The 2000’s saw an expansion of Folk Metal – a genre that, until then, had not been played by many, with many bands mixing various genres of metal – Black, Power, Death or Progressive – with various folk elements, such as the flute, the hurdy-gurdy and the fiddle. One band in particular became famous for not adding folk into metal but rather adding metal to folk. That band was Korpiklaani.
The band, which has established itself as one of the most respected members of the genre, sports a style that mixes heavy guitars into their traditional-style folk songs. The results have been more than satisfactory: the freshness and the highly positive vibe that the band brought onto the table captivated the fans; add the party-themed lyrics to the equation and you get this highly successful band, whose songs are a must at every heavy metal party.
“Manala”, the new album comes in two versions, Finnish and English, unlike the previous “Ukon Wacka,” which was only available in Finnish. Lyrically, the album deals with the Kalevala (a Finnish traditional epic most fans of Finnish metal are already familiar with) and, more specifically, the underworld, Manala; as a result, the sound of the album is a bit darker than on their previous records, although not dark enough to keep the songs from being great drinking and partying material.
The album has an overall eclectic feeling to it, mixing different styles in a way that no other Korpiklaani album has done so far. Thus, while the album opens with a strong punk feeling with Kunnia (a great choice for an opening track), it then adds some thrash to the mixture (Tuonelan Tuvilla, Rauta and Metsälle) in a way that brings to mind bands such as Skyclad, the pioneers of the genre, mixed with some traditional humpa.
In “Manala”, Korpiklaani has not, of course, forgotten its roots, and makes sure to please its base with some “classic” tunes that meet all the standards set by their previous releases, as is the case with Ruumiinmultaa, Uni and the bombastic Petoeläimen Kuola (whose main riff could rival any modern thrash metal). In what is, perhaps, their most sentimental release to date (if we can be excused for calling these self-proclaimed drunkards as sentimental) Korpiklaani has included some slow songs (which I’m sure will please someone), namely Synkkä, an acoustic ballad, and two instrumental tracks, Husky-Sledge and Dolorous; it is in these instrumental tracks that Tuomas Rounakari, the new violin player, gets his time to shine, and demonstrates his outstanding fiddling skills. The album closes with Hämärän Aamun, a track that has a strong (and unexpected) doom feel to it, with its main guitar riffs sounding as if they had come straight from Candlemass‘ workshop.
Although I had previously enjoyed listening to some Korpiklaani, I had rarely found myself listening to their records outside of a party setting. However, as the new album has a more serious feel to it and the songs sound more mature than on some of their previous releases, I strongly believe that “Manala” is the record that will bring new audiences to the band, from among those who once dismissed them as being nothing more than party-only music. While I feel that there are still some aspects of the traditional Finnish folk music that Korpiklaani hasn’t explored, this album shows that they are willing to incorporate new elements into their music, and still remain the happy little boozers everybody fell in love with in first place.