Review: Korpiklaani - Manala

 I once found myself reading a poster that someone had delicately taken the time to write out with careful explanation towards what it was trying to go over. With the heading "Boys become men when they:", the poster delicately went on to state 1. DRINK BEER 2. GROW A BEARD 3. LISTEN TO KORPIKLAANI." With a busy career of releasing some of the finest of most charged up works of the folk metal genre, the Finnish sextet have gained a reputation for delivering all that is beefed up and masculine to European metalheads alongside their peers in Finntroll and Turisas. And rather rightfully so, it's with this reputation that we are dragged once again into the alcohol fueled metal battlegrounds that is their eighth album, Manala.

 It's a near guarantee that if you're wanting to hear European folk metal, just like the country of origin for these bands, English isn't the first language. This is no difference in the case of Korpiklaani, so my lack of ability to learn foreign words means lyrical analysis is out of the question. Now at this point, I am fully aware that the band actually play the album in it's entirety in English after the Finnish version, but I don't feel that I should have or the band should adapt just for the English speaking market, plus, in the case of this album, I don't think I could sit through it on more than one occasion immediately after.

 And that's not a way to suggest that it's a bad album at all. Listeners are instantly hooked in from the battle charge of Kunnia, as the parallel performances of Kalle Savijärvi's immensely dense riffage and Juho Kauppinen's frantic accordion thrashing summon up a air of total roughness and thickened brutality that creates the kind of grand old Nordic atmosphere that mysterious European folk music strives to invoke the spirit of, while also proving their credentials towards making full-frontal metal to be as ferocious as ever.

 Manala finds itself filled to the brim with gripping works of metal that kicks much amounts of ass, from the thrilling pirate metal rush of Ievan Polkka to the chilling Metsälle, all of this however is championed by the bleak closing Sumussa Hämärän Aamun (My computer's autocorrect is really out on the town tonight.) which is effortlessly able to reveal the diverse extent of the vocal skills of Jonne Järvelä, who reveals his metallic growling that goes beside his folk orientated performance that gives a look into what the blues would have sounded like if they had originated in Fennoscandia in older times.

 But, with all this skill for effortlessly crafting the elements of folk and metal, well, folk metal still remains a genre that I could never fall head over heals for and Korpiklaani aren't going to do anything to change that. The only band that has any chance is Eluveitie. Celtic metal is so much cooler than the rest! Certainly I can appreciate the skill but ultimately, what the band are really doing to achieve the mixture of folk and metal is having some accordion and violin to go along with the amounts of riffage and the chemistry between these instruments isn't perfect enough for it to get viewed more as a novelty the more the album goes on and the closer we get to the end, the more it seems that the band themselves work this out and try to drop these instruments during several moments of songs as though they never existed in the first place. And in cases like folk metal, extra instrumentation usually means all or nothing.

 So, ultimately, I could probably never find a perfect folk metal album, and Manala isn't going to change such views any time soon. The songs are well presented and the Korpiklaani certainly achieve all they want to do, but ultimately you can only go so far with a selection of metal songs when the only trick up your sleeve is some added accordion. Worst of all I don't feel like any more of a man than before now that I've listened to Korpiklaani, so what was the point? I suppose I can't have a beard due to having a job in real life, so maybe I need the band's music, a beard and beer at the same time to feel anything. Maybe I'm meant to be a weak kid forever.

Korpiklaani's Manala is out now via Nuclear Blast.