Korpiklaani – “Kulkija” (Nuclear Blast)
Arriving with their longest album to date in “Kulkija” (meaning ‘wanderer’), Finland’s famed folk metallers have also returned to their earlier merry, knees up music that has made them so famous over the course of 9 prior releases. That said, this 10th album is less jovial, although there are still boisterous beered up moments here and there, but more focused on being uplifting, which it definitely does in abundance. Themed on the wanderer’s journey, it is based on his reflections of his happy past, from childhood to his years as a young man, as he continues through life with his only companion now the road on which he wanders. As such certainly more deeper and mature, the 3 year preparation shows in the impressive natural sound from Svante Forsbäck’s (Rammstein) mastering right down to the rich, vista cover art from Jan Yrlund (Manowar, Battle Beast). As such, there’s plenty of room for the folk instruments and they are definitely to the fore, reflecting their extensive arrangements throughout the impressive material on show here. Rather than just a collection of songs, the 14 tracks build the atmosphere as you journey alongside the wanderer, feeling all the energy and passion even more so through the native Finnish sung vocals of founder Jonne Järvelä. Despite losing Jaakko Lemmetty’s bagpipes and flute, violinist Tuomas Rounakari and accordionist Sami Perttula really step up and show their measure, working flawlessly together as well as individually, and I have to say a lot of what makes “Kulkija” a success is down to them. From ‘Kotikonnut’ with its beautiful accordion melody, Järvelä adds his rustic charm to bring in the massive feelgood factor before the tender violin does its trick on this mid tempo rocker while on the slower ‘Kallon Malja’ the reverse takes place initially with the fiddle taking a slower, melancholic form while the accordion provides the melody before the rest of the band jumps in to makes things more upbeat, together forging a harder rocking vibe into this epic track. Turning things merry on ‘Henkselipoika’ the accordion and violin play brilliantly together as the band hurdy gurdy out the vocals on this folk rocker that dances round and round along with needless to say, its incredible melodies that reach into you soul and pull you out to do the same – fantastic! Taking us to near off the ending is ‘Juomamaa’ with that devilish accordion once again accompanying Järvelä before a raucous chorus from the rest of the band keeps the pumping rhythm going as the fiddle hits home and the band gallop off to win the home stretch. An incredible album, possibly Korpiklaani’s best in bringing together the sum of all their talents to date along with some true heartfelt passion!