Exploring Folk Metal, one of the big names to appear on an essential list would be Korpiklaani. The Finns have made a name for themselves with their forest dwelling Folk, drinking chants and thick doses of Metal with a rough vocal style. Their music is a lot of fun because of this. But now we have Kulkija…
Their thirteenth album is a bit more of an exploration into other areas. Taking a calmer approach Kulkija, meaning ‘Wanderer’, certainly wanders around almost aimlessly. Each song has huge amounts of Accordians, vocals and sometimes Violins but somehow treats this as a constant necessity. None are given much chance to breath from the other. The constant vocals make what should be a great element to the music (and he can sing) into an annoying one. This shouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the vocals being quite overpowering and without too much of a ring to it. Each song bleeds into each other for the total 14 track album. This means that despite its difference from previous Korpiklaani albums, it fails to offer songs too distinct from each other.
When it can work it’s when the vocals give more chance to the instruments or almost by fluke there is more of a melody given to lyrics. Sometimes we do have guitar riffs making a return but they’re downplayed and barely there. ‘Korpikuusen kyynel’ and ‘Koytikonnut’ are essentially the best examples of getting this balance right. It’s a huge shame because Korpiklaani are better than this. But the fun and assertive Folk Metal anthems like ‘Vodka’, ‘Beer Beer’, ‘Rauta’, ‘Juodaan viinaa’, ‘Väkirauta’, ‘Ievan polkka’, ' Tequila’, ‘Let's Drink’, ‘Happy Little Boozer’ amongst many others, just aren’t here.
Exploring a sound doesn’t always work out but it can be a learning curve. The only thing that is disappointing is to see a great band lose its sense of songwriting. This won’t rank high amongst a list of Korpiklaani albums. It may just be a way for the band to understand and develop their musical talents a bit more. Hopefully we will see a much better album next time they come around.