Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 3/25/2008
posted on 6/2008 By:
2008 has been good for folk metal devotees so far, especially fans of the Finnish scene. Not only did Moonsorrow release their awesome and epic Tulimyrsky EP, but the Paganfest tour rolled through Europe and North America with Ensiferum and Turisas in tow, providing more than enough reason for fans of anything viking or epic to put back a few pints and let their hair down. Korpiklaani also released a new album, but without nearly as much excitement surrounding it. I can understand why a new album from the 'klaan would fail to hold people's attention: they've been releasing full-lengths on the year every year since 2005 and I'm pretty sure "consistency" is the rough English translation for their name. But Korven Kuningas deserves some applause, because though it's almost exactly like the two albums that came before it, it's still fun folk metal done right.
If you're familiar with Korpiklanni's past work and you're a fan, you have all the information you need to stop reading and go out and buy this record now. If you're new to the humpaa game, I'll try to bring you up to speed. It's simple really. You get fast-paced, up-beat songs, usually centered around the traditional Finnish humpaa (a variation on the polka) and utilizing a variety of traditional folk instruments like the jouhikko to accompany fairly straightforward but enormously engaging metal arrangements. Finntroll also plays this kind of metal, but they're darker and heavier than Korpiklaani, who emphasize the folk and fun a touch more. Sometimes they slow things down and push the pipes and violins to the center. There's at least one song per album devoted to (what else?) drinking and a slew of others that sing nostalgic and romantic about the north like black metal bands would if they took their anti-depressants. And it's great music. That's pretty much it.
Now that we're all on the same page, let's discuss the minutia. This album differs drastically from previous Korpiklaani records in exactly two ways: (1) The album cover art is painted and not pieced together with photoshop. Epic win. (2) There isn't a song dedicated to drinking. Epic fail, and minus one point for songwriting (luckily I drank enough while listening to this to reinstate the lost point from sheer gratitude). Other than those key differences, not much has changed. Which isn't a bad thing, because I think the band has played in the top tier of this genre for quite some time; if the formula ain't broke why fix it? As always, there are stand-out tracks sure to become concert staples like "Keep On Galloping" and "Metsämies", the latter heavy on the jouhikko and folk elements, the former catchy but more riff-oriented and maybe the best substitute for the until-now-obligatory drinking song. And then there are more laid-back folk jaunts that are equally great though they don't grab you the same way, like "Paljon On Koskessa Kiviä", "Ali Jäisten Vetten", "Kipumylly" and "Suden Joiku", one of my favorite tracks on the album. There are more of these mellower tracks on Korven Kuningas than previous efforts, but it hardly feels like the band is slowing down or losing wind. There isn't a bad track here if you don't mind that the 21:57 title track is mostly comprised of a monotonous drum beat that cools the embers and ends the night.
Korpiklaani are expert at what they do and they clearly have a vision that doesn't stray, so any dips in quality are hard to find. Perhaps they've taken the advice from my review of their last album because they sing almost entirely in Finnish this time around, save for the chorus of "Keep On Galloping", the verses of "Northern Fall" and the entirety of the folk ballad "Gods On Fire". Again, not much else has changed but I wouldn't want it to when the output is this solid. I've given long hard thought to whether I prefer Korven Kuningas to Tervaskanto, last year's pinnacle for the klaan, but I just can't decide between the two. I'll admit that I give Tervaskanto more spins on average, and that album feels heavier on riffs than this one, which feels more in tune with the woods, but this band just doesn't seem able to put out a bad record and if anything, their songs seem to be maturing with age, so I'll just leave it at this: Korven Kuningas, translated to "King of the Woods", definitely plays true to its name, and any folk metal fan owes it to himself to pick this up.
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