More than just booze songs: Over 20 years of Korpiklaani

In April, folk metal greats Korpiklaani returned with "Rankarumpu", their twelfth album – fourteenth if their early albums as Shaman are counted in. Jonne Järvelä’s relentless work has built a strong following for the band all around the world. We meet up with Järvelä to catch up what's new with the group!

Folk metal hit the heavy metal scene with considerable force around 2010. This movement was led by Finnish bands, particularly Finntroll, Moonsorrow, Ensiferum, Turisas and Korpiklaani, also known as the “Big Five” thanks to the book Folk Metal Big 5 by Markus Laakso.

Korpiklaani became known as the “funniest” of the five because many of their hits were drinking songs, such as Beer Beer, Wooden Pints, Vodka and Tequila. However, there is a lot of depth and nuance in the vast discography of Korpiklaani.

“There are times when I do interviews, for example, when it’s obvious that the journalist has only listened to a couple of our most popular songs. It’s easy to make the assumption that all our songs are drinking songs”, frontman Jonne Järvelä explains.

Korpiklaani has written beautiful music about Finnish mythology, nature and of course sauna. The funny songs are indeed funny but there’s a darker, deeper side to the band as well.

“Korpiklaani is not stuck to any single style of music. Any song sounds like Korpiklaani when we play it.”

Vigorous live shows

The new album Rankarumpu features several energetic up-tempo songs. Järvelä wanted to have new faster material for live shows and the new line-up seemed to encourage this.

Olli Vänskä (fiddle) brought in some fresh new ideas for this album. He even wrote some songs and had a big part in the arrangements.”

Drummer Samuli Mikkonen joined Korpiklaani in 2018, originally as a studio drummer but later as a full-time member. According to Järvelä, Mikkonen and Vänskä have made the whole workflow of Korpiklaani more efficient and professional. Guitarist Cane, bassist Jarkko Aaltonen and accordionist Sami Perttula have been a part of the band for a long time.

We are more focused now and the live shows are more vigorous. The performance level is simply better than it used to be – Jonne Järvelä

“We are more focused now and the live shows are more vigorous. We all feel the same way, the performance level is simply better than it used to be. And the audience feels it too!”

Korpiklaani is currently touring in North America. Headlining a month-long tour in North America is something very few Finnish bands are able to pull off.

“Let’s just hope our bus doesn’t break this time. I think it’s happened on every US tour up to now and it always brings extra expenses.”

Laying down the groundwork

The foundation of Korpiklaani’s fanbase was laid in early 2000’s by Jonne Järvelä himself. After putting out a couple of albums as Shaman, Spirit of the Forest by Korpiklaani was released in 2003. Järvelä had spent some time with Finntroll and witnessed their success in Europe.

“Building an international fanbase was the only way possible for us. I spent hours every day writing emails and making phone calls. Then we got a record deal and when the album finally came out, the reception was overwhelming. I had to do a ton of interviews, much more than with any of our albums since”, Järvelä remembers.

The music video of Beer Beer captures some of the band’s early excitement on their trip to Germany’s Summer Breeze festival in 2005, their biggest festival show up until that point.

Building an international fanbase was the only way possible for us. I spent hours every day writing emails and making phone calls – Jonne Järvinen

“Our slot was early in the day and Powerwolf was playing before us. We looked around and saw probably ten people watching their show. We thought we’d play for the same ten people but to our surprise, the whole tent was completely packed when we began.”

The subsequent folk metal boom took Korpiklaani on big stages everywhere. They put out a new album almost every year, gradually writing lyrics more and more in Finnish, and were on tour all the time. Even though the boom eventually faded a little, Korpiklaani still thrives.

“After such a long career we are now able to reach a new generation of fans. It feels rewarding for sure.”


Korpiklaani: Rankarumpu

Listen to Korpiklaani's "Rankarumpu" (Nuclear Blast, 2024) on Spotify.

Korpiklaani: Rankarumpu

Stream Korpiklaani's "Rankarumpu" (Nuclear Blast, 2024) on Apple Music.