By Trevor Morelli
CALGARY – Deep in the quiet wilderness of the Finnish countryside lies Korpiklaani, a foot stompin’ folk metal band of misfits that combines speed metal shredding with acoustic guitars, accordions and violins.
Their latest LP Kulkija (2018 Nuclear Blast) – which translates in to “Wanderer” in English – is a catchy, in your face, party record that audiences around the globe have gravitated towards since its release last September.
“I think the band’s been sort of starting to take off for a few years now, but still the actual lift off is still waiting to happen,” comments bassist Jarkko Aaltonen over the phone via WhatsApp all the way from Finland.
“I’m looking forward to playing the new album stuff for the North American people since actually we haven’t been there in quite a long time for some reason.”
Although the band’s lyrics are in their native Finnish language, Aaltonen notes that Korpiklaani’s unique blend of folk and metal music is universally understood and accepted no matter what country they play in.
“It doesn’t seem to bother anyone. We have been doing this in our own language around the world a few times now and the language doesn’t seem to matter that much,” he states.
Korpiklaani has toned down some of the mythological elements on Kulkija, but the disc is still rooted in Finnish romanticism and folklore.
“I would say like, with the album cover and some of the songs out, I would say that we got to the 1930s Finnish romantic movies. I get that kind of vibe for many of the things that we did from the album.”
He adds: “Maybe that was just a Finnish thing in the old days, but there was this genre that was based on the wanderer in the countryside and every time the poor looking wanderer turns out to be some sort of rich guy in a disguise. I get that kind of movie feel from many of the things on the album.”
Of course, the members Korpiklaani (which means “Backwoods Clan”) don’t actually live alone in the woods, but they do tend to piece demos together over the internet since they’re not geographically close.
“We never really get together to write. Most of the music has always been written by the lead singer, Jonne (Järvelä), but other people write as well,” explains Aaltonen.
“Basically everybody writes and records demos at home and then we just send the files to the other guys. And then when there’s something required, like if I need an accordion for this part, I just ask Sami (Perttula) the accordionist to come up with something. We are living in different parts of the country. We don’t get together that much.”
Despite the distance, Kulkija comes across as a solid, cohesive, full-bore metal effort. Aaltonen is happy with the results.
“I’m proud of many of the songs on the album. Right now I cannot name a song that I think that is not good enough for the album,” he says.
“It’s always the same thing with our albums, when you get the demos that are a bit rough, you think like, ‘Okay, how is this thing going to work?’ And then when you get to the studio and you actually start recording it, you realize that, ‘Yeah, this thing is going to work.’”
Aaltonen credits his bandmates for getting the job done: “You can write whatever kind of song and it goes through several skilled people and the end result is quite right.”
Korpiklaani’s complex mix of styles also reflects the different musical tastes of the band’s members.
“The different band members we are very much into very different bands. As a band, I don’t think there’s ever been any band that we have looked up to in the way that we are going to go, ‘We want to do that,’ or ‘We want to sound like that’, because I’ve always thought that we have very much our own thing going on.”
Wandering overseas to play gigs non-stop is obviously a challenge. While Aaltonen is excited about touring, he also has a day job and relishes his time at home.
“I enjoy both things quite a bit. I truly enjoy being on the road and travelling to places. It doesn’t need to be a new place. I’m very happy to be going back to the same places I’ve been to,” he elaborates.
“It’s always the same thing, like one of these things that is sort of a topic on the album as well. Let’s put it this way, when you are on tour, and the tour is getting closer to the end, you start sort of counting the days when you get to sleep in your bed instead of the bunk on a bus. Then you get home, you get settled to everyday life at home, and then in a few days, you start looking at your calendar thinking like,
‘When does the next tour start? I want to go somewhere.’”
Partying with his bandmates – which also includes Matti “Matson” Johansson (drums), Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi (guitar) and Tuomas Rounakari (violin) – has become slightly more difficult as well.
“It was easy when we were sort of starting to tour outside Finland, because when we went to do the tours or festivals or whatever then we had an early show type because we were never the headliners,” Aaltonen says.
“It was nice. You go, you play your show, you play for an hour at 6pm and at 7 you are done. At like, 7:30, you have showered, you have clean clothes on. At 8, you were already drunk and you can go and see other bands and mingle with the audience.”
“Nowadays you’re the headliner; you are ready to go out at 1 AM. Where the fuck is everybody? At home!”
What else does he have to say about Kulkija and Korpiklaani’s upcoming North American tour?
“I think this is the spot where usually everybody sort of says that yeah, buy the album, come see the tour,” Aaltonen chuckles. “But I think everybody knows to expect that kind of thing from me already, so I’m not going to say that!”
Korpiklaani plays November 7 at The Park Theatre (Winnipeg), November 8 at Coors Event Centre (Saskatoon), November 9 at The Starlite Room (Edmonton), November 10 at Marquee Beer Market (Calgary) and November 12 at Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver)Coors Event Centre, folklore, Korpiklaani, Marquee Beer Market, Metal, Rickshaw Theatre, The Park Theatre, The Starlite Room