Korpiklaani – “Noita” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Translated as ‘forest clan’, this Finnish folk rock metal band take both their musical and spiritual inspirations from the native Sami peoples of the north. Formed by guitarist / vocalist Jonne Järvelä back in the early 90s, initial incarnations attempted to recreate the Sami sound, lyrics and even the famed ‘yoik’ singing style very much akin to Native American shamanic chanting. Over time, these were dropped in favor of a more Finnish folk style along with pagan vocals although traditional instruments like the piano accordion and fiddle continued to be used in a high energy jovial knees up experience that has been a clear winner live and seen the band go from strength to strength. Now onto their 9th album in “Noita”, there has been yet another shift towards the Finnish folk sound with the arrival of Sami Perttula, who uses a button accordion that has a more recognizable European sound and is certainly very prominent in the mix. Likewise, fiddler Toumas Rounakari delivers more violin solos than on previous albums and is equally to the fore of the mix, such that these two instruments are now actually the leads, rather than the guitars as one might expect in a traditional rock band. Still, it’s not a full shift away from their roots, as the very album title seeks to redress its true long forgotten meaning which lends itself to traditional shamanic healers similar to the Native American medicine men. What has evolved over time in Finland, however, is that ‘Noita’ largely refers to witchery, something attributable to the church who saw these knowledgeable folk as a threat to their own growing power and influence! Musically, “Noita” also offers a greater range in material from less upbeat, somewhat brooding tracks like ‘Minä Näin Vedessä Neidon’ to passionate ballads like ‘ Ämmänhauta’ along with expected fast folk rockers in ‘Pilli On Pajusta Tehty’ and anthemic numbers like ‘Lempo’. Whatever the style though, the sheer catchiness and huge singalong appeal of Korpiklaani’s material, along with a massive feel good factor, cannot be overstated.