without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
What can be said about Korpiklaani? Fun, energetic, party-hearty…and pretty prolific. Yes, many could see the end result as simplistic and damn-near stoooopid sounding, for folk for the sake of it has its place within this placid heart’o mine, and there will always be a time and a place to satisfy it. It’s the more fun-loving part of me that resonates to brightly with this, so sprightly in this day and age, and hopefully will be something to hold onto to in my waning years. And they’re a’comin’, they’re a’comin’. But anyway…
So let’s see how this album came out, for folk’s sake…
And oh, like the mighty Mega Man before them, Korpiklaani’s whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to their folk metal tandems is something to admire, and the way that they keep the flames burning with that high amount of righteous energy is just as admirable. Nothing’s really changed all that much, but that’s not entirely a bad thing, and if nothing else, all these years of being amongst the top of the Finn Metal heap has increased the professionalism placed within the production and performance parts. Things seemed more tempered with “Korvus Kuningas” and slowly mushroomed from a concrete foundation into a larger, fiercer, and dare I say, darker beast. It’s still bouncy and happy in its delivery, but for “Manala”, there’s a heavier, more thrash-born side that’s always been truncated in earlier albums in favor of the fiddle/accordion-led moments. That end has caused night to fall upon the forest, shrouding it in seemingly threatening shadows. But that can only cause the bonfire to be lit even more, leading to more dances under the stars. So the end result is actually better than one would expect.
For a group of their caliber, I found “Manala” to be a strangely more guitar-driven affair, something that always seemed to threaten leaving the music thin upon my ears. When you have fancy instrumentation like fiddles, accordions, hurdy gurdies and whatnot in your group, chances are you’d let the more traditional metal instruments take a backseat breather, causing a loss in that kind of musical vision. But in this case, with a influx of stronger songwriting, including some slightly Arabian influence in certain parts (that I can hear…maybe you can hear something else?), the music itself is still as fine and fun as before, both the dancey and dramatic moments. Those who’ve been kickin’ their fur-clad kilts in the air to these guys won’t be hard-pressed to find any lack of doing so with this, although a bit more head-banging may end up in order during the fiercer riffs and movements. And let’s not forget those quieter moments, where at times the band really shines the brightest (the lushness of the strings, acoustics, bass, and gentle choirs always get me *right here*), even though the more distorted moments are the ones best remembered (sometimes sad to say).
So all in all, “Manala” still shows that Korpiklaani can continue knocking one out of the park with their blend of seemingly unstoppable prowess. While they may be considered the most cliché in the folk metal scene, it’s not simple two-dimensionality; there’s always more going on than you’d think, and the past few albums have helped prove that, like the wine they guzzle amongst the trees, they can get better with age. Two drinking horns up!
So yeah, I love everything related to folk music. Yet Korpiklaani always seemed as one of the weakest of the bunch. Do not get me wrong, their songs were still pretty fun to listen, and some were even great (Vodka, Tequila and Hunting Song mainly). Yet their polka theme were off pretty fast because they only knew three or four guitar riffs, and the drummer only played two beats (that were pretty similar (and 90% of the song was the classic kick-snare-double kick-snare)) made listening to KK an impossible feat. They were unoriginal, boring, dull and most important of all, uncreative (with a majority of the songs simply saying “Hey, drink (insert famous alcoholic beverage here)”) But in 2012 this all changed, when they released a masterpiece by the name of Manala.
First of all, the cover art just amazes me. The previous releases featured: an old man standing in front of a fire; an old man sitting in a snowy field; an old man standing on a river; an old man walking a snowy road. These are not all of their albums, but the point still remains. Their covers were wearying. This one, on the other hand, features an old man in front of a FUCKING RIVER OF LAVA, WHILE A SWAN PASSES BY HIM, SWIMMING IN THAT RIVER. Okay, it is no Amon Amarth, but it still is awesome.
