Nuclear Blast (2011)
Songs about beer, hunting, and being Scandinavian are all very well. Korpiklaani have always appealed to me more above the similar folk stylings of their contemporaries Finntroll and Ensiferum, being the more upbeat of the bunch. Albeit with slightly odd music videos. And so we come to Ukon Wacka, the band’s seventh album, and as you’ve probably guessed, not a lot has changed.
It’s both a blessing and a curse in equal measure. While the lead single ‘Tequila’ is in the same vein as ‘Happy Little Boozer’ and ‘Beer Beer’, it’s easily the weakest thing that the band have committed to plastic on this theme. I’m not entirely convinced that the pagans of old had a Mexican drink to celebrate the festivities of Ukko, but I’ll roll with it. The title track is thigh slappingly singa-along, or it would be if it weren’t all in Finnish. While it’s not a complaint (it actually compliments the music very well) and adds to the atmosphere of frozen hinterland shenanigans, it’s really nothing that Korpiklaani haven’t done before.
What is exceptionally refreshing is that the guitars have been toned back to acceptable levels, after I found 2007’s Tales Along This Road borderline unlistenable at the time. Ukon Wacka is definitely more “Huumpa!” and less “HOOOOOOAARGH!”. While ‘Vaarinpolkka’ takes you for an energetic spin round a ceilidh dance floor, the closing ‘Surma’ is a more relaxed affair, with a traditional folk intro, before the admittedly great riff work drags you in for one more tanked-up dirge until discretion is no longer seen as the better part of valour and the folk pit starts up once again.
They’ve been doing this for long enough to know what they’re good at. Korpiklaani have once again made an album that sounds so typically like themselves that it can’t help but be good, and not much else. Ukon Wacka, while being an enjoyable record, has the air of a band beginning to stagnate, much like Stratovarius in the early / mid 2000s. As a fan, you’ll like it, but as a newbie, start with the debut instead.