Though Musicalypse has been to plenty of Korpiklaani shows over the years as fans, we’ve never seen them in a club to document what they do best. Their latest album, Noita (Witch, or Shaman), was released back in May and the local tour has been long-awaited as such. The album received reviews varying from appraisal to criticism, but based on what we saw in this year’s Nummirock, the fans have given their seal of approval to the new songs. The band has toured almost nonstop since, taking over North America with Ensiferum and Trollfest, and delighting people around Europe who crave that Finnish flavor. Korpiklaani is not wasting any time this autumn inside the Finnish borders either – after playing only three gigs in Finland, the band will head back to Europe and then onward to South America. As such, Essi was drawn into the Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki on October 9th, 2015, to see if the live show could live up to the album before the fly off once more!
My first proper encounter with Korpiklaani was at this year’s Nummirock. After giving Noita a couple of spins, I found a little forester inside me who, from time-to-time, enjoys some metal with traditional folk tunes. After seeing the energetic and cheerful atmosphere they had in Nummirock, I had to come and see if they were as good in a club environment. “Viisi laukausta päähän” by Stam1na was playing loudly while the crowd was gathering slowly but surely in front of the stage in the upper level of the Virgin Oil Co. The Helsinki city-center venue is a nice club environment for those gigs where intimacy and laid-back feelings play an important part. It had been a while since the last time I was there but the venue surely felt welcoming and ready to host an evening filled with folk metal.
The gig was supposed to start around 23:00, but the band came on stage over 30 minutes late. This was perhaps due to the long queue that had formed in front of the doors of the club less than half an hour before the gig was supposed to start. Whatever the reasons for the delay in entry, it seems like the venue should rethink their strategy to get people in on time so the shows don’t get delayed. After all, it’s pretty standard for the queues to be both long and slow at this particular place.
Luckily, there was a happy ending to all this and (hopefully) everyone willing got in when Korpiklaani finally stepped onto the stage and started playing the first notes of “Viinamäen mies,” the opening track from Noita. Thus began one and a half hours of nonstop dancing, moshing, and general goofing around, both on and off stage!
Unsurprisingly, Korpiklaani focused on their newest material, performing songs like “Pilli on pajusta tehty,” “Ämmänhauta,” and one of my personal favorites, “Minä näin vedessä neidon.” The band is probably mostly known for their cheerful songs about drinking, like “Sahti” and “Vodka,” which were both heard during the evening. Those songs were also the ones that got the crowd rowdy, to the point where one enthusiastic guy ran to the stage to try crowd surfing. I was not close enough to see how it worked out for him, but I can only hope it was not a total faceplant.
Even though I too enjoy Korpiklaani’s high spirited “lets drink and dance” -songs, I personally think one of their strengths are the slow and calm ones played in a low key with long chords. The almost dreamlike accordion melody in the beginning of “Sumussa hämärän aamun” combined with red stage lights definitely gave me the creeps in a good way. If there’s ever someone we could call a modern-day shaman, it’s Jonne Järvelä (vocals), who spices up the songs with low and dark growls as well as yoiking (a traditional form of Sami singing). All this, combined with lyrics inspired by Finnish folklore, shows Korpiklaani as its best: telling old stories through music.
It was great to notice that all the members seemed to have fun on stage through the whole gig. Since the stage is on the smaller side, it was Jonne who was in command of it, bouncing all over, while the others were stuck, likely unwillingly, in their stations. That didn’t stop them from giving off a good sensation though. We all know it is difficult to fake a smile for one and a half hours, so these guys must genuinely be enjoying themselves while performing. Somehow Korpiklaani just shoots a collective good mood through the audience like a well-aimed arrow!
Even though the focus was on Noita, Korpiklaani also performed older songs, even some from their very first albums. One of them was “Wooden Pints,” which is off Korpiklaani’s first album, Spirit of the Forest. It’s an excellent song to dance to and, well, rise some pints while you’re at it. You can’t tell me the chorus doesn’t make you feel like dancing and singing along!
Other songs taking you down the memory lane were, for example, “Journey Man” from Voice of Wilderness and “Kirki” from Tales Along this Road. Performing a variety of songs throughout the band’s whole career showed a newbie like me that even though the quality of songs has improved (in my opinion at least), the sound and soul of Korpiklaani’s music remains the same, and in this case that can only be a positive thing! Why fix something that is not broken?
Another refreshing part of the gig was the two instrumental songs, where the crowd could enjoy the skills of the band’s violist, Tuomas Rounakari, and accordionist, Sami Perttula, who happen to also be the newer additions to the band. “Vaarinpolkka” and “Pellonpekko,” the latter kicking off the encore, were great ways to give the audience (and also Jonne) some time to catch their breath before getting swooped into the next song.
Korpiklaani finished their gig justly with their cover of “Juodaan viinaa” (Hector cover). Even though it would usually be odd to finish gig with a cover song, in Korpiklaani’s case it is only natural. “Juodaan viinaa” has a nice tempo and invites the crowd for one last loud sing-a-long. Also, pretty much every Finn knows the lyrics.
All-in-all, it was a nice experience to catch Korpiklaani in a new environment and see that wherever they go, they bring along a good atmosphere and deliver a great gig. However, after the show I was admittedly not feeling completely satisfied. What was missing this time was proper interaction between the band and the crowd. I cannot recall a single speech from Jonne that included anything else other than, “Thank you,” and the name of the next song. Then again, one could say this is just stereotypically Finnish: rambling is useless so let’s just stick to the point and play some folk metal!
1. Viinamäen mies
2. Journey Man
3. Pilli on pajusta tehty
9. Petoeläimen kuola
10. Sumussa hämärän aamun
15. Minä näin vedessä neidon
19. Wooden Pints
21. Happy Little Boozer
22. Juodaan viinaa
Text: Essi Nummi | Ed: Amy Wiseman