Written by: AP on 08/04/2015 09:36:02

Say what you will about the artistic merits of the infamous Korpiklaani, but it would be absurd to claim their accordion, violin and flute powered folk metal cannot put a smile on your face. Even the sourest grimace should be corrected by the Finnish collective’s energising, tongue-in-cheek bombast and booze based lyrics often sung in their native tongue. On their ninth album “Noita” (which translates to witch, if the artwork wasn’t a dead giveaway) now, it is remarkable that the gimmick still shows no sign of age, and that the group’s knack for penning infectious, light hearted metal seems only to have improved - this despite the fact that it is now entirely sung in Finnish.

The thing is, looking past preconceptions that arise from how effervescent some of the music is purely thematically, the songs that comprise “Noita” are actually extremely well written. Korpiklaani’s roots may be firmly planted in metal soil, but their understanding and deployment of song dynamics comes from popular music: virtually every song comes loaded with a strong chorus, rich, playful rhymes (enabled by the sheer depth of the Finnish language) and a conventional, accessible structure. The production is excellent, too: the heavy, power chord based foundation by guitarist Kalle Savijärvi & bassist Jarkko Aaltonen never obscures the assortment of traditional instruments that, in liaison with vocalist Jonne Järvelä’s command over his native language and musical history, gives the music of Korpiklaani its unique, vivid character. When foreigners listen to a song like “Viinamäen mies”, the immediate rewards are easy to reap: the galloping rhythm, the gang-roared ”Hei! Hei! Hei!” rallying calls, the uplifting melodies — and this is exactly why Korpiklaani are an internationally celebrated act. But the finer subtleties that make it, and indeed almost every other song on “Noita” brilliant, will be lost in translation and lack of context.

Järvelä has a studied appreciation of the vocalisation techniques used in old Finnish folk music, and an innate ability to twist and bend the language into quirky lyrics that often employ renowned poetic methods. “Sahti”, for instance, makes use of genius mono rhyme in verse and chorus to deliver its festive and ridiculously catchy account of distilling beer from sap and enjoying a fiery evening (”Sahti! Kannusta kaadetaan kaljaa kannateltavaksi! Saaren sahti; kannon kaljaa! Tuopista tulinen iltamme!) and tops it off with the timeless chanting of Lai-la-la-la-la-lai! Lai!; while “Luontoni” holds the listener captive with age old Finnish mysticism, melancholy and vocal tremolo. It rounds off an unforgettable opening quintet completed by “Pilli on pajusta tehty" and “Lempo” at slots two and three respectively, before Korpiklaani pop the tongue from the cheek and expose their other personality — less alcohol- and party-centric, but in most cases no less poetic nor engaging. Indeed, an appropriate simile for the schism that cuts through “Noita” might be to liken the first half to Alestorm, and the latter to Ensiferum, for some perspective.

Whatever the approach, however, Korpiklaani have little trouble smothering their music in lasting value. Only the doom laden balladry of “Minä näin vedessä neidon” passes by without fanfare, and the oddball progressive thrash stylings of “Sen verran minäkin noita” admittedly seem somewhat misplaced amidst the pure bred folk metal that otherwise dominates the record. But the two nonetheless showcase the mastery of accordion and violin by Sami Perttula and Tuomas Rounakari that form the backbone of the band’s melodies and general appeal, and even if that fails to impress you, they’re easy to ignore in the grand scheme of things. Indeed, with “Noita”, Korpiklaani continue to epitomise in absolutely infectious style the self-irony that is so integral to the metal scene without stigmatising themselves as jokers with no passion, depth or prowess. You’ll be grinning all the way to the record store once you’ve had the first taste of this stuff, followed by the epiphany of discovering that the music is, in fact, far beyond some mindless fool’s fodder.


Download: Viinamäen mies, Pilli on pajusta tehty, Sahti, Luontoni, Ämmänhauta
For the fans of: Alestorm, Ensiferum, Finntroll
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.05.2015
Nuclear Blast

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