Karkelo, the sixth full length album in seven years by Finland’s Korpiklaani, is essentially the same as their other five albums. Therefore, your opinion is already formed. Review over.
What, you need more?
Okay here it goes….
Korpiklaani is the kind of band that makes me second-guess my entire anti-best-of and anti-itunes mentality. Generally with underground metal, we can depend on bands to be more album-oriented, straying away from the “killer plus filler” single-centric formula. Not so with Korpiklaani. Although they are easily the most prolific of the triumvirate of Finnish bounce-metal (completed of course by Finntroll and the far more epic Ensiferum), they are also the weakest in terms of actual substance. While the other two bands place enough time in between releases to produce complete albums, Korpiklaani are satisfied with each year cutting and pasting their formula: one or two English-language drinking songs and a bunch of mix and mash humppa-thrashers to fill it out. Those counting themselves as mild fans of the band (myself included) would be best served to go against our album ethics and just use itunes to get the drinking songs and few other standouts. Karkelo does nothing to change this view, although, like its predecessors, it offers up the empty fun.
As with the rest of their work, the bar songs are generally the best, and obviously the focus. “Vodka,” having lyrics so utterly stupid that they verge on genius, is yet another Korpiklaani stein-lifter in the tradition of “Beer Beer” and “Happy Little Boozer.” Unfortunately, as the album-opener, it renders the following 50 minutes a tad less fun. And let’s face it, when listening to these particular Finns, fun is the only goal. Bonus-boozer “Bring Us Pints of Beer” will also satisfy those wanting to act the fool, but much of the rest pales compared to the band’s best work. Previous albums Tales Along This Road and Tervaskanto maintained quality throughout, but Karkelo somehow achieves both mediocrity and enjoyment. This isn’t to say that the entire album is half-assed. “Mettänpeiton Valtiaalle” breaks the mood nicely with an acoustic intro and a slower, mid-tempo humppa beat. “Kultanainen” is at the ultra speedy end of the spectrum, almost becoming Finnish ska (yeah you heard me), and overall being the best-written song on the album. But by about two-thirds through, Karkelo starts to blend together, struggling to maintain the listener’s attention.
Everything is still played and produced well, but there’s just less of the good stuff, despite this being among the longest albums of their career. There are less actual riffs, less infectious accordion melodies, less choruses that force the sing-along. But if it’s all so middle-of-the-road, why the hell am I still having so much fun? I guess that’s just the Korpiklaani shtick.
So in the interest of being as repetitious as the band, Karkelo is yet another Korpiklaani album. Like a McDonald’s cheeseburger in a foreign country, it’s a familiar taste that you know you can depend on. It’s written, played, and produced the same as their other work. If you already own the rest of their albums, you don’t need this (also, you had best already own every Ensiferum album). If you own none of their work, my advice would be to begin your journey with Tales Along This Road, which remains their most complete long player, and then spend the rest of your Korp-alloted cash at an mp3 site, acquiring the standout tracks from the rest of their albums. If you absolutely must own more than one album, then this will do as good as the rest. It’s stupid, drunken, and as shallow as the kiddie pool, but it’s still a ton of fun.