The first song, Kunnia, starts with Jonne giving us a loud and uplifting scream while the band quickly joins after him. Right off the bat, one of the main problems with the album appears. The drums are too loud. Yes, metal has to be heavy, and I understand the need of weight, considering that this is KK we are talking about, but the fact is that the drums are higher than other instruments; specially the bass and the accordion. They probably thought “hey, we want a heavy album, so let’s tune that drums so high so that louder than all instruments around it! Hey, it worked on Kingdom of Conspiracy and St. Anger. It can not fail!”. Well, it did. It is strange to say this, because in some songs (Tuonelan Tuvilla, Metsälle, Petoeläimen Kuola) it works. Perhaps because these are the heaviest songs (as heavy as KK can be, the guitars in Tuonelan Tuvilla and Petoeläimen Kuola are very similar sounding) and songs like Kunnia, Ievan Polkka and Rauta, which are lighter tracks, it fails completely.
Oh, I have not talked about Rauta yet? Well, get ready to skip songs in your iPod/radio, because Rauta is the worst song on the album. It is repetitive, and the drum patterns do not ever change, there is no time to the instruments to set an atmosphere, and the vocalists never shuts up. "Rauta" is also infamous for the fact that they repeat the word “iske” about sixteen thousand times at one point of the song. The fact that this is the one they advertised with a video clip just does not make sense.
The guitars, while not having much variety in notes (the aforementioned Ievan Polkka feels that the guitars have only two riffs, used over and over with no change of tone, tune or sound) are certainly better than past releases, now having more range structure-wise. The drummer finally learned how to play the drums (seriously, check Metsälle. In the intro of the song (when Jonne starts singing), listen to that drum roll. That is fucking amazing). I have no comments on the accordion. It is what it always has been. It is just a little folk notch that was never outstanding, nor amazing, yet never felt flat or monotonous. The bass... Oh, the bass… Seriously, listen to the beginning of Rauta just to listen to that music. It is just the sound I wanted to hear from KK. Best bass sound of the world, hands down. Cliff Burton, you can eat your heart out.
Now, I have said in the title “Year of the Fiddle/Violin”. I say that because, just like Elvenking found a place to put their fiddler so that he is not just one more dead weight in the raft, Korpi did the same in the same year. Though I give him all this praise because finally I can hear him, it is not that much amazing. It comes off as the same as the as the accordion, never dull, but never outstanding.
There is a nice variety of songs, with different tones and (sometimes) structures. Kunnia is a more happy and joyful, with a more light-centered sound for the guitars. The vocals are in a high note all the way. On the other hand, Tuonelan Tuvilla is a much heavy song, with (forced) harsh vocals and pounding drums. Uni is an uplifting song, with one of the few spotlights for the accordion, with simple vocal and drum patterns, whereas Dolorous is a much more… well, dolorous song. It is darker, and it does not seem forced. Yes, Korpiklaani did dark and dismal instrumental, that did not appear forced. Suck on that “Rise of the Pentagram”. Synkka is what I can only describe as a dark, acoustic, folk and emotional song. It is hard to put on words, but I strongly suggest checking this one out. It has a beautiful atmosphere and feeling to it.
In a nutshell, this album has everything it should have, even a release of songs dubbed in English. My favorite songs go as follow: Kunnia, Tuonelan Tuvilla, Metsälle, Sumussa Hämärän Aamun and Synkka. If you were like me, and had a rejection for Klaani; check this. You might be surprised and impressed with what you will find.
(P.S.: This is the only KK album that does not feature song about drinking. Something tells me that Bodom should learn from this guys).
Orignally written for my blog: darkwaveunderneath.blogspot.com.br
I’ve never been a big Korpiklaani fan. I thought they were lame and gimmicky since the first time my friend sent me the Wooden Pints video. I’d come across songs I’d enjoy here and there, but for the most part they never did anything for me. Then I saw them live. And loved it. They were so much fun, as could be expected by a band that was known for catchy drinking songs, and I bought their newest album on the way out. Some bands you need to see live to understand, and some bands are just more entertaining live than in the studio. This was one of those cases. Since, I’ve revisited many of their past albums, and while maybe I can still work on it, I’m still not feeling for their albums anything like I felt live. Except this one. I don’t know what it is about this album that keeps me interested, but there seems to be more depth and musical evolution. Maybe they put more effort into the songwriting. Or maybe there’s just some intangible factor I’ll never really understand. But for once I actually find a band that made a career being fun and campy more fun than campy.
