The Forest Clan are back with album number 362 (OK, it’s really #8 in 10years – quite prolific nowadays). These guys crank out their version of Finnish Folk Metal on a very regular basis and are one of those groups (much like the band in my last review) that you pretty much know what you are going to get going in. With Manala (on Nuclear Blast), Korpiklaani has taken a slightly different path this time.
Although the path is a little different than their norm, most of the trees are still the same and it is still definitely a forest. Maybe a few of the leaves are different colors and the light has faded, but it is no doubt a Korpiklaani album. The first couple of times I listened to Manala, I was struck by how much darker it sounded compared to much of their recent work. It wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I found out Manala (referring to the Finnish folk version of the underworld) was supposed to be a concept album based on the Kalevala. Quite different subject matter compared to their usual fare. Their last album (Ukon Wacka) is named after a summer feast and the one before that (Karkelo) translates to “party”. It apparently didn’t reach that level of creation, but the music is clearly less “happy” than previous works and really is heavier overall. Don’t get me wrong – there are still accordions, violins and flutes all over the place, but it is also very metal.
Many of Korpiklaani’s previous albums got to be sounding “samey” with the uptempo, humppa style polkas. Manala comes across as an album in two parts (much like an LP). The first half is more Heavy Metal with folk elements, while the second half strikes me as more folk-influenced. The first five songs are superb and flow easily one to the next. Of course, all the lyrics are in Finnish, so despite being sing-along in nature, I have a difficult time getting the words right. The melodies and musicianship, however, are outstanding and I definitely hum along to the songs. The second half is more subdued overall, radiating a melancholy vibe with a couple of slower songs, yet with comparably strong song writing present. One notably absent feature on Manala is a song about alcohol. Korpiklaani always have one of those – but not this time.
From speedy opener Kunnia, to mid-paced headbanger Rauta, to the truly heavy Petoeläimen Kuola, the opening salvo of five tunes on Manala are definite highlights. The latter 6 songs are more varied, offering a ballad, instrumentals, and really some hauntingly atmospheric kinds of tunes. I would even call album closer Metsälle epic in nature, not really a word I would normally associate with Korpiklaani, Here I think it fits.
Check out the video for Rauta –
Manala is an outstanding album and one of my favorites by the band. It sounds to me like Korpiklaani has taken a step forward in their songwriting and have put together some really good mature Folk Metal for us. Be sure to catch them on tour this fall in the US with Moonsorrow and another favorite of mine, Tyr.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.