By Adrien Begrand
Another year, another Korpiklaani album. Depending on how you feel about these fun-loving Finns, they’re either showing tremendous resilience in putting out six albums in fewer than six years, or they’re continuing to inundate listeners with their repetitive music. Sure, theirs is a formulaic sound that you either “get” or you don’t, but when it comes to folk metal, as 2006’s Tales Along This Road and 2007’s splendid Tervaskanto proved, nobody does it any better. Whether it’s singing the praises of alcohol or delving more seriously into Finnish traditional music and folklore, when that balance between rousing metal and rollicking, soulful acoustic instrumentation is perfect, Korpiklaani can achieve a poignancy that dares to approach that of the Levellers, or dare I say, even the Pogues.
As of late, though, that touch has been slipping somewhat. Last year’s otherwise engaging Korven Kuningas felt slightly bloated, and now Karkelo sees the soused sextet darkening the mood significantly, the slight shift in direction unfortunately coming at the expense of the folk influence, the record gradually losing touch with what makes this band so damned good in the first place. Thematically, the songs are consistent as ever, from the odes to booze to the tales of Finnish mysticism and history, but musically it’s another story. Unlike such effervescent favourites as “Beer Beer”, “Wooden Pints”, and “Happy Little Boozer”, new tunes “Vodka” and “Bring Us Pints of Beer” feel as fresh as flat American beer, while more straight-faced fare like “Erämaan Ärjyt”, “Uniaika”, and “Huppiaan Aarre” make the big mistake of reducing the fiddle and accordion to mere window dressing instead of meshing the two contrasting sides. We do get some welcome bursts of energy, as the cover of the Finnish drinking tune “Juodaan Viinaa” is a glorious pub rave-up, while the elegiac “Mettänpeiton Valtiaalle” and the speedy humppa of “Isku Pitkästä Ilosta” see the band doing what it does best, leader Jonne Järvelä leading the charge with his troll-like growl. However, for the first time Korpiklaani is showing signs of sounding tired, and considering just how fun these fellas are live, that’s the last thing we want to have happen.