Kunnia kicks the album off in a fun, upbeat, almost punky fashion. It’s a little bit what you’d expect from Korpiklaani, except I prefer it to most of their other music, for whatever reason. It’s catchy and its simple chorus of simply “HEY-EY-EY-EY-EY-EY” is fun live, along with the “ISKE!” chant from Rauta, which is a very entertaining song with a cool bass-driven intro. Tuonelan Tuvilla fucking crushes everything, and I’ll be damned if Peroelaimen Kuola isn’t one of the best fucking folk metal songs ever, with riffing that would do 80’s thrash proud.
Synkka starts off with some kind awesome steel-sounding drum, but not the kind that makes you think of the Caribbean. With the droning note in the background it sounds dark and hellish as fuck, before going into something almost unfittingly soft, but still somewhat melancholy. This is where one of the major issues with Korpiklaani rears its head: Jonne apparently can’t sing clean to save his life. This song would probably be done so much more justice with a good cleaner singer, but I feel like the execution here is awkward, in part to the somewhat unfitting gravelly vocals. It’s like Lemmy singing an acoustic ballad, except that Lemmy has already proven he CAN sing an acoustic ballad… Still the song is alright in and of itself.
Another positive is that even though catchy upbeat songs are present, such as Kunnia, Ievan Polkka and Uni, it never becomes the empty, mindless goofiness I’ve always felt Happy Little Boozer and Wooden Pints were. Still, these songs aren’t necessarily the ones I feel are the main attractions. It’s the musical evolution and maturation that I’ve fallen in love with on this album. It feels as though the folk has been toned down to accent the metal, which is a little more prominent on this album.
Or maybe I’m wrong. I can admit most Korpiklanni albums turn me off 2 or 3 songs in. I keep trying to delve deeper, and see what gems might be hiding, but I only find a handful of songs I come back to, and a whole bunch that disinterest or even annoy me enough to want to stop and put on something else.. Aside from this entire album, that is.
The bottom line is that this album features higher quality riffing than I’ve come to expect from these guys, as well as choruses that are fun in a metal way, and not fun in a gimmicky folk way. This is a band that has always had talent, and I’ve never felt were using it well, and It’s good that I can finally support one of their albums. I’m not saying liking earlier Korpiklaani is a crime, but what I am saying is even if you don’t like their earlier work, you might want to check this album out. And I certainly hope they continue to grow and evolve and mature, so I can love their studio work as much as I loved their live show.
Sometimes metal can take itself too seriously. As great as bands like Burzum or Behemoth are, one thing metal as a culture is known for is its sense of humour, and sometimes it is better to just have some fun than splash on some corpse paint and try to be more evil than the band before you. Enter Korpiklaani. A Finnish folk metal band, alongside bands like Finntroll and Ensiferum, Korpiklaani are one of the biggest and most popular folk metal bands in the world. They're different from other bands however in the sense that while most folk metal bands were originally metal bands who slowly integrated folk elements into their sound, Korpiklaani started in the early 90s as a folk band and slowly became heavier. As a result the folk elements are a lot more prominent in their music than in a lot of bands, and they are known for their style of very upbeat, jaunty folk metal and their ability to write extremely catchy songs that get stuck in your head for days. They are also known for their consistency and the fact that they release albums very regularly, normally one every year or two. 2012 is no exception, with Korpiklaani following up 2011's “Ukon Wacka” with their new album “Manala”.
Manala is the name of the underworld in Finnish mythology, so this is an album with a darker theme than Korpiklaani fans are used to, but is this reflected in the music? To an extent, the answer is yes. “Manala” is a very varied album, and many of the songs do show this darker influence such as “Metsälle” and the haunting “Synkkä”. There is even an atmospheric interlude in the form of “Husky Sledge”, which consists of some grating, creepy strings with bells jingling in the background, which provides an interesting little break in the middle of the album. In fact “Manala” is certainly a contender for the heaviest Korpiklaani album to date, and as a whole has more of a cinematic, epic feel than previous albums.
At the same time however, many songs are closer to the traditional, upbeat Korpiklaani style featured on folk metal anthems such as “Vodka” from 2009’s “Karkelo”. Album opener “Kunnia” is a bombastic, triumphant song which goes by in what seems to be a lot shorter than its three and a half minute run time. “Tuonelan Tuvilla” and “Ruumiinmultaa” follow suit, and anyone who has ever heard “Rauta” has had the word “iske” stuck in their head ever since. With its bass intro and generally jaunty feel, it is sure to become a live favourite. Some people may be disappointed that there is no drinking song on this album, as Korpiklaani are famous for showcasing their love of alcohol in songs like “Vodka”, “Tequila”, “Beer Beer” and “Let’s Drink”, but when you have a song as engaging as “Rauta” on the album it more than makes up for it. Songs like “Uni” and their cover of famous Finnish song “Ievan Polkka” remain nothing but massively enjoyable. Placed next to these darker, melancholic songs however, they make “Manala” a somewhat disorientating listen, making it an interesting addition to the quickly growing Korpiklaani back catalogue.
