Though undoubtedly a Finnish band, Korpiklaani offer what could perhaps be described as a pan-European experience with their latest album ‘Kulkija,’ canvassing as it does continental sounds from Balkan misery to the luxury of the French Riviera. ‘Kulkija’ is surprising in the diversity of its tracks, and its exploratory nature is welcome from a band who have in the past had a tendency to rest on their laurels.
The album opens with a low and suspenseful mood with Neito, only gradually introducing chugging guitars until the track kicks into fast-paced, recognisable, folk-tinged Korpiklaani, in no small part signaled by Jonne Jarvela’s distinctive vocals. While heavy and powerful, the track retains its Balkan moodiness with excellent utilisation of Sami Pertulla’s accordion.
The high energy continues with Korpikuusen Kyynel, which almost feels as though it could be influenced by 80s stadium rock, but expressed through heavier guitars and Pertulla’s ubiquitous accordion. This track again takes a turn for the very Balkan, mixing heavy riffs with a distinct polka influence.
Aallon Alla brings the pace down; indeed, there’s something almost mournful about Jarkko Aaltonen’s bass which seems like it might have been influenced by David Ellefson. Perttula carries the melody, while Kalle Savijarvi delivers low, growling riffs.
Harmaja opens with an emotive violin lead from Tuomas Rounakari; slow, mournful and stirring, and supported by Sarijarvi’s gentle guitars. Jarvela’s low vocals in this song are reminiscent of Till Lindemann, and overall, it’s a new and unusual approach for Korpiklaani.
The accordion-led folk elements return with Kotikonnut, and the vibe could be compared to some of the folk-inspired Nightwish tracks from over the years, particularly the Annete Olzon era. Kotikonnut is fairly stripped back, with a nice beat, and Jarvela taking centre stage. The song gradually increases in heaviness as the riffs get lower with a slow but rewarding build.
Korppikalliota is certainly the weakest track on the album. It begins oddly confused as the guitars, accordion and drums struggle for dominance, and continues to feel a bit messy with the entrance of Jarvela’s vocals. Overall, the song just doesn’t quite seem to settle in or fit with the album. Eventually it drops into a sea shanty-esque section that almost plays as a more serious Alestorm, then seems to find its way a little more with a stronger accordion and bass focus. Even so, its attempts at deep resonance and heaviness seem to fall flat.
Rounakari’s violin leads the intro to Kallon Malja, along with pulsing riffs with melodious accordion. Faster riffs really lift the mood as the song almost picks up the 80s vibe again. When it slows into a bass-dominated section, Jarvela’s gravelly vocals are showcased before Rounakari’s violin twists and becomes strained over rumbling, ominous riffs as Jarvela intones in low growls. By contrast, his higher, cleaner pieces are again reminiscent of Lindemann.
Sillanrakentaja surprisingly opens with dark guitar tones reminiscent of Slayer, along with a slow, heavy beat. The track is built on grinding riffs and some of the most powerful vocals Jarvela delivers on this album, for what is undoubtedly the darkest track. As well as Slayer, there’s also a touch of the heavier, modern Alice Cooper of ‘Brutal Planet.’ The music here picks up a despairing, depressive aspect, and also includes the interesting and potent element of a children’s choir, adds to the emotive elements of the song – another aspect potentially influenced by Rammstein.
‘Kulkija’ drops to a more chilled out vibe with Henkselipoika, with a strong accordion focus and a generally upbeat approach. Overall, the movements between energy levels in this track are quite impressive, given it’s only four minutes.
Irish folk violins are underscored by powerful drums and pumping riffs in Pellervoinen. The piece ultimately gets a little twee as the mood becomes brighter, but overall it’s still great instrumental. This is followed by the lovely combination of acoustic and electric guitars in Riemu, which reaches back to an almost 70s vibe. The song picks up a rousing, pounding beat that shifts the listener back to an upbeat space.
Rounakari’s violin brings the pathos as it leads into a suspenseful moment of near silence before Kuin Korpi Nukkuva. This is the track bearing the aforementioned luxurious Riviera sounds, though it later seems to embrace an entirely Balkan folk influence as the track focuses on accordion, violin and drums.
Juomamaa is a relatively simple piece of rocking, violin-led folk, with headbanging beats and a fantastic solo from Rounakari. This is followed by the mournful Tuttu on Tie, a powerful example of Balkan misery expressed through the weeping violin over grinding guitars.
Diverse and powerful, ‘Kulkija’ is a rollercoaster of folk, Metal, rock and polka, at times sure to get you moving, at others calling for a raising of one’s glass to all they have lost.
KORPIKLAANI’S ‘KULKIJA’ IS RELEASED SEPTEMBER 7TH. PREORDER YOUR COPY FROM NUCLEAR BLAST HERE!