This week sees the return of folk metal heroes Korpiklaani (pictured) as we check out the very best in new music.

If Paramore are more your thing then we review and rate label mates and soundalikes VersaEmerge with the band currently wowing crowds across the UK.

But if pure classic rock is what really floats your boat then we catch up with what could well be one of the best reissues of the year – Rainbow‘s commercial nugget Down To Earth.

Korpiklaani – Ukon Wacka (Nuclear Blast)

Not so long ago folk metal from Finland would have been laughed out of town but anyone who’s seen Korpiklaani strut their stuff on festival stages across Europe will understand just how engaging and intoxicating these boys can be.

They might be best appreciated with a horn of mead in one hand and an animal pelt in the other but it’s a fair bet that wherever and however you listen to this lot a broad smile is guaranteed. Still staying true to their passion for alcohol, the pulsating party track Tequila reels off a long list of recognisable South American cities in between the band’s trademark banter-chant vocals and it’s every bit as good as Let’s Drink or Vodka.

Perhaps the biggest change on this creative tour de force is an even greater emphasis on the highest production standards possible. Where Korpiklaani once sounded as rough as they look these days tracks like Lonkkalut are slicker than a Michelin on ice.

Whoever decided to fuse folk with metal deserves a huge pat on the back. And bands like Korpiklaani are capable of keeping the flag flying for many years to come – as long as they avoid the alarming Status Quo-esque Korvasta Liha in the future. Yep, you read that right but listen to the intro and it all becomes frighteningly clear.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Korp Blimey!

VersaEmerge – Fixed At Zero (Fueled By Ramen)

It can be both and burden and a blessing being constantly compared to the genre-defining Paramore. But VersaEmerge only have themselves to thank/blame – boasting a female singer and the same home as rock’s premier teem rock icons is bound to get tongues wagging and critics scampering.

On closer inspection this is a band which could go as far, dare we say it further, than Hayley and her boys and there’s no harm in VersaEmerge striking while the iron’s hot – i.e. capitalising on the pressure facing Paramore as they get to grips with key departures and a rather public row.

Vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck might not be blessed with a surname which rolls off the tongue but the high notes certainly do. And she copes admirably with a number of challenging tracks which seek to breathe new maturity into a stripped down and refocused VersaEmerge.

Lost Tree, for instance, is not a tune you’d expect to come across on an album of this nature. And you won’t unless you stick with Fixed At Zero until the very end. Your reward for doing so is a seven-minute epic where Kusterbeck and co. go all Rush on us. As one rock three-piece looking to pay tribute to another it’s not a bad effort.

There’s a confidence and a swagger about this Dave Bassett-produced record which suggests label bosses believe this is VersaEmerge’s time. A UK tour with We The Kings won’t harm their inevitable rise and if this pretty young trio can stay together the world is very much their oyster.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Emerging Stars

Rainbow – Down To Earth Deluxe Expanded Edition (Universal)

Whenever talk turns to Rainbow two subjects dominate – the erratic and brilliant constant that is Ritchie Blackmore and the revolving door of singers always battling their band leader’s ego.

The expanded edition of Down To Earth offers plenty to consider on both counts. On the one hand the second disc of instrumental outtakes offers an incredible insight into Blackmore at his creative best and for true aficionados of the art of guitar playing this tantalising series of hybrid tunes is a true joy to behold. And then there’s the Cozy Powell mix of All Night Long. The less said about that the better.

Listening to the remix of the original album it becomes clear just why this record took Rainbow in a new and commercial direction. Graham Bonnett’s unambitious and yet generally flawless vocal approach may have left Dio devotees choking on their beer but there’s a certain symmetry to his work with Blackmore. Building up a head of steam before blasting out Since You Been Gone, the ex-Marbles man makes his mark with aplomb.

Bonus tracks Bad Girl and Weiss Heim are well worth checking out if you foolishly mislaid the Rainbow singles which showcased these tunes as B-sides first time around. But such was Blackmore’s ability to fuse quality with quantity throughout the 1970s that both songs would have been focus tracks for so many lesser bands.

On reflection Lost in Hollywood might well be the best Rainbow song ever. Revisit Down To Earth and you might just agree.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Down To Earth Calling

This week’s reviews: Simon Rushworth