It is always refreshing to get a new release of a band from a non-English speaking country, when you can skim through the song titles, and see a list predominantly, if not entirely, written in the band’s native language. As fun as the English-language drinking songs that first opened up Korpiklaani to an international fan base are; when the band last year announced a new album of “life-affirming stories” and opted for an entirely Finnish-language release it was affirming see a band unashamedly wearing their heritage on their sleeve. Especially in a world in which bands from outside of English-speaking countries are far too often pressed to write and sing in English or risk losing an international fan base, Korpiklaani should be praised for essentially sticking up their middle fingers to that and declaring, “we are from Finland, this is who we are, and this is how we do things.” Even the album title reaffirms this, with the untranslatable word being described as something “wild and rugged” but also “majestic and beautiful.”
'Verikoira' (Bloodhound) opens up the album with a groovy percussive feel that seamlessly transitions into faster pummeling heavy metal, before 'Niemi' (The Cape) the album’s lead single, quickly brings back the fun and eclectic Korpiklaani vibes that we are all familiar with. 'Leväluhta' (Algae Swamp) continues along this upbeat path, reassuring fans that the new album will certainly bring some exciting moments for dancing and moshing to the live set. However, without more informative sleeve notes, it may be difficult for fans to decipher the “life-affirming story” behind the lyrics other than “it’s fun”.
'Mylly' (The Mill) brings the mood down to a more melancholy and atmospheric one. As a slower song, it doesn’t quite have the power behind it of 2015’s 'Ämmänhauta', but still provides a decent hard-hitting slower headbanger to the first half of the album. 'Miero' (Vagabond’s World) is another highlight, with a powerful and catchy chorus, as is 'Pohja' (Pit Bottom), probably the heaviest song on the album, with fast circle pit-worthy rhythms alongside interweaving violin playing.
In general, Jylhä is, predictably, a Korpiklaani album through and through. It doesn’t sound like anything other than a Korpiklaani album, but that’s exactly what listeners should want and expect out of a Korpiklaani album. The band bring forth a melting pot of fun and seriousness, folk tales and head banging, drinking, dancing, and melancholic, shamanic, storytelling. Yet, it manages to be Korpiklaani whilst also remaining fresh and diverse enough to not get boring midway through; no song quite says “this is Korpiklaani” like 'Huolettomat' (Those Without Worries), a fun polka anthem to having fun and celebrating even through uncertain dark times (and it shouldn’t be lost on the listener which times the band are referring to).
'Pidot' (Celebration Banquet) begins to bring the album to a close with another catchy fun song, demonstrating a strong chorus backed up by the percussion – consistently strong throughout this album – before the slow closing anthem of 'Juuret' (Roots) which begins somberly before becoming more upbeat and optimistic, before winding the album up in heavy crescendo. Jylhä is a solid album for fans to listen (and drink) to, that kicks off 2021 on a happy note before the band can hopefully soon hit the live circuit and make us all dance once more.
Jylhä is released February 5th via Nuclear Blast