Korpiklaani - _Karkelo_
(Nuclear Blast Records, 2009)
by: Colleen Burton (
_Karkelo_ is a beefy 'Klaan release, not quite up to the boisterousness of _Tales Along This Road_, but undoubtedly a safe venture for fans who still prefer the strong influence of conventional rock elements. No amount of foresight could give us a glimpse into what _Karkelo_ would have to offer in the wake of the sedate _Korven Kuningas_, which appeared to modify Korpiklaani's propensity towards party metal back to slightly more serious roots, grounded in folk.Yet here the Finns merely manifest their unapologetically upbeat attitude and the joy they seem to derive from their music, which resonated throughout the opener, "Vodka". It had me out of my chair in a flash and conjured a "Wooden Pints" flavor, lacking the full-tilt speed of the _Tales Along This Road_ days. For me, "Vodka" has already attained a legendary status as Korpiklaani's best drinking anthem, surpassing even "Happy Little Boozer". They wisely follow this track up with more of the celebratory feeling that humppa provides and rocking out as they did through _Tervaskanto_. By "Mettänpeiton Valtiaalle", Korpiklaani have revealed themselves to be composing cogitative songs and avoiding the absolute party atmosphere (and English language proclivities) of earlier albums. The boys are blending folk with metal with their signature masterful flair as slower tracks leave room for Järvelä's distinct voice, Lemmetty's violin and Kauppinen's accordion. Their more metal bandmates, notably Johansson on drums, drive the pace forward and take their own turn dominating the songs which were crafted for the headbangers, well in keeping with _Tervaskanto_'s formula of interspersing the fun tracks ("Viima") with the hauntingly beautiful ones ("Vesilahden Veräjillä") -- even if _Karkelo_ cannot really live up to the aforementioned album. Their cover of Hector's "Juodaan Viinaa" is appropriate to maintaining this dynamic constantly in flux.With so many beautifully-played folk instruments, the guitars and bass are dwarfed by comparison, but they lend a necessary heaviness to tracks like "Uniaika" and "Kultanainen"; the latter track carrying elusory strains of violin and accordion purely to maintain the diversified sound. "Bring Us Pints of Beer" (drinking songs remain in English, perhaps to the benefit of the monolingual fans the 'Klaan knows they've attracted) may be a little less highbrow in composition, but gleefully provides another facet of Korpiklaani that was sorely missing in _Korven Kuningas_. Tracks towards the end favor basal folk melodies set against a chugging background; "Sulasilmä" conspicuously featuring a woodwind or flute of some sort. "Kohmelo" wraps things up most appropriately for Korpiklaani: with joiking.A major problem that Korpiklaani encounters during the review process is a section of writers who fundamentally believe this band can do no wrong and offer generic praise for any of their efforts, and a section of writers for whom folk-influenced metal is anathema, and in their highly upbeat nature, annoying at all times. Essentially, Korpiklaani is a contagion that either takes hold of you or, for reasons unbeknownst to me, makes you seriously ill. At the end of the day, the score for this album is lower than I wanted to give; _Karkelo_, much like drinking, is good for you, and a work that can likely withstand the test of time. However, with a certain amount of predictability creeping into the listening process, I want to see the Forest Clan push themselves to the next level and work to uphold the distinction I usually afford them well up the hierarchy of folk metal artists.
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