The folk instruments are great as always, and the more traditional metal instruments also sound very good in this album’s fantastic mix. Jonne Järvelä’s unique and instantly recognisable vocals are also as good as on previous albums, if not better at times. A debate for many listeners approaching this album however will be whether to listen to the Finnish version or the English version, as this album comes in both. I personally prefer the Finnish version as it sounds more natural for them, but some people prefer the broken English sang in Jonne’s strong Finnish accent found on earlier albums. The Finnish version has the advantage of coming with a fantastic bonus track, the doomy, “South of Heaven”-ish "Sumussa Hämärän Aamun". The way to solve this problem is simply to pick up the deluxe edition of the album, which contains both versions.
“Manala” is a somewhat confusing album, moving from sombre epics to joyful folky tracks that are catchy as hell and back again multiple times. As a whole however it is easily one of Korpiklaani’s strongest albums to date, and one any fan of folk metal should take the time to listen to, because it is definitely worth it. Roll on the next Korpiklaani record.
This is... really embarrassing. I've never been an opponent of folk metal (Ensiferum has been one of my favorite bands since Iron came out), but I most certainly have been exceptionally cruel towards Korpiklaani. To me, they were the band that took every negative quality about folk metal and then amplified it to a completely preposterous level. I like "Wooden Pints" and I think "Happy Little Boozer" is pretty catchy, but I can't think of another track of theirs I enjoy on any level besides those two. Around the time of Tales Along this Road, I just gave up listening to them. Clearly they were content with being absolute dorks who had nothing to offer besides shallow bar songs backed by unimaginative and boring polka beats. Finntroll were always the most visible clowns in folk metal, but at the very least they had a level of sincerity within their music (as silly as it may be) that I could respect. They'd at least occasionally crap out a track like "Ellytres" that sounded like there was at least more than five minutes of forethought put into it. Korpiklaani never went that far, they were shallow, goofy, and rarely sober old men who played shitty polka that happened to have distorted guitars in it.
To be 100% honest with you, I first checked out Manala for the same reason I first checked out Winds of Plague, I figured it'd be an easy target that I could easily just make bad jokes about and frame a review around. The difference is that Decimate the Weak was every bit as atrocious as I thought it'd be. Manala on the other hand is... goddamn I'm going to have to revoke even more of my credibility as a metal critic but by Jove this is really good.
I brought up Finntroll earlier, and that's really who Korpiklaani is reminding me of at this point. It took them five years more than their countrymen, but they've finally started taking this whole folk + metal idea seriously. Yeah, the actual metallic aspects of the band have been ramped up considerably this time around. Now that obviously doesn't make a band inherently better (we all saw what happened to Discharge), but here it really helped lend a semblance of honesty to their previously horrawful music. I'm buying what they're selling now, and it's just so strange to be saying that. Instead of stupid, bouncy "hum-pa hum-pa" bullshit, they're shilling out real, honest riffs and melodies and... ya know, things that take effort to do. Even the slower songs like "Dolorous" and "Synkkä" are surprisingly well crafted and very pleasant to listen to.
I think a big part in making the band seem less like a bunch of shitty old men is the fact that they've essentially dropped the idea of singing in English entirely, now opting for their mother tongue of Finnish. This is just a personal preference of mine, since I like the mystique of having almost no idea what bands are saying, but when a band as notoriously shallow as Korpiklaani suddenly veils their assuredly still dicktarded lyrics to a big chunk of their audience, they suddenly become a lot less difficult to take seriously. For all I know, "Kunnia" is just Finnish slang for "DRINK WUDZKA UND FULL DOWN", but as Midwestern American ethnocentric white trash, I couldn't give less of a shit. So yes, perhaps a big part of being able to enjoy this album hinges on you not knowing much Finnish, but clearly the band is more comfortable writing in their native language, so I support this development.
