September 6, 2018 Korpiklaani – Kulkija (Album Review)
European Folk music holds a special place in the hearts of many listeners. An age old style, it can not be mistaken for any other genre thanks to its elements of cultural storytelling mixed with unusual instrumentation. In Finland, one of the European world’s leaders in the Folk, Korpiklaani have made a name for themselves expanding the style of straight Folk music into Folk Metal. Previously known as Shaman, Korpiklaani has a solid girth of albums under their belt, and on Friday, September 7, 2018 return with their tenth studio album, Kulkija, via Nuclear Blast Records.
Their follow-up to 2015’s Noita, Kulkija, or in English, Wanderer, consists of fourteen tracks, and at over 70 minutes, is their longest album to date. Comparatively, it has a more natural sound that relates to their roots, bringing Korpiklaani full circle.
Going strong for well over two decades now, Korpiklaani have excelled with their humorous twist on classic Folk storylines where a majority of their songs involve nature, partying, and alcohol. Thematically, Kulkija happens to be about, you guessed it, a wanderer, and each song tells a different story that, in the end, brings out a very emotional, enjoyable journey. Chances are a good deal of the world listening to Korpiklaani do not speak a lick of Finnish.
That in mind, by now, if you have been listening to a band like Korpiklaani for years, it is no big deal because all the vocal tone and musical storytelling creates a universal emotion. For everyone else, if you are less interested in music because you cannot understand the lyrics, sadly, you are missing out on the purpose of the actual music. It is not just about spoken word. For example, the violin work of Tuomas Rounakari is just as much of a vocalist as the spoken vocals of Jonne Järvelä brings. Music has its own language, right?
A lengthy expedition, Kulkija starts out on a softer Folk note with the first few tracks – “Neito” (“Maiden”), “Korpikuusen kyynel” (“Moonshine”), and “Aallon alla” (“Under The Wave”). It then changes up the happy dancing forest creature adventurous tone to a more Metal and darker nighttime flavor with predicted future fan-favorite “Kallon malja” (“Chalice Of The Skull”).
After these adventures, it slowly calms down again into a slower Doom-based pace with “Sillanrakentaja” (“Bridge Builder”), which features a chorus section of vocals by two of the member’s children, bringing a pure, driven emotion into a dedicated track of wander and wonder. Later, “Pellervoinen” is a violin and accordion heavy cheery instrumental that further proves lyrics are not a necessity in storytelling and interpretation creates magical art.
Finalizing Kulkija, with Korpiklaani’s strongest subject matter yet, “Juomamaa” (“Drinker’s Land”), is a catchy number with some fast intricate musical melding of instruments and lyrics. Then, the last track of all, “Tuttu on tie” (“The Road Is Familiar”), is a walk down memory lane so to speak with its somber melodic intro. Again featuring a little doom guitar melody with some accordion melodies, overlaid with the Folk style vocals, it creates a strong conclusion.
As a band, Korpiklaani has taken a few twists over the years, but the current core group remains strong with original vocalist/guitarist, and heart of Korpiklaani, Jonne Järvelä. Together with Drummer Matti “Matson” Johansson, Guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi, Bassist Jarkko Aaltonen, Violinist Tuomas Rounakari, plus Accordionist Sami Perttula, they sound as magical as ever. A very stylized band, Korpiklaani has been steadily growing since the early ’90s, and with a look back over all at their body of work, Kulkija stands exceptionally tall as a unique and deeply rooted album. For this and many more reasons, CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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