Korpiklaani – Rankarumpu Review

Every metalhead has a few firsts when they’re just entering the scene. First band you became obsessed with. First live gig. Korpiklaani was neither of those for me, but it was the backdrop to my first moshpit, and the next few as well, when I had less than 10 bands in my metal library and the band only had its first 2 albums under the belt. Like many others, Korpiklaani drifted into my past, apart from an occasional nostalgic spin of “Wooden Pints” or “Cottages & Saunas.” Until a few weeks ago, when I was constructing a playlist for a new Dungeons & Dragons character (a kobold ranger named Tracha) and decided nothing nailed his personality quite like the drunk druid folk party of the Finns. Perfect timing to clamber back aboard the running train as it heads to its 12th station: Rankarumpu.

Apparently, two decades of pumping out album after album have had little to no effect on Korpiklaani’s sound, because any of the around dozen songs on Rankarumpu could have been a lost bonus track from Voice of the Wilderness and I’d be none the wiser. If you’re new to the band: imagine Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit partying with Tankard and add a slew of folk instrumentation. Founder and vocalist Jonne Järvelä sounds entirely unchanged, his gruff shaman chants and traditional yoiks as distinctive as ever. The thrashy guitars stick to a backseat role, with violin and accordion providing most of the melodic leads. Of these, the violin steals the spotlight, thanks to Turisas alumnus Olli Vänskä. His light and nimble playing elevates the music a level above mere boisterous drinking fare (though make no mistakes, it definitely still classifies as such). “Saunaan”1 is an immediate favorite thanks to his soaring melody, and songs that would otherwise be classified as average like “Viikatelintu” benefit a lot from the lithe bowing overtop.

Rankarumpu by Korpiklaani

When I researched the reception to Korpiklaani’s recent work, the most common complaint seemed to be a pretty hefty case of bloat, with multiple albums running over an hour. Few bands can make such running times work, and none of them play jaunty folk metal. But Rankarumpu clocks in at a modest 43 minutes and change, and is all the better for it. Between the reduced length and Vänskä’s reinvigorating violin, Rankarumpu feels like a soft reset for the band, a return to basics. Instead of big, bloated concepts, here are 12 tracks that range from solid to excellent, the average length well under 4 minutes, and each has its own hooks and personality. The songwriting could have been just a smidge more dynamic, though. With cheerful and bouncy the default mode, the more introspective, melancholy tracks I’ve come to love from the band’s early efforts are largely absent, aside from closer “Harhainen Höyhen,” which seems afraid to commit fully to either low or high energy and winds up a somewhat awkward mid-pace.

It’s less a demerit and more a recommendation for future improvement, though, because Rankarumpu is a real joyous treat for the positivity-starved metalhead, and despite operating within a more limited spectrum, the tracklist has plenty of surprises. “Kotomaa” is the most intense and immediate opener the band could have come up with, “Aita” has the rom-pom-pom gait of an approaching troll and the title track comes across as equal parts war dance and victory party. The production fits the music just the same: warm, clear, and direct, emphasizing the folk instruments and vocals while letting the guitar fill out the background to keep an iota of heaviness.

Though I haven’t had the chance to delve into the band’s recent past, Rankarumpu feels like the band reining in their most destructive excesses while giving plenty of floor-time to their newest band member. Whilst Korpiklaani never lost my favor, this is where they have regained my interest, with an album that is as simple in writing and structure as it is addictive. A uniformly strong showing from a band a dozen albums deep is a rare treat, and I know Rankarumpu will be a worthy companion to many parties this year. Including my adventuring party, because a certain kobold ranger has just become a big fan of saunas!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: korpiklaani.bandcamp.com | korpiklaani.com | facebook.com/korpiklaani
Releases Worldwide: April 5th, 2024

The post Korpiklaani – Rankarumpu Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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