Korpiklaani

Korven Kuningas

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To those who aren't heavily into the Nordic metal scene, the idea of combining metal with Scandinavian folk -- be it Swedish, Norwegian, or Finnish -- might seem like a cute novelty. But for the bands that have done it well (Finland's Finntroll is a shining example), folk metal isn't some empty gimmick; it is a totally legitimate part of world music. In the Scandinavian countries, folk metal has often had a strong death metal or black metal influence. But on Korven Kuningas (which means King of the Woods in Finnish), Korpiklaani's folk metal is closer to thrash metal and old-school punk. This Finnish band's mixture of metal and Finnish humppa rocks aggressively hard, but Korven Kuningas doesn't have the vicious, go-for-the-jugular outlook that death metal and black metal are known for. All of Jonne Järvelä 's lead vocals are clean vocals, and neither death metal's "Cookie Monster" growl nor black metal's sinister rasp is anywhere to be found. Actually, the songs (most of which are performed in Finnish, although there are some English lyrics as well) are quite melodic, and Korven Kuningas -- for all its thrashiness and punkiness -- thrives on musicality and is no stranger to craftsmanship or nuance. On this 74-minute CD, crunching guitar and loud drums sound perfectly natural alongside accordions, flutes, and violins. If infectious metal/humppa offerings like "Keep on Galloping," "Suden Joiku," "Gods on Fire," and "Kipumylly" sometimes remind you of Celtic music, that's no coincidence; many centuries ago, Scandinavian folk was a major influence on Celtic culture. Therefore, if one played Korven Kuningas after listening to the punky Celtic rock of, say, the Pogues, it wouldn't be hard to note the parallels. Anyone who has spent a lot of time savoring the infectious pleasures of Finntroll would do well to give the rewarding Korven Kuningas an equally close listen.

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