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Korpiklaani’s Underworld, A Review of Manala

The Folk Metal season is as ripe as always, Yggdrasil is bearing fantastic fruit, and the booze is flowing ever so nicely.  What’s on your pagan plate today? Why Korpiklaani’s latest album, Manala!  For a band that looks like it’s made up of homeless woodsmen who haven’t seen the likes of a woman in years, these guys know how to rock out loud, and I know a few gals who’d kill to spend a night with Jonne Järvelä, the band’s charismatic vocalist and frontman.  The band is known for its fun upbeat melodies derived from the diverse lore that makes up the beloved culture of Finland, the amount of booze they consume, and the fact that put out albums almost annually.  Did they spare quality while getting this album so quickly to the shelves? Let’s find out.

Band: Korpiklaani
Album: Manala
Genre: Folk Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: Aug 3, 2012 (EU)/ Aug 14 (NA)

I have to say that the album art for the album is great as expected.  It features Vaari, the old man who has appeared on all but two of their album covers, wandering as always. Manala is the Finnish definitive for the underworld so the imagery is highly appropriate. The stand out contrast of blue stone and orange lava catches the eye right away so if you can appreciate artistic valor, like myself, then you’ll likely pick up a copy just to explore the artwork within.

Musically I’d like to say that this album meets every expectation that a Korpiklaani album should have: a pleasant mixture of folksy melodies, upbeat riffs, and sing-songy vocals.  I’m going to tackle this song one by one so if you’d like to know get a quick idea of whether or not to get this album, I’ll say this–if you are a Korpiklaani fan, you will love Manala since it triumphs over some of Ukon Wacka‘s shortcomings.  If you never cared for Korpiklaani, then only a few tracks will appeal to you, like “Rauta”.  If you are new to Korpiklaani, Manala is a perfect place to start as it shows a perfected Korpi sound, mixing Sámi folk roots with pleasing and simple metal music.

It starts off with “Kunnia” which is Finnish for honor. As the name would suggest, the song is a bit inspiring and heroic with Jonne’s opening chants that break into a folkin’ fantastic melody.  It’s an all-around fun song that isn’t entirely remarkable, but is definitely something you’d want to put on your Folk Metal playlist.

The album shifts to a harder pace with “Tuonelan Tuvilla” which is a darker tune about the huts of the Underworld.  The chorus wouldn’t be as easy to chant for non-Finnish speakers like myself, but I’d love to be destroying the pits while the Woodsmen brought hell on Earth!

ISKE! ISKE! ISKE! is all you will be chanting after listening to “Rauta” which is my personal favorite on the album.  Finnish for the steel, this song is roughly about a man who hammers his metal into an epic steel sword.  So that would make this song really really metal! All puns aside, this track is rather fun, and if I can chant along to it while holding a nice brew, it’s a great song.

Continuing on the path to the underworld, “Ruumiinmultaa” breaks into a classic Korpiklaani jig that goes about describing the soil of the corpse as the title translates to.  Jonne’s vocals shift between his sing-songy voice and this lower drone, particularly when the musics drops into a heavy metal riff.  The violin work provided by the new violinist, Tuomas Rounakari, is given a bit of spotlight, having a distinct solo towards the end of the song.

Petoeläimen Kuola” immediately starts off with heavy riffage sent from the fires of Manala.  This is another example of a Korpiklaani pit song, since it doesn’t provide as much of a folk sound.  Nothing wrong with that of course, since melodies can often sound repetitive which deters from the album all together.

To make up from the lack of blissful natural tunes from the bosom of Finland herself, “Synkkä” returns a matured acoustic atmosphere which transports you into a dismal and slightly ethereal state of mind.  The gentle folk instrumentation combined with Jonne’s curiously soothing voice creates a great easy-listening song devoid of any flaw.

If “Synkkä” put you too deep in a depression, “Ievan Polkka” punches you in the face with a folkin’ awesome dancing song.  As the name suggests, it’s a bit of a polka-inspired metal that better break into epic dancing rows on the center floor of concert halls in the next coming weeks when Korpiklaani tours North America.

The next two tracks are instrumental, “Husky-Sledge” and “Dolorous” respectively.  The former is a combination of strikingly grainy violining  that breaks into a sort of strange marching tune that’s accompanied by a set of jingle bells.  This is clearly a husky sledge making its way around the land.  The track is a bit odd, I’ll admit, but it does over a perfect transition and break into the latter half the album.  The song “Dolorous” sounds like a mixture of understanding and woe, like a content-sorrow if that makes any sense…which it probably doesn’t.  Anyways, it’s a great folk melody that can shift around your musical emotions without making you feel like a miserable insignificant speck of goo.

In the event that I’m completely wrong, which is very likely, “Uni” will be your saving grace.  The word translates to dream, and while I have no clue what Jonne is actually saying, it sounds like an uplifting and inspiring track.

The first single to make it off of Manala was “Metsälle” which translates to something along the lines of off to the hunt.  It starts off with a very slow and quite dismal violin chorus that breaks into a drum build up and a pounding drone from Jonne.  While Juho Kauppinen, the accordionist, is evident throughout the album, his work stood out to me in this track particularly.  As one of the longer tracks on the album, it’s a great combination of an instrumental experience, and a powerful vocal delivery.

Manala’s last standard track is “Sumussa Hämärän Aamun” which I translated to mean the morning fog of twilight.  I’m sure there’s a better translation out there but that gives you a gist of the atmosphere to expect.  It’s definitely darker than most Korpiklaani songs, but it has an awfully familiar sound that made me want to listen to it a second time in succession.  The darkness fades a bit and the familiar Korpiklaani charm returns during the choruses.

The standard version of the Manala that I reviewed here contained one bonus track, an English version of Ruumiinmultaa.  If you purchase the Deluxe Edition from NuclearBlast.de, you’ll receive a second disc that contains an English version of most of the main album.

So how did these Woodsmen fair?  Quite well as it should be.  Korpiklaani are veterans of their trade, starting first with folk music, then migrating to the fusion of the two genres–these fellows know what they are doing. I strongly recommend the album, and their live performances are fantastic! Dancing, drinking, partying, and forgetting how you got home…what else could you want? Next time you see them live, be sure to ask them for a fresh cup of Korpiklaani Coffee!

Rating:

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Kittens...everywhere! I need a life

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