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Korpiklaani – Kulkija album review

Finland’s inebriated folk metallers Korpiklaani take a turn for the morose with Kulkija

Korpiklaani Kulkija album cover
Kulkija

Korpiklaani Kulkija album cover

1. Neito
2. Korpikuusen Kyynel
3. Aallon Alla
4. Harmaja
5. Kotikonnut
6. Korppikalliota
7. Kallon Malja
8. Sillanrakentaja
9. Henkselipoika
10. Pellervoinen
11. Riemu
12. Kuin Korpi Nukkuva
13. Juomamaa
14. Tuttu On Tie

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This fiddle-riddled Finnish mob, famed for their jaunty odes to vodka, beer and tequila, have cornered the market in party folk metal – and there’s no better sight than a throng of jovial festival goers throwing a sweaty jig in the pit. Kulkija doesn’t disappoint in that respect with a song about moonshine and Juomamaa, which translates as ‘Drinker’s Land’, with a simple yet effective message that getting sloshed from day to day can be fun. But this 14-track album, their longest to date, moves beyond the musical version of a week-long bender, revealing their sober side. If you happen to be a dab hand at Finnish, their lyrical vignettes are quite charming. Stories of homesickness and nostalgia interweave with a patchwork of folklore and the snow-capped terrain of Lapland. Ravens, giants, forests and meadows set the scene as Jonne Järvelä describes the conflict of being a wanderer – the album’s key theme – and the yearning for his home and his woman. 

If the thought of that is enough to sell this record, with the promise of a few ‘classic’ Korpiklaani jigs then dive right in but – and it’s a big but – what they lack in hellraising they do not make up for in emotive subtlety.  On Sillanrakentaja, Korpiklaani sound like they’ve stumbled out of a tavern and into a karaoke bar playing …And Justice For All. On Korppikalliota, Jonne is reminiscent of a grumpy drunk who wants to leave the party early. On the flipside, Riemu, with its laddish euro-rock chant, is fit for a low-scoring Eurovision entry. Accordions and fiddles pervade but with the tempo turned down a notch and the more metal elements pushed to the front (Jonne’s gruff storytelling, metalised guitars) Korpiklaani’s signature cheekiness dissipates. It’s a shame that Kulkija can’t harness more of the energy with which they launched 2015’s Noita, because that suits them much better, and even the biggest party animals can be taken seriously if they do it well.