I came to Korpiklaani through their drink-and-dance Folk Metal like many others, I guess and their album Tales Along This Road was in my playlist for a long time. Of course, “Beer Beer”, “Vodka” and “Happy Little Boozer” were played on every party (booze party, to be honest). But everything was changing with the time and Korpiklaani themselves too, which is quite explainable: you can’t write hit songs about booze every time. So now, after three years pause the band release their tenth album Kulkija (“wanderer”) where musicians showed their unexpected side keeping their own unique sound.
Vocalist Jonne Järvelä tells about an album: “Like a wanderer, this album is a journey. We have a new producer and a new guy who mixes the album, so the format will be completely different but maybe there’ll be something similar on some songs as well”. Accordionist Sami Perttula and violinist Tuomas Rounakari add: “Kulkija isn’t just a collection of songs, it’s a ‘real’ album with a unique atmosphere guiding the listeners through a long journey […] There’s a clear continuation from Manala (2012) to Noita (2015) and from Noita to this album. It’s really a feel-good album. There’s the strong feeling of the stories on most of the songs, which is really important”.
The band didn’t lie: indeed, there is something similar between Kulkija and two previous albums. But if on Manala and Noita the band was like searching for something new, Kulkija is a solid album that sounds much more confidently and consistently. This is a long (literally: 14 songs, over 70 minutes) and emotional story about journeys and wanderings, joyful and not very happy moments of life, and some sad, melancholic contemplation when you are looking back on the path you walked.
Musically, Korpiklaani made a step back, making their music simpler than on previous albums. But even with relatively simple arrangements, with unaltered violin and accordion, the band created such deep and emotional atmosphere that once you’ve dived in, it will be hard to come up. The great example for it is “Harmaja” (“grayness”), absolutely unusual song for Korpiklaani; slow, with acoustic guitar. Sad violin with Jonne’s clean low vocals greatly transmit sadness and anxiety. Lyrics also tell about it in metaphorical way: a bird with broken wing can’t fly to warm lands, so the only thing that it has to do is to wait for inevitable winter. Well, if it not enough, there is also “Tuttu On Tie”, which ends an album, also sad and melancholic. It is this song that transmits aforementioned contemplation of the passed path. And the heaviness of guitar riffs rather shows the weight of the protagonist’s soul.
But don’t think that the sadness and the grayness are main leitmotifs on the album. Like in every journey there are some sad but also some joyful moments, there are some happy Folk songs in Kulkija. “Henkselipoika” is a melodic, happy and heavy song that gives exactly what was expected from Korpiklaani. Instrumental “Pellervoinen”, where the violin sounds more folky-Irish than Finnish also gives the listener a rollicking and merry Korpiklaani, which is good for dance and booze in pubs. “Kuin korpi nukkuva”, despite its cheerful melody sounds more like a storytelling due to Jonne, who is actually not singing in verses but narrate. In a word, this song sounds like in some bar a stranger tells you his stories near the bar counter. That could pretty happened with the wanderer from an album, as he could be the teller and the listener also. The song ends with tango passage, which adds more fascination to it.
Also I want to highlight two sings: the first single “Kotikonnut” and almost ten minutes long “Kallon malja”. They are completely different musically and by their mood, but it can be heard that they are parts of something solid. “Kotikonnut” is simple and smooth song, catchy from the first note and causes you to sing alone, despite you don’t know the language, not the meaning of words (in this song wanderer remembers his childhood in his home). And I can see the fans outside Finland that sing with Jonne. The longest “Kallon malja” has more complicated structure. It changing pace and mood a couple of times, but it’s still catchy. And somehow you don’t get tires from such “roller-coaster”. By the way, pay attention to violin and accordion solos, its typical metal.
It’s said that beauty is in simplicity. This applies to the tenth Korpiklaani album fully. Also it’s very sincere and emotional work. It will be hardly included to everyday playlist, but once you’ll hear this album, you’ll get back to it from time to time.
Kulkija will be released on September, 7 via Nuclear Blast Records.