Korpiklaani live review – London, Islington Academy

Finnish Vikings get their battle and booze bases covered, with support from Moonsorrow

Korpiklaani, live at Islington Academy in London
(Image: © James Sharrock)

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Tonight London is invaded by the ‘Finnish folk metal mafia’: two bands who take inspiration from the traditions of their homeland, yet provide us with vastly different performances. As soon as the lights go down for MOONSORROW [8], a packed Academy is transported into a mystical world as flutes, goblin-like chanting and the sound of chains jangling seep from the stage.

Moonsorrow may be rooted in folk, but they are far from jaunty, their wildly epic blend of pagan and black metal taking its cues from Viking-era Bathory. New album Jumalten Aika dropped earlier this month, and they launch straight into its title track tonight after bounding onstage, decked out in corpse-paint. They’re brilliantly hammy and powerful live; guitarist Mitja Harvilahti windmills his guitar Pete Townshend-style and whips his blond mane, looking like a black metal Seb Bach, while beardy live guitarist Janne Perttila is a man possessed as he throws his head back and contorts his face menacingly.

The grandiose Jotunheim gets the audience chanting back the rousing ‘Woah-oh’s, Korpiklaani frontman Jonne Järvelä joins them onstage for Ruttolehto, and as the lights flash and the bandmembers bolt around the stage, they close their hour-and-a-half-long set with the rich Sankaritarina.

You have to wonder what someone unfamiliar with KORPIKLAANI’s [7] madcap folk metal jigs would think had they peered into tonight’s gig. Stumbling onstage clutching various instruments, they look like a deranged metal circus troupe fuelled by booze. Jonne shakes his long dreads and dances wildly across the stage like he’s at a rave. Goggle-wearing violinist Tuomas Rounakari leaps while sawing at his violin, Sami Perttula’s performance is probably the only time you’ll see an Anton LaVey lookalike clutching an accordion, and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen looks like a Game Of Thrones extra. Jonne also looks bemused by the shenanigans taking place around him. With the audience fuelled by both the beer and Korpiklaani’s frenzied folk, the venue turns into a berserk beer hall. The audience chant along and even partake in a hybrid of circle pits and manic jigging. The usual hits, Wooden Pints and Vodka, close a performance that, while admittedly is a bit of a bonkers shambles, is still high-spirited and pint-loads of fun.

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.