Nuclear Blast
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Kotomaa
02. Tapa sen kun Kerkeet
03. Aita
04. Saunaan
05. Metään
06. Kalmisto
07. Rankarumpu
08. No perkele
09. Vikatelintu
10. Nouse
11. Oraakkelit
12. Harhainen höyhen

Standard bearers for a genre that was routinely decried as too silly to last, KORPIKLAANI have survived for over 20 years and appear to be gaining fresh momentum as they hurtle toward veteran status. Less dark than FINNTROLL, and less overtly metallic than ENSIFERUM, the Finns exist in a laidback sweet spot between genuine folk music and boisterous, northern European metal; and despite undergoing yet another lineup change since 2021's "Jylhä" (ex-TURISAS man Olli Vanska assumes violin duties here),  KORPIKLAANI occupy their self-built niche with such conviction that a radical change of direction would be nonsensical.

What has changed, albeit slightly, is the tempo at which Jonne Järvelä's crew operate. Recent albums like 2018's "Kulkija" have been more extravagant and long-winded than folk metal was ever built for, and the band's original tendency to be frantic at all times has been steadily supplanted by a more dramatic, diverse approach. "Rankarumpu" may not be a wholesale return to simplicity and songs about beer, but Järvelä's songwriting has received a sturdy kick up the rear-end from somewhere or someone. Faster, more exuberant and, mercifully, more succinct than any KORPIKLAANI record since "Tervaskanto" (2007),this is the perfect soundtrack for the downward slope towards festival season.

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but "Rankarumpu" has an edge that KORPIKLAANI have exhibited only sporadically in the past. Faster tempos certainly make a difference, and the refreshed lineup that stretched out on "Jylhä" is audibly fizzing with chemistry this time around, but from textbook rabble-rouser "Kotomaa" onwards, the Finns' twelfth full-length is simply grittier and more aggressive. It's as if KORPIKLAANI have seen the end of the world coming and have decided to go out with all guns blazing. "Tapa Sen Kun Kerkeet" encapsulates this deft hastening: two-and-a-half minutes of breakneck folk metal, with an infectious refrain that requires little repetition to cast its spell. Similarly, "Aita" tells us nothing that we didn't know about its creators, but there's venom in the delivery, and a sense of urgency that may prove completely unmanageable in a live setting. Let's hope so, anyway. The runaway train vibes continue with "Saunaan", which rattles along at a breathless pace, almost demanding that everyone present throws their beer into the air, and "Mettään": a crazed, folk thrash gem, with wistful, crooned detours and a pleasingly manic instrumental section.

Above all, "Rankarumpu" is a much closer reflection of the KORPIKLAANI live experience than any album they have made since the early days. As confirmed by other highlights like the rowdy "No perkele" and windswept closer "Harhainen höyhen", this many-legged, travelling booze-up rolls on, and with as much passion as ever.

Author: Dom Lawson
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