K is for Korpiklaani
Tales Along This Road
Napalm Records, 2006
Back in my late teens/early twenties, I was really into folk metal. It was like the ska of metal. The music was lots of fun, it was relatively light-hearted and not too serious, it used instruments not traditional to the genre (like strings, flutes, and accordion), and the live shows were full of energy. Korpiklaani, which translates to “Clan of the Wilderness,” is near the top of the genre. The music is fast, fun, and full of energy. There was a seriousness in the sense of incorporating Finnish folklore into the lyrics, but at the same time, when a band has lines like “Beer, beer! / I want beer, from beer I get really drunk,” in the aptly named “Beer Beer,” it’s clear they are having some fun with their music too.
Tales Along This Road starts with all of those things. Some jaunty accordion and twanging mouth harp lead into the quick pace of “Happy Little Boozer.” Cross fast, fun, and alcoholic energy off the list. Tales Along This Road is a bit like a transition album for Korpiklaani. The music doesn’t really change, but they seem to embrace their Finnish heritage a lot more. Tales Along This Road was the last record with an English title, and more and more songs started to be sung in Finnish after this point. There’s a taste of that here. “Väkirauta,” “Tuli Kokko,”and “Korpiklaani” are entirely in Finnish. And they embrace their folklore and environment. “Korpiklaani” and “Midsummer Night” are both odes to the wilderness and Finland, while “Rise” harkens back to the days of a Scandinavia long gone.
With that emphasis on having a good time, it’s not a surprise that the music is catchy and upbeat. Folk metal instruments like accordion, violin, and the mouth harp abound. “Spring Dance” will make you want to do just that and the chorus to “Happy Little Boozer” is easy enough to figure out that even the drunkest can handle singing along. Other times, the songs are in Finnish and vocalist Jonne Järvelä sings so incredibly fast (“Kirki”), you’ll want to try to sing along, only to fail miserably. Songs at a ‘slower’ pace are a bit more manageable, like “Tuli Kokko” or “Korpiklaani.” And the Finnish language is so unique; it’s both interesting and entertaining to hear it sung with music this engaging. If you find some metal too dark, or intimidating, or serious (I’m looking at you, black metal), folk metal is a good genre to check out. Nothing but a good time.