At this point in their careers, Finnish folk-metal maestros are well beyond the point where they'll be gaining or losing fans with each new release. For five years and five albums now, founder/mastermind/guitarist/vocalist Joone Jäverlä has stayed steadfastly true to his vision of delivering conventional Finnish folk music infused with high-energy thrash metal. The end result of this marriage between traditional folk instruments such as the violin, accordion and the jouhikko (a three-stringed, bowed lyre) and their modern, metallic counterparts has always been a sound that you either latch onto immediately or never give a second thought. Simply put, KORPIKLAANI is one of those bands that you either "get" or you don't.That being said, those of you in the first category should know exactly what to expect from the band's newest opus, "Korven Kuningas", and this is an hour-plus of the finest and most pure folk metal the genre has to offer. The album starts off with the fist-pumping battle/beer drinking hymn "Tapporauta" that features that same triumphant and driving "humppa-thrash" that the forest clan has become famous for. "Keep On Galloping" is an insta-classic, by KORPIKLAANI standards and could very easily make my own personal ‘top ten sing-a-long songs of all time' list, if only I spoke a lick of Finnish (at least the opening and closing verses are in English; I can fake the rest). Actually, a good majority of this disc gives off that vibe that makes you want to hoist a horn full of frothy ale into the air and sing as badly as any drunk has in the last 1,000 years, but there's something missing. When held in comparison to previous albums, such as "Tales Along This Road" or "Voice Of Wilderness", the tunes on "Korven Kuningas" lack that certain something that engraved the likes of "Beer Beer", "Happy Little Boozer" or "Väkirauta" into the memories of folk metallers across the globe. That's not to say that this offering isn't one helluva good time; just that it's slightly tamer than what we're used to. A couple of pleasant surprises are thrown our way in the form of "Gods Of Fire", a very traditional-sounding track that is devoid of any heavy guitars whatsoever, and the epic twenty-minute title track. With over two-thirds of this song being the repetitive bang of an ancient Viking war drum, to say this is an ambitious undertaking would be an understatement. However, if you're the type that can submerse yourself into the cultural aspect of KORPIKLAANI, or just really stoned, you'll appreciate this one just as well as the rest. With this being KORPIKLAANI's fifth album of unashamedly traditional folk metal, it's understandable that some might question whether or not the band can remain viable after following the same formula for each release. The answer is, without a doubt, yes. What you have to keep in mind is that this breed of metal is meant to be fun, and that's exactly what "Korven Kuningas" is. While there are a few steps in a more serious and focused direction, this is essentially a drinking album for people who are too metal for AC/DC, and it gets better with every beer.
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