Korpiklaani are one of those bands that you have to see. I don’t care what your opinion is on folk metal, I don’t care what your opinion is on anything – if you have no active plans to see Korpiklaani in the future, you are wrong and that’s all there is to it. You can trust me, someone who’s seen them in three cities across two countries. That said, if you can’t see them because this happens to be a year when they’re in the studio rather than on the road, their Live at Masters of Rock album is the next best thing.
Having seen Korpiklaani so many times, reviewing one of their live albums for the first time presents an interesting challenge. Do I start with the set list, knowing that I’ve built up several years of opinions about its evolution? Maybe I’ll start with the mix, done by the prolific Svante Forsbäck, and lead singer Jonne Järvelä. Short of beaming me back in space-time to the concert itself, the atmosphere of the recording is the best it’s going to get. The minimization of the crowd noise and fullness of the sound (no doubt aided by session instrumentalists Tero Hyväluoma and Toni Perttula) makes me feel like I’m sitting backstage. Many, many kudos to the producers.
To loop back around to the setlist, I have no problems with it, per se. Korpiklaani know what their fans like, and to their credit they also seem to know how to construct a set list around massive amounts of alcohol consumption. Maybe I’m telling on myself here, but a few of the songs seem strategically placed to allow fans to hit up the bar (“Sumussa hämärän aamun” sticks out as an example). The band paces themselves well, adding the absolute bare minimum of banter (which is fine by me, I don’t really need them to be the hosts of the Korpiklaani View here), and their set list ebbs and flows nicely. Their continued insistence upon omitting “Veriset Äpärät” and “Tuoppi Oltta” from their sets continues to bedevil me. Not a complaint about the album, I’m just saying.
Generally speaking, I don’t make it a habit to listen to live albums. If I missed the show, then I missed it, and I’ll either catch the next one if the band’s still active or I’ll listen to their studio albums and wonder what might have been. Korpiklaani, however, are a dynamic enough band that you can get a good feel for their show’s environment even when you’re not there. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your mindset. For me, Live at Masters of Rock was a long reminder that Korpiklaani haven’t graced New York City with their presence in over two years. They’ll be back in due time though, I’m sure, and in the meantime, this album shows us what we have to look forward to.
Live at Masters of Rock is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Buy it here!