Let’s pause for a moment and take stock of what we’ve done with this tribute series so far: We’ve covered a pretty wide range of melodic death-metal bands, both globally known names and newcomers. We’ve featured some purveyors of funeral doom. We’ve written about some of the biggest names in Finnish black metal. What are we still missing?
HUMPPA METAL! Yes, in response to overwhelming popular demand, today we’re shining the spotlight on two bands who have incorporated traditional Finnish humppa into their metal in quite different ways. You could also think of this post as a dip into the waters of Finnish folk-metal, though in our opinion that isn’t really a fair characterization of one of these bands.
What, you may ask is humppa? Let’s see what The Font Of All Human Knowledge has to say on the subject:
Humppa is a type of music from Finland. It is related to jazz and very fast foxtrot, played two beats to a bar (2/4 or 2/2). Typical speed is about 220 to 260 beats per minute. Humppa is also the name of a few social dances danced to humppa music. All dances involve bounce that follows the strong bass of the music. . . . The name humppa was invented by Antero Alpola for a radio show in the 1950s. He picked it up from German Oktoberfest where the locals used the word to describe the playing of the band. The band probably used a tuba, as the sound of tuba on the first beat is like hump, the second beat coming as a pa. (The related German style is known as oompah.)
As far as we can tell from afar, humppa isn’t the sort of music that many people in Finland buy for their listening pleasure. Instead, it’s music that people dance to, and it’s played in dance halls in cities large and small. As we’ll see, it has also been incorporated into metal by two bands whose fame has spread well beyond their home country — Finntroll and Korpiklaani. (more after the jump, including tracks to hear . . .)
Finntroll was founded in 1997 and has produced six studio albums, including this year’s Nifelvind, and two very popular EPs (Visor Om Slutet and Trollhammaren). Over time, the band has undergone significant line-up changes, including the retirement of the band’s original vocalist (“Katla” Jämsen) due to a vocal chord tumor, the death of its original guitarist (Teemu “Somnium” Raimoranta, who fell off a bridge), and the firing of Jämsen’s replacement (Tapio Wilska).
The band’s thematic focus on trolls and Finnish legends, and of course its incorporation of humppa rhythms, has often resulted in its classification as a folk-metal band. But Finntroll is at least equally influenced by black metal. Earlier this year, your three NCS co-founders saw Finntroll when they played Seattle as part of the FINNISH METAL TOUR 2010 (along with Swallow the Sun and Moonsorrow), and here’s what we wrote then, comparing Finntroll to Moonsorrow:
Finntroll also combines elements of black-, death-, and folk-metal, but to my ears at least, the sound has a more pronounced black-metal influence than in Moonsorrow’s case. It just sounds more evil. The combination of that strain of grim nastiness (particularly in the vocals) with the bouncing rhythms of folk metal and hammering death-metal riffs is striking and, as it turns out, really infectious.
So, you can definitely push the humppa factor too far in describing Finntroll’s music. As former vocalist Wilska stated in a 2005 interview, “The things we take from Humppa are the alternate picking bass lines accompanied with the drumbeat, and the use of accordion. That’s about it.” Of course, there aren’t a lot of black- or death-metal bands that use the accordion, so there is that. But listen to this awesome song from 2010’s Nifelvind and see if you don’t agree about the black-metal influence:
And yes, we have to show you “Trollhammaren”, from the band’s 2004 album Nattfödd. (when Wilska was still the vocalist). Those of you who know the song would think us cruel if we left this out, and for those who don’t know the song, it’s a massively infectious, humppa-metal masterpiece.
One more Finntroll video — just one — because this song is as fun-loving as “Solsagan” is evil, and the animation in this video is way cool. The song is another one from Nifelvind:
For more info on Finntroll, here are links:
Korpiklaani started life as a folk music band — folk music, not folk metal. It traces its root to a folk band called Shamaani Duo (later called Shaman), which was formed by vocalist/guitarist Jonne Järvelä. In 2001, Järvelä provided some guest vocals on Finntroll’s Jaktens tid album, and that provided the impetus for his shift into metal, and the re-naming of the band in 2002 as Korpiklaani (“clan of the wilderness” or “forest clan”).
Where Finntroll relies heavily on keyboards to execute its blackened folkish melodies and humppa-inspired rhythms, Korpiklaani are traditionalists: No keyboards or synths, but violin, woodwinds, jouhikko, djembé, and of course the accordion.
And where Finntroll can sound downright evil at times, Korpiklaani is at heart a party band. Many of their songs are about beer and drinking. In fact, The title of their last album, Karpelo, means “party” in English.
And, of course, Korpiklaani makes extensive use of humppa. Here’s the band performing “Happy Little Boozer” live in 2006 at Wacken. This looks like it was a fuckin’ good time. Drink up and get your humppa on.
Korpiklaani has a new album on the way — their seventh. Here’s a blurb about it from the band’s official web site:
We have been pretty busy finishing our upcoming album Ukon Wacka. Ukon Wacka, or Ukon Vakat, is a pagan sacrificial feast from ancient times, on which a special made beer richly flowed. As can be expected from the title, this album has an ancient and very folky feel and is totally in Finnish. To make the lyrics understandable for non-Finnish people, we will add an English description/translation in the booklet as usual.
The album consists of 10 songs, among which you will find a song name Tequila, which is especially written for (and inspired by) our South American fans, with whom we celebrated such hard times, and who welcomed us so warmly, when we were touring in South America. Another surprise is the title song, Ukon Wacka, in which a special guest features: the famous Finnish singer Tuomari Nurmio! Last but not least features a tribute song (Päät pois tai hirteen) to the Finnish rock band Peer Günt, a great and underestimated band. We hope and expect that this album will give you as much joy as we had making it; a big folky feast for all!
You only have to wait a bit, the release date is scheduled for February 4th 2011.
For more info on Korpiklaani, here are the links.
Ah, fuck, how ’bout one more Korpiklaani drinking song? Why not. This one’s from Karpelo. I get drunk just watching this thing. Go ahead, turn it up loud and humppa ’til it hurts.