Now since that's admittedly a pretty tenuous reason to suddenly enjoy what I once detested, I feel the need to point out what I brought up earlier, the more pronounced metallic aspects of their sound. "Kunnia", "Petoeläimen Kuola", "Uni", songs like this take the route recently traveled by Finntroll and earlier Asmegin, which is that the folk instruments are used as a means to an end, rather than the ends themselves. The band finally realized that simply having twangy bullshit and whoozhy hurdy gurdys wasn't necessarily enough to base a song around, so now these folk elements are being used to accentuate the melody or propel the songs forward instead of just jumping right out front, sticking their tongues out and shaking their heads going WALALARGHABLARGLALALA like a fucking court jester. Simply reining in the whole obnoxious "Look how quirky we are!" crap really did the band a ton of favors. This is a brilliant example of a band dialing back a quality that was previously abrasive and irritating and in turn pushing forth a more basic, stripped down approach to songwriting. It worked marvelously, and I'm amazed that they managed to sober up long enough to realize that their music was shit, and then actually solve the problem. When they go full folk, they keep it somber and pleasant, and when they kick up the rock n' roll attitude, they keep the folk elements in a supporting role.
And this is the part where I get hypocritical again, because my two favorite tracks are "Rauta" and "Ievan Polkka", which are the two most overt throwbacks to the style I abhor so much. I don't know guys, I just really like them. They're both bouncy, polka influenced numbers like their previous albums, but goddamn they just work. I should hate "Rauta" like it was a douchey kid with snakebites who just knocked up my sister, but damn I can't help but think it's adorable with how it manages to be awful and yet charming at the same time. It seriously says the word "iske" thirty nine times in a row at one point. Oh lord above that is stupid. But... man it's kind of endearing. I know just enough Finnish to know that "rauta" means "iron" and "iske" means "strike", so I'm going to assume that the song is just the Finnish equivalent of Little Bunny Foo Foo, but it's so dorky that I can't help but smile at it. Guess that means I'm gonna turn into a Goon...
Manala is basically just a collection of stupid singalong songs like all of their previous albums, but this one stands out for the added sincerity, variety, and upped dosage of metallic attitude. Turns out that underneath the band's skirt, they carried a pretty hefty set of balls. The gravelly voice that's mumbled out from behind the mountain of grody dreadlocks and the bouncy folkka oompa elements are still there, so maybe I'm just a crazy person for enjoying the hell out of this despite the flaws it still pretty blatantly carries, but I just can't help it. It's stupid and fun and it does what it sets out to do well, unlike the previous efforts that reached for the same endgame but fell flat on their faces.
PS - If you google "Manala" you'll get a lot of images of what look like little people made of bread. I don't care what that word means in other languages, because to me it will now forever mean "Doughboy".
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
Despite basically all Korpiklaani albums sounding oddly similar for the last 5 years, this one stands above. One thing you have to give Korpiklaani is how consistent they sound and stay true to their genre. I find their style of folk metal is a ton more "folkier" than anyone else. While their lyrics may not represent it as much, their sound itself exceeds expectations of what I thought folk metal would ever sound like. Korpiklaani was the first folk metal band I ever listened to, right around when they released Tervaskanto. I fell in love instantly and it was the only album I listened to from them for a long time until I saw them live. Holy hell they can put on a show. Anyways, back to this album.
Compared to Ukon Wacka, I think Manala crushes it on every level. Each song is your standard Korpiklaani song, fast paced instruments and singing transitioning into a quick little medley with some sort of flute or accordion added and onto a riffy catchy chorus. I think this is their best and most complete sounding release since Tervaskanto. The small solo's they place in every few songs on this album are unbelievable and every song drives you to sing along although you probably can't because it's all in Finnish. Another point there, I think Korpiklaani produces much better songs when they sing in their native tongue. Anything they do in English sounds almost too mainstream or something like that, it just isn't them.
All the tracks are wonderful, there are two instrumentals about 3/4 of the way through and they serve as a great mark in the album that tells you things slow down for the rest of the album. Which is completely okay, you gotta' have at least one ballad!
