If I've learned nothing else from Weird Al Yankovic, I can take comfort in the lesson that most pop music is funnier set to an accordion beat. By that reasoning, the career of Finland's Korpiklaani is a musical one-liner. There are lyrics about binge drinking, Swedish invaders, and tangling with wild animals. They're set to the sound of a fiddler and an accordion player shredding so fast they make the speed freaks in Dragonforce look like sleepwalkers, and rounded out by power-chording electric rhythm guitars, extreme-metal growls, and double kick drums. Voilà! Yuks a-plenty.
In reality, the band's sincere love of folk and metal makes for one of the more bracing folk-rock hybrids since the Pogues. The group's latest, Tervaskanto (Napalm), is frantically gritty compared to last year's genially raucous Tales Along This Road. Most of the songs are sung in Finnish, but you'll find it easy to sing along with the title track's lilting chorus, "oli kaiken nähmy, kaiken kullu, kaiken tiänny" (he has heard it all/seen it all/known it all). Still, it helps to have the CD booklet to illuminate the inhabitants of dark corners of Suomi folklore that fascinate the band, such as dead, unwanted children haunting the forest, angry pagan kings making Christian rivals pay, and unlucky farmers reduced to eating bark after a lousy harvest. Korpiklaani's wry stoicism translates well to English, too. As "Let's Drink" potato farmers bellow in their woodshed, "Never give up my rugged life/Never sell my infertile soil/Never give up this simple style/Let's drink and enjoy." Bottoms up, guys.