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Korpiklaani - "Korven Kuningas" (CD)

Korpiklaani - "Korven Kuningas" CD cover image

"Korven Kuningas" track listing:

1. Tapporauta
2. Metsämies
3. Keep On Galloping
4. Northern Fall
5. Shall We Take A Turn?
6. Paljon on koskessa kiviä
7. Ali Jäisten Vetten
8. Gods On Fire 09. Nuolet nomalan*
10. Kipakka (Instrumentaali)**
11. Kantaiso
12. Kipumylly
13. Suden joiku
14. Runamoine
15. Syntykoski syömmehessäin
16. Korven kuningas

*digi pak bonustrack
**Japan bonustrack

Reviewed by on May 4, 2008

"while some metalheads may lament the clean vocals which differ from those of Finnish contemporaries Finntroll and Ensiferum, at least the folk melodies are authentic and skillfully combined with the more conventional metal instruments and sound"

Korpiklaani is an indispensable part of any folk/pagan metalhead’s collection. Seriously, all of their songs are about hunting and drinking, and it doesn’t get any manlier than that.

This group combines the musical innovation of Finntroll with Turisas’ fighting spirit. However, Jonne Järvelä’s folk singing keeps the band in more of a traditional humppa spirit, as do the fiddle, woodwinds, jouhikko and accordion, so while some metalheads may lament the clean vocals which differ from those of Finnish contemporaries Finntroll and Ensiferum, at least the folk melodies are authentic and skillfully combined with the more conventional metal instruments and sound. Korpiklaani also boasts perhaps the most terrifying fiddler on the planet and thus circulates some of the most eccentric and hilarious metal videos around.

Like a fine wine, Korpiklaani is aging well within this more obscure and highly underrated genre of metal and has most recently put forth “Korven Kuningas,” or “The King of the Woods,” with metal record giants Nuclear Blast.

As far as the lyrics go – surprise! It’s all about lumberjacking and boozing off in the Finnish woodlands. “Korven Kuningas” strips away the more peculiar and down-tempo tracks that can be found on the first albums. Gone too are the frequent instrumental tracks, and their absence serves to create more of a party-metal atmosphere throughout the album.

While certainly enjoyable, I tend to associate “Spirit of the Forest” and “Voice of the Wilderness” with one hit wonders, such as “Wooden Pints” and “Hunting Song,” while many of the tracks remain unmemorable. “Tales Along This Road” definitely seems to resemble a crucial turning point in their musical career. From this album onward, the singing becomes noticeably more refined and many of the seemingly directionless songs begin to vanish.

“Tervaskanto” was the last album to be released in a tribute to their newly attained prowess, a fabulously festive album infused with Finntrollian levels of energy – it will have you dancing like a lunatic with “Vima” or attempting to sing the nigh un-singable “Let’s Drink”.

“Korven Kuningas” is styled similarly to “Tervaskanto,” but with more of an opportunity for metal flip-outs. Perhaps these latest albums simply represent Korpiklaani furthering its talent, but what truly comes through is the sense of fun that the band had making these recent works, from the goofiness of the lyrics to the increased usage of the Finnish language in singing, which often works much better with their brand of folk metal than English does. Of course, one assumes that Jonne is more comfortable with his own language, but Finnish just sounds more wonderfully trollish with all the folk instruments, too.

“Tapporauta” immediately launches us into a harder sound than we are wont to hear with The Forest Clan, even the vocals drop to more of a low growl with the guitars.
The group is clearly working to incorporate more background vocals, which becomes apparent in “Metsämies.” The effect is quite successful, evoking images of chanting woodsmen dancing around in the trees. “Keep On Galloping” furthers this technique by interspersing chanting / singing vocals with rapid music breakdowns, especially on the accordion, providing drunken English-speakers a good opportunity to sing along at a gig.

“Northern Fall” seamlessly transitions into that delightful Joik chanting that Korpiklaani has almost personalized in the folk metal sector, even bringing in extra drumming to accompany the vocals. Instrumental introspection invariably takes over with the dexterously-played “Shall We Take A Turn?”. But unlike many other of their instrumental selections, this song doesn’t disrupt the upbeat pace of the album, and they avoid stringing several instrumental tracks together (which only serves to lose the attention of the more A.D.D. brains out there).

“Paljon on koskessa kiviä” showcases the insanely talented fiddling of Jaakko Lemmetty, much like the beautiful “Vesilahden Verajilla” on the previous album. The energy tapers off somewhat mid-album, but the basic rhythmic chanting being utilized continues and the violin and accordion take turns being awesome. “Gods On Fire” slows everything way down, but instead of ending on this rather dreamy note, Korpiklaani picks everything way up with “Nuolet nomalan,” which has a great chorus. Abandon all ye hope for English vocals at this point!

The riffs become a little predictable as the Korven Kuningas rolls onward. The later tracks are more reflective of their folksy roots, but before you declare it redundant, “Kipumylly” sets a haunting violin melody alongside the vocals which has a rather creative end result. “Runamoine” keeps you thrashing about with lots of shouting and guitar action before “Syntykoski syömmehessäin” winds everything down again. The title track rounds off the album, consuming nearly a half-hour with melancholic instrumental work and chanting, followed by an epic span of strange drumming. Perhaps this is a fitting end to the album, an homage to their musical heritage and ethnicity. After all, if the Forest Clan loses its eccentricity, then they will cease to be Korpiklaani.

The only thing lacking from Korven Kuningas would be one of the signature beer anthems, so fans should be advised of that if they’re seeking another “Happy Little Boozer.” The musical complexity is very enjoyable, but perhaps it is not overall as well-rounded as Tervaskanto, its predecessor.

There is something truly special about Korpiklaani as a band that makes them stand out from the rest of their genre. Praise should be heaped upon them for their ability to put forth such a mirthful metal sound that still somehow remains completely bad-ass; and personally, their crazy, upbeat tunes satiate my inner, repressed warrior/nomad in a way that other Viking-type acts have yet to achieve. If you’re at all interested in this amalgamated metal and have yet to discover Korpiklaani, do not pass Go and pick up Korven Kuningas, as you’re not likely to regret it.

Highs: Energetic, talented, great production value, sticking with folk inspiration while progressing in the metal world.

Lows: Can become repetitive and comparable to older albums, lacks some of the earlier drinking songs and methods that made them famous.

Bottom line: An excellent contribution to the folk metal world that furthers their growing discography and points to a prosperous future.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)