I’m sure the band won’t take it as an insult if I state that people know what to expect from a Korpiklaani album. It’s part of their appeal, a following based around their own unique brand of Folk Metal. And 10 studio albums over a 15 year recording span is a damn fine testament to a model that works! This band have had their slightly darker albums, and equally (mainly in their earlier days) their more up-beat albums, but the fact remains that when you hear a Korpiklaani track, you know it’s Korpiklaani. With an intro like that, I’m sure you are expecting a big direction change then?
Well…no, thankfully it’s pretty much more of the same…though continuing the bands recent forays into their own boundary pushing – there is again more variation within this lengthy 14 song album. It’s difficult to write something different about a band with Korpiklaani’s history and pedigree, so I’ll just approach it from a personal point of view. I like their folky, up-tempo side, always have, and I also feel that the introduction of violinist/fiddle player Tuomas Rounakari back in 2012 was a master-stroke which gave a new vitality and an extra dimension to the band, and once more this time around, each time he is pushed to the fore it seems to lift the individual song just that bit higher. Some may complain that this takes Korpiklaani away from their Humppa roots, but there is still plenty of that influence scattered throughout “Kulkija”.
There’s many highlights on “Kulkija” that will please fans old and new – ‘Pellervoinen is a fabulous violin-led instrumental that sort of blends Classic Metal with The Levellers, then there’s the up-tempo Folk Metal of ‘Juomamaa’, which is going fire the crowd up nicely on the next tour. ‘Kotikonnut’ is proof that you don’t need to be fluent in the language a band sings in to be hooked in by a fabulously catchy chorus, if it’s done as well as this…although possibly ‘Reimu’ is if anything a little TOO catchy as it borders on Eurovision a little at times. But Korpiklaani 2018 are out to show more guises, like for instance ‘Sillanrakentaja’, which borders on Dark/Doom Metal, as it chugs it’s way forward relying on riffs Sentenced or even Candlemass would be proud of.
This is undeniably a rather more serious Korpiklaani (no ‘Happy Little Boozer’ here!), and once again more varied too. There is a classic Skyclad vibe to some tracks, aided by the violin naturally, but also (as in ‘Kallon Malja’ for instance) down to the heavy guitar riff base to these songs and some of the vocal delivery. There’s possibly more mid-paced/groove tracks than usual and due to the generous length of the album there’s also plenty of room for some quirkier moments. Korpiklaani deliver again. So yet again it comes down to your favoured side of the band’s sound and how much of that is here for you. One thing is for certain, if you already enjoy Korpiklaani, you will enjoy “Kulkija” too.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)