The “Louhen Yhdeksäs Polka” begins with an almost familiar (in these parts, anyway) acrobatic accordion line that quickly gets battered by thundering drum rolls and detonations from a hopelessly distorted guitar. Yet, the accordion persists, like a minion of Thor galloping through the mists, war-hammer aloft. Someone bellows “HEY” from a tortured larynx and the battle is on. It’s like some unholy alliance between Bruce Daigrepont and Eyehategod.
Perhaps in that intersection, Finnish folk metal battalion Korpiklaani will find resonance in the swampy south.
Folk metal gets a bad rap as the most cartoonish sector of the metal universe, but one imagines that Korpiklaani shakes it off like a frost giant does a mild chill. Their roots are more in folk than in metal. Shamaani Duo was started by singer Jonne Järvelä in 1993 as a folk band playing in a restaurant, singing in Sami, a Uralic language only spoken in the northernmost parts of Scandinavia and Russia. They did a thing called yoiking, a Sami musical tradition of referring to the essence of their homeland rather than particular places or historical events. The group yoiked through a couple of incarnations, adding accordion and fiddle to the expected Scandimetal breakneck din of drums and guitars to arrive at Korpiklaani, roughly translated from the Finnish as “dark forest clan.”
Unlike most dour, corpse-painted combos issuing from the icier parts of the world, Korpiklaani are a hoot to listen to. Their old-world rhythms are ratcheted into overdrive. A ska-like shuffle will break out between blast beats. They are not afraid of dropping a faerie-summoning tin whistle among the cataclysm. I picture these guys sporting antlers like the wizened sage on the cover of their latest album Ukon Wacka (a good hip-hop moniker should they want to integrate that too) and looking totally natural with them. Cool even. Come forth as the drunken hoedown of the damned breaks out, Juho Kauppinen’s squeezebox and Järvelä’s fiddle drawing you into your own personal Ragnarok. Rock ‘n’ roll Valhalla awaits!
Korpiklaani plays December, 11 at the Hangar with Arkona, Polkadot Cadaver, and Forged in Flame. 8 p.m.