Kulkija is the 9thstudio album from Finnish Folk Metallers Korpiklaani. With a lengthy tracklist coming in at 14 songs, this loose concept album tells the tale of the title character from whom the album gets its name: Kulkija translates as “Wanderer”. With fifteen years having passed since the Korpiklaani’s formation, the 6-piece are no strangers to the road, and are well placed to set and narrate such tales.
This album has clearly been written to be listened to as a whole piece, and not just a collection of songs. Immediately the sense of pride in the work is apparent. Throughout Kulkija, which contains more experimentation instrumentally than some of their previous work, there is a very present sense of enjoyment and conviction in what is being played or sung.
First, the listener is led through Kulkija’s various twists and meanders by frontman Jonne Järvelä, who delivers his lyrics in his native tongue. Whether these are sung or growled in a characteristic Nordic style, he’s capable of providing lyrical intrigue and storytelling that to some extent transcends language.
Supporting Jonne then by providing textural context for these stories is a diverse set of musicians. It is here that the production quality of the album stands out. The rhythm section of the band (Matson Johansson on drums, Jarkko Aaltonen with the bass, Sami Perttula’s accordion and Cane on guitar) complement each other according to the requirements of the songs and there’s a consistency to the whole piece. Some songs are slower and more emotive, others are more aggressive and driven but the tracks are laid out in such a way as to flow evenly. Engineer Svante Forsbäck’s track masters are tasteful and effective as every instrument is allowed to flourish as part of a cohesive, warm sound.
The most notable feature of Kulkija is Tuomas Rounakari’s fiddle playing. In the absence of guitar solos the wistful and at times haunting wail of Tuomas’ fiddle cuts through the track mixes beautifully and truly is what makes this a folk metal album. The imagery of the songs is conjured for a large part by his emotional melodies putting the listener in the Wanderer’s shoes as he makes peace with his lonely journey.
Highlights are to be found on every song, and as a result it is hard to choose standout tracks. It would be better for the listener to treat the album as the single artistic piece that it is.
Kulkija is released September 7thvia Nuclear Blast Records
- Korpikuusen kyynel
- Aallon alla
- Kallon malja
- Kuin korpi nukkuva
- Tuttu on tie