KORPIKLAANI – “Goddammit, This Is A Brilliant Pop Album”
September 11, 2018, a year ago
When it came time to work on their tenth studio album overall, Finnish folk metallists Korpiklaani felt like it was time to try something a bit different. As a result, longtime producer Asku Hanttu was excused from his duties, and Janne Saksa was given the nod to oversee the sessions - with the band making it a point to go for a more live sound. And on September 7th, fans will be able to hear the results, upon the arrival of Kulkija (English translation = Wanderer), via Nuclear Blast. Longtime bassist Jarkko Aaltonen spoke to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato shortly before the album’s release, and explained what is different about Kulkija compared to past efforts, as well as what makes Korpiklaani stand out from the rest of the metal pack.
BraveWords: How is Kulkija different from previous Korpiklaani albums?
Jarkko Aaltonen: “First of all, it is different in many ways, because we wanted to do a little bit different of approach on the album. We felt that we had sound-wise and production-wise reached sort of a peak with the previous album [2015’s Noita], and we didn’t think it would be the direction to go from there anymore. So, we wanted to - sound-wise and production-wise - take a step back, and wanted to go back to a more organic and natural kind of sound. I wanted to have a drum kit sound as an actual drum kit, and not like some sample library. The guitar, I wanted it to be a crunchier, old school Marshall, loud-as-fuck kind of thing. We kind of knew that where we wanted to go would not go too well with the producer that we had been using for the past few albums. All the credit to him, we did a lot of good stuff with him, and we proved a lot with him, but we had a different idea, and we wanted to have a producer agree with us about that. So, we hired a new guy, Janne Saksa, who had worked with many bands before. We ended up having a different sounding album, and we were also ready to do the vocals and solos, and wanted to use - as much as possible - the first or second takes. It even may have been technically imperfect - maybe it was hanging a little low under the note or whatever - but when the proper emotion and the proper sound was there, we used those takes. Basically, everything sounds fresher - at least to us. But I hope that others will hear the difference, as well. Musically, there is a big difference, as well.”
BraveWords: And what is the big musical difference?
Jarkko Aaltonen: “The songs have a different vibe to them. It was never meant to be different musically that much. Like always, our albums may be different than the previous one, but it’s like a natural progression, or just development, or a bunch of songs we happen to have at that time. But it still has the stuff that people expect from us - it has the fast stuff, it has the intriguing music. But it also has slower, moodier, heavier material. But then again, it is over 70 minutes long. I think it is melodically a very strong album. In many senses, it is better than the previous one.”
BraveWords: There is a video for the song “Harmaja”.
Jarkko Aaltonen: “Yes, ‘Harmaja’ is the actual video, and then we released earlier a lyric video. The actual video for ‘Harmaja’ is a weird take for us, but then again, it was the record label that felt that it is a good song to be released as the first single and video. We also feel that it is a strong song, with very good vocals, and with a very well-done storyline. It’s a song about longing and losing a loved one.”
BraveWords: What are some other favorite tracks on the album?
Jarkko Aaltonen: “There’s plenty of them. There are so many songs that I - honestly - when I was listening to the demos that we had, I realized there were strong melodies. And honestly, I thought, ‘Goddammit, this is a brilliant pop album.’ It didn’t really turn that ‘pop’ in the end, with other stuff added, but I thought there were some really nice pop melodies in there. I have been listening to the album a lot lately, because we have started to play those songs live already, and we have the tour coming up, where we will probably be playing most of the album. There are lots of good songs there.”
BraveWords: Something that I admire about Korpiklaani is that it seems like in this day and age, a lot of heavy metal bands sound the same. But I think Korpiklaani is making an effort to sound different and put a unique spin on metal.
Jarkko Aaltonen: “We have always had a different approach, sound-wise. What you hear is authentic instruments, which sort of makes it quite different, sound-wise - when you compare to other bands of the same genre. But I also like the fact that we’ve never put any limits on our songs - musically. If someone comes up with a good song, no one says, ‘This is out of our style.’ We always give it a go, and quite often, we actually manage to make everything we do sound like Korpiklaani, anyway.”
BraveWords: That’s something that I don’t understand - why more bands don’t make the effort to try to put their own unique spin on metal.
Jarkko Aaltonen: “Because there is always the chance that you will fail. Commercially you fail, or whatever. Every time that we release an album, there are a bunch of people that are complaining, that, ‘Korpiklaani is releasing the same album again.’ And then there is another bunch of people complaining that, ‘Korpiklaani has changed too much.’ So, what the hell can you do between those two camps? The only thing you can do is whatever you want, and be true to yourself. If you start thinking about what people may want from you...everybody wants something, and it’s different than the other one.”
BraveWords: What are the touring plans behind this album?
Jarkko Aaltonen: “The one published tour is the Russian tour that we will start right around the release date of the album. We will spend a couple of weeks in Siberia. We did that once two years ago - we went through the entire Russia, from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok. That was a great experience...or least an experience. It was a lot of fun - good shows, good people. And there will of course be a North American tour, and then there will a European tour.”
(Photos by: Peero Lakanen)