Voice of Wilderness
Review by Joshua on March 19, 2005.
This is one of the only “folk metal” albums in years to use melody and medieval influence without completely forsaking any semblance of musicianship.
It’s important to mention that straightaway, as a lot of “folk metal” is neither metal nor folk music. In fact, most of it’s crap. Moonsorrow could be the soundtrack to an SCA event. Finntroll followed them after a decent debut. Amorphis probably started the trend, and they completely suck nowadays. When I saw this band’s medieval garb in all their photos, I feared the worst, but the difference is obvious: while their countrymen were playing with foam swords in the forest, Korpiklaani concentrated on writing energetic, interesting music.
The factor that separates Korpiklaani from the aforementioned soundalikes is, in fact, their ability to write interesting songs. These tracks are horribly catchy. Too many bands in this style simply try to sound melodic, as if they’re in a contest to see who’s most sensitive. Moonsorrow are a great example: one listen and men start ovulating. Korpiklaani, meanwhile, borrow liberally from power metal, NWOHBM, and melodic death metal. The end product retains all the energy of an old NWOBHM record, and adds the melody of a medieval revival outfit.
I’d be lying if I claimed this concept was original, even though their execution of it can be stunningly innovative. The groundwork of folk metal was laid out by Viking metal bands in the 1990s: Nattvinden’s Grat, Otyg, Isengard… probably others that I can’t name because my keyboard won’t create umlauts in Linux. It’s an improved concept, though, which has corrected practically all the mistakes that most folk metal albums make. “Cottages and Saunas” opens the album with a brilliant power metal introduction, but erupts into snarling vocals long before you hear a moog synth solo. There are no harmonized choruses. The singer carries a tune without sounding emasculated. The melodic passages draw from such a wide range of influences that they almost never sound repetitive. So do the song structures, usually: the guitars on “Pine Woods” lie in the gulf between black and power metal, while “Fields in Flames” has a distinctive rock influence. The scales on “Journeyman” sound like old Cruachan. In fact, the only worthless song is “Native Land.”
This album’s great weakness – in fact, the only real weakness – is an annoying production. During the passages that most resemble old-school heavy metal, acoustic “folk” instruments are overdubbed and completely overwrought, which detracts from the aggression and energy. I realize that this production style is common now, but it’s completely unnecessary. Korpiklaani write good music – they don’t need to drown it with accordions.
I try not to be too optimistic, but folk metal seems to have finally reached a turning point. Perhaps, spearheaded by Korpiklaani’s Voice of Wilderness, folk metal will pay attention to the “metal” part of their genre’s often-misused appellation. Perhaps more bands will try to write interesting songs, rather than trying to write the world’s most melodic interlude. Perhaps Moonsorrow and Finntroll will just break up. Whatever the outcome, Korpiklaani have released a solid album – which I like, despite hating every other band who has this playing style. Unless you cannot stand folk metal, give this a listen.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating: 6.6 out of 10