"Spirit of the Forest" is the debut studio album by Finnish folk/Viking metal band, Korpiklaani. It was released in 2003 on Napalm Records and produced by Jay Bjugg. The line-up for the album was Jonne Järvelä (vocals/guitar),Toni Honkanen (guitar),Arto Tissari (bass),Ali Määttä (drums) and Jaakko Lemmetty (violin/flute).
What you get with Korpiklaani (the Finnish word for forest clan) is a musical sound which is becoming commonplace in their native Svandanavia; a mixture of folk metal and Viking metal, popularised with the likes of Turisas, Amon Amarth and Ensiferum. As far as debut albums go, this pulls no punches. It's heavy and relentless for the majority and calm and serene inbetween.
The album begins with "Wooden Pints", a song about beer in the days of Vikings, with a heavy but clever main riff, accompanied with violin. It's a very catchy song which will be stuck in your head from the moment you hear it. But to be honest, there's not that much on this album to make you want to stick around and listen to over and over again.
There are a few stand-out songs, "With Trees" has a slow start which reminds me of how Medieval people would gather around camp fires and play ancient instruments with song. The song does eventually get going but it is mainly flute-orientated and acoustic guitars except for the meaningful chorus.
A joy to hear on a lot of albums (for me) is the squeak of guitar strings, and you get that on "Juoske Sinä Humma" which gives that raw edge to the record. However it must be noted that the song can only be seen as an instrumental filler.
If a flute, violin and guitar duel is what you're after, look no further than "Crows Bring the Spring" which is one of the best songs on the album, slowly duelling but getting more prominent as the track progresses.
In summary, for a debut album you'd expect to hear production flaws, but not on this one. It's cleverly mixed and the harmony between the different instruments strangely works. There are plenty of violins and upbeat folk songs of the type that you'd hear on Pirate films, which are in abundance these days. However, it must be noted that the not so good songs far outweigh the really good songs, but that could be a case of being too eager to put their first record out there. If only they'd taken a little more time, it could have been so much better than it is.
1. Wooden Pints
2. Before the Morning Sun
3. God of Wind
4. With Trees
6. You Looked Into My Eyes
8. Man Can Go Even Through the Grey Stone
9. Pixies Dance
10. Juoske Sinä Humma
11. Crows Bring the Spring
12. Hengettömiltä Hengiltä
13. Shaman Drum
14. Mother Earth
My rating: 6/10