grandmother niche with Agalloch. Still, this is completely toothless and with the rare exception of some incredibly cliched but not-so-bad folk instrumentation this has no redeeming features at all (points off for "Shall We Make a Turn", too, possibly the worst instrumental ever made). Avoid like the plague.

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Korpiklaani - Korven kuningas - 75%

Radagast, June 27th, 2008

A lot of the early reviews for Korpiklaani's 5th CD, 'Korven kuningas' (that's 'King of the woods'), have been making a point of saying that, while not necessarily being a bad thing, the music is essentially more of the same from their first 4 releases. But it seems obvious to these ears at least that, while the music is unmistakably Korpiklaani, the forest clan have taken a slightly different approach this time around, with a little less manic speed and a touch more contemplation to their tunes than in the past.

After the thrashy – and surprisingly guitar-driven - opener, "Tapporauta" charges out of the traps, things often settle down to more of a sedate pace than what has gone before. Jonne Järvelä and company are of course still making almost relentlessly upbeat folk metal, but the pogo stick has been put away for a reasonable percentage of the recordings, with the bouncy 2-note bass lines that usually propel a lot of the songs forward utilised far less than on past CDs. Even the 'crowd pleaser' on the CD, "Keep on galloping" is more placid than previous efforts like "Let's drink" and "Happy little boozer".

The extended running time (Korpiklaani's longest CD yet at over 50 minutes of actual music before an unbelievably long outro) means there is also a little more audible variety on this CD – the songs with the lower pace allow the multitude of folk instruments (mostly played by violinist Hittavainen) a little more time to come to the fore and the acoustic guitars – less numerable than you would think across Korpiklaani's growing discography – are broken out a little more often. Particularly effective is their use on the sombre ballad "Gods on fire" which sits perfectly in the middle of the CD.

Fortunately one thing that has not changed is the level of quality – overall 'Korven kuningas' may not prove quite as strong as the band's best work, but the music here is still unmistakeably top-tier stuff. Fans of the more hyperactive songs from the Finns need not despair either, as there are still surely enough songs in this mould – "Kantaiso" and "Runamoine" being 2 of the best examples - to keep them satisfied

It's difficult to decide whether or not it was a conscious decision by Korpiklaani to try something a little different with this release or whether this is just the order the songs happened to come out in this time around. Since the CD was released a scant 9 months after 'Tervaskanto' the latter may be more likely, and who is to say that when they somehow find the time to record the follow-up between their relentless touring that the music to fall out of Järvelä's head isn't going to be stacked more in favour of a higher overall tempo?

On the whole, CD number 5 doesn't quite match up to Korpiklanni's previous work, but it is encouraging to see a band with such a successful formula daring to try something even a little different. Fans of a band often tend to be disappointed when they step even a little out of their established niche, but for a group as prolific as Korpiklaani there should be little need to worry – at the rate they knock CDs together they are bound to release something to satisfy any of their fans sooner or later.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)

Still going strong... - 80%

666head, June 11th, 2008

You know, Korpiklaani are a band that deserves the praise they get. Touring and releasing one album per year, I mean, hell, not very many bands can do that. And to top it off, they still remain inspired, if not 100% fresh, but at least they try to progress on each album, and they still make them great.

The album starts off with the really energetic, Metallica-inspired Tapporauta. No clue what the hell its talking about, but its energy is so raw, so pure, the voice, so emotion-filled, its just a really great track to start an album to, I mean, who needs a useless intro when you can do something like Tapporauta? Anyways, from the second track onwards, it’s the standard Korpiklaani affair we fans have come to know and love. The happy go lucky spirit, the tasteful feeling the band gives, I mean really, Korpiklaani are the metal band for people with good taste. These guys just make want to get out to some forest with your buddies, the drink of your choice, and just have a good time. A thing Korpiklaani did on this album was make the folk element a whole lot more prevalent than on previous albums, which they do to great effect. Some songs, like on Northern Fall, make you feel like you’re part of an actual shamanic ritual, its just really great. In fact, the whole album just makes you feel like you are lost in the Finnish Woods and you just spend your time partying with the local tribes.

A special mention should go to the super long (by any standards) Korven Kunningas, which clocks in at 21 minutes and 58 seconds, which is, well, really long. On this particular song is where you truly feel all the folksiness, all the shamanicness, the whole shebang. Of course, you only feel it for a couple of minutes, since the rest of the track is just mindless drumming. Pretty dronny if you ask me. The song would’ve been fine at 6 minutes, not 22. But alas, its there, and it’s the main reason why I can’t give the album a higher score than Tervaskanto (I gave it an 82). The part of the song that’s just mindless drumming, it’s just a waste of human resources.

Overall, Korpiklaani’s Korven Kunningas is a damn good album that should not be missed. The huge downside is the title track, which is dumb after the first 6 minutes or so, and the fact that the band doesn’t offer translations for the Finnish lyrics (which is indeed a huge bummer for people who don’t know a lick of Finnish). Still, get the album, its worth it.

Another great one by the Forest Clan - 80%

BloodIronBeer, March 6th, 2008

For each of the last three years, folk metal fans have been treated to solid, fun Korpiklaani albums. 2008 seems to be no exception.

Korven Kuningas seldom relents on the energetic, upbeat folk. The music can be recognized as folk before anything rock or metal, and it hardly slows down for a moment.

This album could be described thus: accordion, fiddle, hand drums, flute, thundering monstrously large percussion, kantele and Joik chants in an often extremely upbeat Sami/Finnish folk metal so catchy it hurts. Doesn't sound like your thing? Then don't bother. Just want to eat, drink and be merry? - then just stop reading now and buy this album.

As per usual, Korpiklaani keeps the songs simple, straightforward, and obscenely catchy. Again, I think Korpiklaani leans more toward folk than metal, at least more so than most folk metal bands, with accordion and fiddle sharing equal harmonic and melodic responsibilities with the guitars.

The songs are often fast, and the structures simple, with parts repeating many times. Suden Joiku and Gods of Fire are two of the only songs that are not really upbeat. Coincidentally, Suden Joiku is one of my favorite tracks here, while Gods of Fire is probably the worst track, and the only track I'd have to say I don't like. Suden Joiku is somber but still has fast sections. Gods of Fire almost sounds like they felt obligated to write both a somber song, and one with English lyrics - neither aspect is this band particularly gifted in.

That said, to only have one throw away track of 14, is pretty damn good. There is one other gripe however. The last track (the title track) is well over 20 minutes long. But the actual song is only about five minutes. After which, the thundering drum in the background takes to the foreground. And pounds away for over 15 minutes. Maybe I'm just missing something and this is an artistic expression - the eternally pounding drum, an ode to the King of the Wilderness. Or something like that. Either way, it's a minor gripe, because the album is essentially over at that point.

But aside from that, my foot gets tired from tapping, and my neck gets sore from nodding. This is yet another very solid offering from Korpiklaani. A joy to listen to. Fast, fun, catchy Finnish folk metal.

There’s a party in the forest, and you’re invited. What else would you expect from the Forest Clan?



{Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com}