There are a mere two flaws on this album that I could find, just a tad repetitive on your first listen through. When you listen to the title track all you remember back is Jonne singing Kunnia, Kunnia, Kunnia! The rest of the song is wonderful, just the chorus has this little bit of annoyance to it. The same goes with track three, where he repeats Iske literally over 30 times in a row. I thought the album was scratched or stuck on repeat or some weird thing when I first listened to it. After the chants of Iske the song goes into a classic heavy metal Korpiklaani mode and will leave you wanting more and more and more by the time it's over.
I think the instruments sounds magnificent on this album. The fact Korpiklaani can pump out an album nearly every year is just mind boggling and to keep them not sounding like complete shit is just another feather in their cap. Seriously one of the best metal bands to date, these guys never fail to impress me even with their last few releases lacking some in my eye. Forever and always a fan, I listen to this album more than any other I have bought this year. One of the best of 2012 for sure.
When it comes to many bands, there comes to a point where they run out of steam. With Korpiklaani, that is not the case. The first album they came out with was amazing with their iconic song; Wooden Pints. Ever since then, their albums only got better. With the release of Manala marks the 8th studio album. This album without a doubt is amazing.
Manala's opening song; Kunnia is energetic and immediately catchy. It is followed by many other great songs which the album provides from the bass-heavy Rauta to the cover of the popular song and meme, Ievan Polkka. The songs vary from energetic to heavy, festive to gloomy. Whichever part of Korpiklaani you like is sure to be found on the album. There are some songs that I do not like on the album, but I do not know whether the dislike stems from purely my opinion or if they really are bad. Though to sum it up, the bad of the album is easily outweighed by the amazing songs that Korpiklaani happened to produce.
If you got the limited edition of the album, you will have another disc that contains the songs translated into English. My opinion on this is split. For certain, I like that they did this and should be the standard in every album. Another issue with the modern Korpiklaani is that they strayed away from English. Ukon Wacka did not have a single English song when there was at least some English in Karkelo. I understand that they are from Finland and they are singing in their language, but it is refreshing to get English songs back into Korpiklaani. On the other hand, the songs made were written in Finnish, which means that many of the songs are misplaced in terms of lyrics. There are few to rhymes in the songs and some just do not sound right, but there are still songs that work in English and sound great compared to their Finnish counterpart.
To sum it up, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the the best Korpiklaani albums to date if not the best. Instead of burning out, they are improving their formula, which is difficult considering they already started with great music from the get go. Too often we see art burn out. Not just in the music realm, but movies, TV shows, videogames and even painters end up losing their creative touch in which they either rebound or it just goes downhill. Korpiklaani on the other hand seems to just be warming up.
Well this album came as a surprise to me. After the disaster that is "Ukon Wacka" in 2011 I almost gave up on this band, then this little shocker came along and kicked the gear to a better place and put them back on the right track.
The album starts off a little bumpy with "Kunnia" which is not a very good start because its a typical "Korpiklaani" and very unoriginal. After that came some nice sing-along songs such as "Rauta" which is basically a drinking song (that doesn't talk about drinks, thank god!) a funny song and quite enjoyable.
The band features a new member on violin "Tuomas Rounakari" who does a raelly good job on many of the songs such as " Petoeläimen Kuola" and "Synkkä", he doesn't try to show off, he provides a balanced performance varying between ultra fast and beautifully slow, which is a very good thing.
The shamanic fun and joy continues with "Ievan Polkka" which has a very nice tone and a wise use of folk instruments and pretty decent riffs, which is basically what's going on in the entire album, the riffing is more "sober" so to speak. but still so much fun.
The album's lyrics is all about Finnish mythology, kind of reminds you of their older albums, which I believe to be an improvement, to return to their roots even in a slower pace, but still a very good move.
The album continues with double shamanic instrumentals; "Husky-Sledge" and "Dolorous" are a very good addition to the album and sort of put you in a "polar" mode, you can actually feel the beautiful, comforting yet cruel coldness of Finland.
Now, one of the most interesting parts of this album is the bonus CD, which contains the whole album with English lyrics. A thoughtful movement which shows how "sober" they are becoming.
This album has really put back the faith in Korpiklaani, and shows the potential they still have, they no longer a bunch of drunk guys making merry music, they have matured but never lost the childish spirit they always had and hopefully never will lose. I recommend this album to all their old fans who once forsaken them. and to the fans of folk metal in general, its really worth the investment. Looking forward for more albums such as this one.
