Korpiklaani - Jylhä review

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Band: Korpiklaani
Album: Jylhä
Release date: February 2021

01. Verikoira
02. Niemi
03. Leväluhta
04. Mylly
05. Tuuleton
06. Sanaton Maa
07. Kiuru
08. Miero
09. Pohja
10. Huolettomat
11. Anolan aukeat
12. Pidot
13. Juuret

I have never been an avid listener of this band but always kept my eye on them since I am a fan of vocalist Jonne Järvelä's eponymous side project, some of which seems to have finally crept into Korpiklaani. At its best, this is a heavy, inventive, and irresistibly zany album. Sadly, the wide variety of influences and wonderful storytelling on display here are overshadowed by an overlong runtime and a lack of editing within the songs themselves. "Murder your darlings."

C'mon, put the knife down. Not to be taken literally, Arthur Quiller-Coach's quote refers to aspiring writers having to come to terms with the pain of cutting out the bloat in their work. I rarely want thirteen songs on an album. I rarely want an hour-long album. I even more rarely want either for a mostly easy-listening folk metal album. A quick look at the track list would have deterred me from checking it out had I not already, surprisingly, been charmed by the digital singles released ahead of the album release.

These four songs turned out, unsurprisingly, to be among the best on Jylhä. "Leväluhta" (a swamp in Finland, literally "Algae Flood-Meadows") caught my attention long ago with its intriguing blend of off-beat ska rhythms, breakneck-pace accordion theatrics, and contrasting lyrics about being not quite discontent about drowning together with your loved ones - the song title refers to an archaeological site where over 100 burials from the Iron Age were found - and on the unexpectedly aggressive power-folk piece "Niemi" (The Cape), Järvelä recounts the dark tale of the murders at Lake Bodom: "Come ye all towards the cape / To the cape's tip and attend / A silent Pentecost of blood." The mid-paced melodic metal of "Mylly" (The Mill) and "Sanaton Maa" (Wordless Land) are also enjoyable listens but get lost in the mire of way too many similar-sounding songs.

Now, disregarding the four singles, "Huolettomat" (The Carefree Ones) is "Anotherdrinkingsong" (Skyclad reference - pun intended) with more restraint than Korpiklaani's ubiquitous pre-party offenders ("Vodka" and "Tequila," I am looking at you) and a thoughtful melodic hook that would have carried the song all the way if not for the inexplicable choice to throw in a slow-paced bridge halfway through. Again, murder your darlings! This song would have been great if only two minutes long. The album opener "Verikoira" (Bloodhound) is another highlight. As long as you can get past the bland guitars - featured on every song here, which is disappointing considering the sublime vocals, tasteful folk instruments, and energetic percussion - the unhinged vocal delivery, martial rhythms, and oddball structure all work together to turn this into the best Korpiklaani song I have yet heard.

More like "Verikoira" then, please. But not just... more. The front-loaded album that follows is mostly an at-times-entertaining, but too long, ride downhill. I am sure that there are other good songs to be found on here, but even after a dozen listens I cannot for the life of me remember what they sound like. Jylhä's lack of editing detracts from not only the album, but even from the genuinely good parts of this album. Were this a half-hour-long EP (or even an LP of reasonable length) I'd gladly have ended on a more positive note, but this? While displaying a band at higher levels of cleverness and energy than before, Korpiklaani's inability to murder their darlings wreaks collateral damage on a bunch of enjoyable tunes, and it is infuriating. Funny how the title fits the album in a way not intended by the band: Jylhä translates into "majestic," but also "rugged" or "imposingly austere" (disclaimer: ask a real Finn) or all three at once, much like this album.

Recommended songs: "Verikoira" & "Leväluhta"

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 8

Written by Netzach | 12.02.2021


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

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