Korpiklaani – Kulkija (2018)

Korpiklaani

Kulkija

Nuclear Blast

Korpiklaani are still going at it, with yet another Finnish pagan festival album, this time titled Kulkija. The entire record is this time performed in the band’s native, though I’ll remember classics like “Man Can Go (Through The Grey Stone)” and of course, “Happy Little Boozer.” Even that cut goes back to ’16 which means that even though I’m getting old, bands that I remember from my teenage and young adult years are still around to keep me company in my thirties. I can say this much though, there’s not a hint of negativity to be found on the album, which is largely folk-metal with an extra large emphasis on the folk. Though if I’m not mistaken, that was the last one too. Whereas their mates (and I’m only guessing here, I don’t know if these guys drink and party together or not) Finntroll have gone in a more serious and even a slightly industrial direction, Korpiklaani have continued the spirit of Finnish folk music and offer more of the same, which is never a bad thing if listeners already know what to expect. There are some bands who change their style every album and others who just continue on with the same formula and keep trekking all the same. And I’ll be honest, if you can do what bands like ACDC have done for many years now and become a global hit from the same style of music, then more power to you. I hold a great deal of respect. That being said, even if the record features largely the same atmosphere, it isn’t exactly the same song performed over and over again. “Aallon Alla” for example, offers a slightly more melancholy vibe even though the root of the piece is still quite based in cheery folk.

Alright, so maybe it has been a while since I last heard the record as “Harmaja” comes off with an impressively sullen acoustic performance. I would not have expected the record to take such a turn, but it feels as though a great deal of passion can be felt within the vocals here as the violin only helps to decorate the piece a bit further. After that, we have “Kotikonnut” which makes me proverbially scratch out everything that I just said earlier about a “constant celebration” vibe and the fact that there “isn’t a hint of negativity to be found.” I’m not sure of the translated context of these pieces, but they definitely don’t seem very happy. In fact, this might be Korpiklaani’s most depressing disc ever. So yes, let’s forget everything I just said.

“Korppikalliota” also comes off a bit darker, even a bit heavy in some sections. I suppose I can wipe off the fact that I said Korpiklaani weren’t going the same way as their Finnish mates in Finntroll, because that is exactly what I’m hearing here too. And then we have another melancholic cut here in “Kallon Malja” which is just as unsettling as the cut that came before it. What happened to all the joy and celebration, guys? Are you that stressed out from world events as well? Alright, then we have some massive doom influence creeping up into “Sillanrakentaja” which doesn’t even sound like Korpiklaani. Is this Candlemass or Cathedral they’re emulating now? I must say, I’m quite impressed and taken aback by this massive change in the Korpiklaani formula. I honestly don’t think the band have ever been this heavy. It’s like they’ve thrown all their folk instruments into the garbage and are content with watching the world burn. To hell with joy, they said – the world is a pretty fucked up place right now and we’re going to write a record to reflect that. Though to be honest, I am completely fine with this version of Korpiklaani as man went through the grey stone over a decade ago and maybe it is time for a new approach from these guys. Even a cheery song like “Henselipoika” ends up getting rather teary in just a few areas.

“Riemu” brings the familiar sound that we’ve known from the band back into the fold, complete with a chorus fit for radio. The next few songs showcase the band back at their normal folk-metal stylings, only to end with a nearly eight-minute cut called “Tuttu On Tie” which finishes out the album on an extremely depressing note. Korpiklaani were not feeling ultimately great when this album was written and you can tell that. Hell, they even channeled doom metal, which was not something I’d ever expect to hear from the guys that brought me “Beer, Beer” and yes, this is authentic doom. Again, it doesn’t even sound like Korpiklaani and has me curious as to why it has even been featured on the album. But that doesn’t mean I’m against it either.

Ultimately, I was extremely wrong about Kulkija and it’s worth hearing for listeners that are looking for a more depressive and less celebratory approach to folk metal. That’s not to say that the celebrations aren’t there, but maybe the guys in Korpiklaani need to cut down on their cellphone usage (cellphone usage has been clinically linked to depression, by the way) and then we might get another joyous album from them. In any case, I’m quite sure that fans and even fiends are interested in this one, (particularly for the doom cut) so definitely give it a listen. You can check out Kulkija at the link below.

(14 Tracks, 71:00)

7.5/10

Purchase HERE (Amazon)

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