Finnish folk-metal ensemble Korpiklaani's sound is governed by the marriage of fat, compressed, electric guitar power riffs, charging accordion, and fiddle underscored by thrumming basslines and whomping, double-timed drums often played in sped-up march rhythms. The effect is at once martial and drunken, always celebratory, and often with traditional yoik vocals. Though their first three albums -- beginning with 2003's Spirit of the Forest -- employed English lyrics and death metal frameworks; by the time they issued their fourth, 2007's Tervaskanto, they'd shifted to all-Finnish lyrics, and their folk-metal roots gradually claimed the foreground. By 2015's Noita and subsequent efforts like Kulkija (2018) and Jylhä (2021), folk-metal had become both the root and the branch, resulting in gigs -- even those played in the U.S. and Asia -- that came off as hedonistic celebrations of Finnish tradition, expert musicianship, and folklore.
The band was formed in 2002 after the members of Shaman decided to update both their sound and name. Taking cues from both the Scandinavian metal scene and the burgeoning progressive folk movement, vocalist/guitarist Jonne Järvelä, violinist Jaakko Lemmetty, drummer Matti "Matson" Johansson, bass player Arto Tissari, guitarist Toni Honkanen, and percussionist Ali Määttä released their debut, Spirit of the Forest, on Napalm Records in 2003. The group gained a new member, accordion player Juho Kauppinen, in 2004, but lost Määttä, Honkanen, and Tissari after 2005's Voice of Wilderness. Guitar player Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi and new bassist Jarkko Aaltonen added to the cacophony for 2006's Tales Along This Road, another fine collection of whiplash folk and folk-inspired hedonism that rocked harder than most conventional metal acts. The similarly themed Tervaskanto arrived in 2007.
The band then made a move to Nuclear Blast, where they released Korven Kuningas in 2008, and Karkelo in 2009. In 2011, Jaakko Lemmetty announced he would be leaving the band for health reasons, appearing on the band's seventh album, Ukon Wacka, before being replaced by Tuomas Rounakari. Manala arrived in 2012, but was followed the next year by another departure, this time accordion player Juho Kauppinen, who was replaced by Sami Perttula. The band's ninth album, Noita, appeared in May 2015, featuring a cover of the Tommy James chestnut "Mony Mony." In September 2017, the band unleashed their first-ever concert LP/film, Live at Masters of Rock, which was recorded in 2016 at the festival of the same name in Vizovice, Czech Republic. In November, they entered Sound Supreme Studio in Hämeenlinna, Finland with producer/mixing engineer Janne Saksa, who had worked with the band on their just-issued live offering. Preceded by three singles released through late spring and early summer, including the European hit "Henkselipoika," the full-length Kulkija ("Wanderer") was issued in September. 2020 heralded the arrival of "Leväluhta," the blazing first single from the band's 11th long-player Jylhä, which arrived the following year. ~ James Christopher Monger