It's sometimes hard to take the whole pagan/folk-metal trend seriously. Sure, big, swinging power-jams make for good head-banging, and it’s cool to see a dude with a lute rocking out onstage, but most of the time it all seems a little too Magic: The Gathering to be held in high regard. Korpiklaani, however, have discovered the key to keeping the jig-pit going: make the music fun. And on their seventh full-length, this Finnish sextet do just that with a tireless procession of drunken fist-pumpers that would get even the fiercest of trolls to sing along (assuming they spoke Sämi Finnish).
The lack of English lyrics suits the music on Ukon Wacka—vocalist Johan Järvelä’s yoik bellows makes these 10 ultra-melodic paeans to the pagan god Ukko sound even more authentic, even when they're broken up by excited Spanish on the album’s obligatory boozer track "Tequila." Traditional instruments like the flute and bagpipe are in heavy use, almost matching the crunchy guitars on stein-swingers like “Tuoppi Oltta”, while “Koivu Ja Täthi” maintains a sinister ax sound comparable to the battle hymns of fellow countrymen Ensiferum.
Even in its quieter moments, Ukon Wacka is vastly entertaining, trading pagan metal's typical swords-and-sorcery histrionics for toasts and foot-tapping. The pace and textures of the album could be shaken up a bit—after eight tracks of break-neck violin and accordion, the ear craves a little groove—but if making metal fun is the game, then Korpiklaani remain undefeated as champions of their genre. Folk metal may come across as goofy at times, but Ukon Wacka proves it’s no joke. CHRIS KROVATIN