Wednesday 10 April 2024

Korpiklaani - Rankarumpu (2024)

Country: Finland
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Apr 2024
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This is album twelve for Finnish folk metal legends Korpiklaani and it couldn't be mistaken for any other band, even those who play in the same style. They've stuck with their core sound of late and, judging from the ratings I've seen on some of the albums I haven't heard, that's a good call. What you get here is bouncy folk metal with a galloping pace and full integration of metal instruments like guitars, bass and drums with folk instruments like violin and accordion. If you've heard Korpi before, then you know that already, of course, but with every album I hear, I'm surer that taking any one of those instruments away would utterly break this sound and it doesn't matter which.

Rankarumpu kicks off just as effectively as last time out, on 2021's Jylhä, but quicker because the opener gets down to business immediately. That's Kotomaa and it's the first standout track. It's a deceptively light song, given that it does everything a Korpi opener is supposed to do and it does it well. The only reason I say that is that Tapa sen kun kerkeet and Aita after it are darker, deeper and with more of a weight hanging over them. I like both, but the perkiness of Kotomaa is tasty.

At this point in their career, it's perhaps fair to point out that most of these songs sound like you might expect them to sound. None let the side down but a few fail to truly distinguish themselves. They're too good in isolation to call them filler, but they're happy to do only what they need to do without adding anything extra to the mix. It shouldn't shock that my favourite tracks here are the ones that do have something different to bring to the table.

Other than Kotomaa, the first of those is probably Mettään, which starts with an old school intro of power chords, then hands over to accordion and launches into a variety of gears. The chorus is as notable for its pauses as for its words and, right after it, is a thoughtful section that isn't quiet but is slower and more flavourful than what went before. It's a great example of a track that isn't content to do just one thing and it's all the better for it. Kalmisto does that too, because it slows down with strong effect, as does Harhainjen höyhen, which is a strong closer. Rankarumpu is even bouncier than Kotomaa and that may be appropriate for a title track, but Oraakkelit does it too.

Other than that, there's a plaintive violin that opens Viikatelintu and immediately stamps it with elegance, hardly the first word that springs to mind when Korpi come up. That's no insult, I should add. I've been a fan since their first couple of albums but I've always seen them as a sort of force of nature. They took the Finnish folk music that they used to play under the name of Shaman and drench it in vodka, strip it naked and chase it through the woods. They never intended to be subtle or elegant, but both can show up at odd points regardless and that fiddle that opens Viikatelintu is one such.

There's not a lot more to say, but I should add a couple of things. One is that this is less generous than Jylhä, whose thirteen tracks took it past an hour, but it doesn't skimp. It delivers a full dozen songs, even if they're done in just under three quarters of an hour. They're merely back to normal sort of length, I guess. The other is that there's been a line-up change, with Olli Vänskä joining on violin in 2022. He has a history with the band, having stepped in to cover for Tuomas Rounakari on a number of live dates in 2016 when that previous violinist fell ill. He previously played for Turisas.

Oh, and I'm going to miss them live this time around, though they're about to head through town on their latest tour with Visions of Atlantis and Illumishade in support. Check them out at the Nile in Mesa on 29th April. Fingers crossed, I should be in a position to see them next time in a few years after they knock out their lucky thirteenth album. I hope that's a killer. Neither this nor Jylhä are the greatest albums in their discography but they're far from the worst and they're consistently solid. Reliable Korpi is always a treat.

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