Korpiklaani - Tervaskanto 4/5

Reviewed: 8-10-07


1. Let's drink
2. Tervaskanto
3. Viima
4. Veriset Aparat
5. Running with wolves
6. Liekkion isku
7. Palovana
8. Karhunkaatolaulu
9. Misty fields
10. Vesilahden verajilla
11. Nordic feast

Korpiklaani. It sounds like something you'd say in polite conversation after your neighbor breaks wind, but it's so much more than that. For the uninitiated, here's what you need to know: Korpiklaani are Finnish. The name means "Woodland Clan". They're folky. They're positively nutters. And they're one of the best folk metal acts on the planet right now.

'Tervaskanto' is the prolific Finnish sextet's 4th CD overall, and their 4th in 4 years on Austria's Napalm Records (which once again proves that its reputation for signing high quality bands that are a tad off the beaten track is well deserved). Their particular brand of folk metal is not as regal as Mago de Oz, not as caustic as Skyclad, not as schizophrenic as Cruachan, and not as blackish as Finntroll. Think uptempo, catchy, rollicking tunes with gruff (but not harsh) and almost chanted vocals, crunchy guitars that are largely relegated to background rhythms, and melodies that are often carried by non-metal instrumentation (accordion, fiddle, mandolin, viola).

Lyrics to all but 2 songs on 'Tervaskanto' are in Finnish, which is the band's highest concentration of non-English lyrics to date. This might seem like a bummer, but not understanding the words simply allows me to lose myself in the playful, dare-I-say silly square-dancing melodies all the more, so I don't mind. Besides, bona fide lyric fiends and cunning linguists will be delighted to see that the booklet includes English translations of the Finnish tunes, as well as short explanation of same in both English and Finnish. The lyrics are interesting, too. Aside from the obligatory drinking song (the oh-so-subtle "Let's drink"), most of the songs deal with Finnish culture and mythology. For example, the title track (and the best song on the CD) means "Resinous stump", which the booklet explains is a metaphor for a wise elder derived from Fenno-Ugric culture. Not too bad for a bunch of drunken accordion players from the woods, eh?

What makes 'Tervaskanto' so much fun to listen to is the sheer audacity of the arrangements. Korpiklaani blast away with their turbocharged humppa arrangements, playing at light speed. The fiddle and accordion typically lead the charge with slap-you-in-the-head happy beer drinking melodies, while the choir of drunken bulls (so credited in the booklet) struggles frantically to keep up. The band gets the joke; in fact, they appear to revel in just how ludicrous the entire enterprise is. The old-school, spikes-and-bullet-belts, truer-than-thou contingent may be too humorless to join in the fun, but I can't listen to this stuff without getting a big ol' smile on my face and reaching for another brewski. That's the whole point. Sure, there's plenty of metal out there that's meant to be taken seriously, tales of epic struggles between good and evil, the atrocities of war, the sheer inhumanity of mankind, retelling of Shakespearean tragedies, etcetera. Sometimes, though, you need to ditch the pretense, pomposity and bombast, have a drink, forget about your troubles, and relax. Korpiklaani fit this bill to perfection.

I only wish they'd trimmed the boring, 5-minute midtempo number, "Vesilahden verajilla", which drags the proceedings down a bit towards the end of the CD. Otherwise, Korpiklaani have hit a home run with 'Tervaskanto'. Judging by the enthusiastic reviews popping up all over the Internet and the impressive chart positions of this CD in certain European countries, Korpiklaani's toils in obscurity may be coming to an end and they may be well on their way to international acclaim in the heavy metal universe. I'll drink to that.




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