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Korpiklaani: Manala

For the last few days, I've been reading an English translation of The Kalevala ,the Finnish national epic. It is a fascinating work, one that stems from a long and rich oral history. To read The Kalevala is to discover new worlds of adventure and excitement. The story, which defies easy summary, covers topics as broad as the creation of the Universe; it also follows a hero through a series of brave and ambitious tasks, including a trip to Manala, or the underworld. The Kalevala is a significant creative work: it not only inspired Finnish nationalism, it also inspires many important creative people, including Jean Sibelius, the noted Finnish composer.

Korpiklaani's music also has a creative relationship to The Kalevala. Much of their music, at least for the last several releases, draws on both the themes and topics in that epic work. It also--and, for me, this is the most interesting part--draws on the poetic meter of the work itself (known as the Kalevala meter) for its music and lyrics. For listeners new to Korpiklaani, the music may not sound exactly like heavy metal, at least at first. Several of the songs include passages played on the accordion and on the violin. At times, the music also has a polka-like beat and rhythm that may surprise some listeners. Nevertheless, these guys play with bravado and with plenty of heavy riffs (check out track 5 for the strongest example). If anything, Manala is arguably a heavier album than previous releases.

Manala draws much of its inspiration from the story of the hero in The Kalevala and his trip to the underworld. Though not a concept album, the album nevertheless consistently points listeners to the importance of The Kalevala as a significant source of artistic inspiration. For me, half the fun of listening to the album was finding out about some of the various traditions and stories these guys are drawing on. I know very little about Finnish culture, but I am inspired to keep reading The Kalevala and to learn more about the traditions that inspire this music.

Some of you are wondering what I actually thought of the music--in short, I thought it was fun, exciting, and, at times, lovely. The album doesn't contain many surprises for those already familiar with Korpiklaani, but it is a solid entry into their catalogue. The songs sound great and, as noted above, the album is heavier on the whole. To me, however, the best tracks were those that highlighted the slower, more melodic work of the violin. "Husky Sledge," for example, is brief, yet haunting, melody I've been listening to over and over. Whatever you call this type of music--folk metal, I suppose--it works well.

Track Listing:
1. Kunnia
2. Tuonelan Tuvilla
3. Rauta
4. Ruuminmultaa
5. Petoeläimen Kuola
6. Synkkä
7. Ievan Polkka
8. Husky Sledge
9. Dolorous
10. Uni
11. Metsälle
12. Sumussa Hämärän Aamun
13. Soil of the Corpse (Bonus Track)

Added: August 10th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2358
Language: english

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