Korpiklaani Manala

Oh, Korpiklaani. This Finnish "wilderness clan" are one of the most beloved groups in all of folk metal, and for good reason: if you're looking to don a utili-kilt, drink mead from a horn and dance a fine metal jig there is simply no finer soundtrack to be found. Manala is the eighth release for the prolific Korpiklanni (tenth in the band's existence, counting their two releases as Shaman). While not above a bit of jaunty accordion here and there, what characterizes Korpiklaani is there refusal to allow their strong folk elements to interfere with their heaviness ― the drumming is insistent, the vocals thick and throaty, even snarling in places. The primary problem with the album is systemic rather than specific: Korpiklaani have a formula and are sticking to it. Every record they release (and they do so on a clockwork schedule) is a variation on a similar theme: a few wistful, nature-themed pieces, a rousing warrior's tale or two and plenty of table-slapping, pint-banging drinking tunes. There is nothing that sets this record apart, or even differentiates it very much, from 2011's Ukon Wacka or 2010's Karkelo ― the songs feel entirely interchangeable, with no progression or innovation. Though the formula is certainly getting stale, fans that simply want more of the same will be pleased. (Nuclear Blast)