Korpiklaani's eighth full-length, Manala, comes out with a bonus CD containing the whole album sung in English - of which I will not talk about, since I will focus only on the "original" twelve tracks of the Finnish version - and it marks a significant break in the not-that-long career of this always-enjoyable Finnish folk metal band.
Some relevant differences compared to the past have to be punctualized. Firstly, the long-time violinist and multi-instrumentalist Hittavainen left the band in 2011, and he has been replaced by the brilliant composer and musician Tuomas Rounakari, who has been playing for many years traditional Finnish and Arctic songs with his violin and his ankle-bells. His contribution to Manala is enormous, playing a solo song ("Husky-Sledge") and another violin-dominated song with the full band on the background ("Dolorous"), but more than this literally overwhelming Juho Kauppinen's accordion, which in the whole Korpiklaani discography has historically played a fundamental role. Although in some songs Kauppinen still manages to lead the melodies, Rounakari's violins are for the first time truly the best and the most cleverly used instrument on a whole Korpiklaani album.
Secondly, on Manala we can appreciate a return of Korpiklaani, I would say, not actually to their origins as a folk metal band but to the origins of the Finnish folk music. We do not have a single "happy" drinking song on Manala, and as the lyrics on the album are based on the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland, we are mostly going to hear more melancholic, nostalgic and nature-inspired songs compared to the Korpiklaani past albums.
However, after all these enjoyable features and great innovations, Manala presents some noteworthy flaws. Among its twelve tracks, indeed, there are some fillers like "Tuonelan Tuvilla", a pretty boring track with few folk aspects, or some nice songs such as "Sumussa Hämärän Aamun", a long, heavy and slow track also featuring some gloomy violins and accordions, which unfortunately remembers too much older songs like "Huppiaan Aarre".
Apart from this, and from "Petoeläimen Kuola", a strange thrash/folk experiment which gets boring after two listenings (and even from the two instrumental songs of which I have already written about), the rest of the album is a bunch of catchy, greatly-played and truly enjoyable folk metal songs; the first track, "Kunnia", also features some great joik by Järvelä, the traditional Finnish singing style of which he made great use in many old songs; the track itself is very catchy in its chorus, accompanied by a brilliant accordion melody.
"Rauta" features a hurdy-gurdy, and it is a great exemplar of the last part of Korpiklaani's career, with heavier guitar playing and slower, more "various" drums and changes of tempo compared to their first albums; "Ruuminmultaa" is instead a pure folk song in the Korpiklaani style, with some astonishing violin melodies and solos and catchy choruses as always. "Uni" follows a similar path, but on here Kauppinen's accordion has more room, even if Rounakari's brilliant violins - and I insist another time by saying that this is the greatest innovation on Manala - soon get the prominent role when Matson's double bass and Järvelä's vocals start the heavy chorus.
"Metsälle", over five minutes long, begins with a slow, nostalgic folk melody in order to burst out into a heavy part, in which - another time - a hurdy gurdy precedes a nice, traditional Korpiklaani folk metal song; "Synkkä" starts with a similar melody, and has the same length of the former song, but it is actually fully acoustic, and a great guitar playing leads the whole track in a desolate, melancholic way. Again, Rounakari's violin plays a fundamental role. The last song of which I will talk about is the famous "Ievan Polkka", whose video with some anime girl with a leek in her hand has probably been watched by everyone in the last years on Youtube. Well, that version was the a cappella one of the Finnish quartet Loituma, but the original track dates back to some centuries ago and its lyrics have been written by Eino Kettunen in the 1930s in some Karelian dialect. The song itself is a Finnish polka and Korpiklaani's folk metal version gives many space to the accordion melody, while Järvelä's vocals are fast, raw as always and appropriate to the velocity of their greatly enjoyable cover.
Analyzing most of the tracks of Manala has been practically necessary, since Korpiklaani's eighth studio album is, in my opinion, one of the best of their career and it features many innovations and brilliant melodies, thanks to Rounakari's violins, Kauppinen's accordion and Järvelä's always-"pertinent" vocal styles, adapting themselves to the different feelings of the various tracks, although Järvelä has not, of course, an astonishing voice. Manala probably manages to surpass Ukon Wacka, Karkelo and even the older Tales Along This Road among the others, bringing one more time some fantastic - although more melancholic, reflexive and refined - Finnish folk metal to the world.