As spring finally gives way to summer, it’s the perfect time for the latest dose of folksy hijinks and madcappery from the festive Finnish institution known as Korpiklaani. Noita is yet another chipper, high spirited outing by these drunken woodsmen, offering nothing new while clinging tenaciously to the buttocks of the last several albums. There’s an undeniable feeling of “been there, drank that” hanging over this one, and it’s easy to argue they’re in a folksy rut, but the end result is still infectious and jig inducing enough to make many forgive the transgression and resign themselves to hopping around and shouting lyrics they don’t understand. While many bands couldn’t get away with releasing album after album of the exact same type of music, Korpiklaani leads a kind of charmed life and this stuff somehow remains enjoyable no matter how many times you’ve heard similar sounding antics. That’s the magic these wood gnomes possess and they’re lucky it’s a potent juju.
On its own merits, Noita is a joyous and comfortably familiar 45 minute jaunt through ye olde Renaissance Faire, where you’ll encounter such characters of the mischievous fiddle player, the quirky accordion smith, the angry Viking and the ubiquitous pickle salesman. A motley crew indeed, but they’ll certainly keep you on your toes with ditties like opener “Viinamaen Mies” and its constant barrage of “hey hey hey’ chanting. This is Korpiklaani at their ale-fest best and when that fiddle and accordion start a rockin, you best come a knockin. And there’s more of the same kind of goodies here, specifically designed to keep your enthusiasm and blood alcohol levels high, like “Pilli On Pajusta Tehty” and the excellently rowdy “Sahti,” both demonstrating why these folksters have had such a long career. If you aren’t smiling and bobbing about while these spin, you basically suck as a human. For added enjoyment, “Jouni Jouni” seems to be a cover of “Mony Mony” and as such it’s another mood elevating fist pumper. While there’s no song about booze this time, we’ll graciously overlook that, though I want at least one song about Jäger before they call it a day.
Then there are the slower, more pub-chanty numbers like the mid-tempo churn of “Lempo” and the somber, darker “Mina Nain Vedessa Beidon.” These work as combination funeral marches and work songs, but they’re less immediate than the zippy selections and “Mina Nain” drags a bit along the way to the grave and/or workshop.
None of the songs misfire, though the front half of Noita is better and things do start to drag by the last song of two. This also isn’t as strong a collection of tunes as they assembled for Ukon Wacka or Manala. There’s definitely fun to be had, but it feels more repetitive and overly familiar than their recent output.
On the plus side, the band made more room for the folksy instruments this time, and the fiddle and accordion resume their rightful place of prominence. This gives the music a bit more identity and flavor, though it makes the overall sound a bit less metal. Heaviness aside, Tuomas Rounakari returns from Manala to fiddle his way into your hearts and his playing is a major reason the music is so catchy. Likewise, new accordion master Sami Perttula upholds the fine tradition of the Grand Instrument of Polka and Noita is overflowing with squeeze bag heroics. Vocally, Jonne Jarvela still sounds like a pissed off Visigoth, perpetually raging against the dying of the keg. Few have made such a successful career from so limited a delivery, but he fits the music perfectly and gives it that barroom edge it needs.
Korpiklaani appears to be in the “wheels spinning in the mud” stage of their career, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still releasing fun, breezy material. I won’t reach for this over the classic albums or even the last few, but it’s still a worthwhile romp and stomp through the fields of drinking man’s folk metal. Remember, when you go to Finnish forests, be sure to wear a flagon in your hair.