Hark! The ancient call to arms is sounded. The heathen horde is assembled. To arms! To death! To glory! Gentlemen, to bed, for we rise at eight forty-five! So lather up your horse, slap on a saddle and bridle that big guy up. Tomorrow we ride. For death. For glory. “The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep, one last time.” RIDE OUT WITH ME!
…Anyway. The concept of viking / folk metal has pretty much been done to death. Over their 20 years as a band, Ensiferum have certainly been a part of the folk metal movement, but bands like Amon Amarth, Týr, Borknagar and Finntroll have already cemented their roles as its leaders—those who will ride into the end times battle perched upon their steed squarely within the vanguard. Make no mistake: Ensiferum is a strong band—and their sixth album, One Man Army, is certainly a strong effort—but it ends up falling short of the mark set by the true legends of viking and folk metal.
Another week, another subgenre. Arguably the best thing about a Monday. This week, the Horns Up blog brings you the wide-ranging sounds of Folk Metal.
Let’s tap into Wikipedia for a little bit of a description:
Folk metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music that developed in Europe during the 1990s, a fusion of heavy metal and traditional folk music. This includes the widespread use of folk instruments and, to a lesser extent, traditional singing styles…
Ok, so that’s pretty damn broad. But the fact is, the genre itself is rather far-reaching. The implementation of folk instruments such as flutes, bagpipes, and violins along with traditional metal instruments allows for the diverse characteristic that folk metal is known for. For example, it’s tough to compare the somber, ambient sounds of Agalloch and put them together with, say, the melodious and technical Ensiferum. It is not uncommon for a group to have upwards of six, seven, or eight members due to the inclusion of the folk instruments. This brings sounds that can be tied back to black metal, power metal, thrash metal, death metal… you know name it and there’s a band that will give it to you. But this diversity it what makes the genre so enjoyable.
How about some history? It wasn’t until more recently that the genre really expanded upon itself in sound and popularity. In the early 1990s, it was primarily just English bands Golgotha and Skyclad that brought us folk metal as we know it. Once the 2000s kicked in, folk metal really grew. This was most significant in Finland with bands Finntroll, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani, and Moonsorrow. The genre stayed prominent through the decade in Finland bringing us the likes of Wintersun and Turisas later on. While the genre really took root in Scandinavia, contributions also emerged throughout Europe thanks to the likes of Switzerland’s Eluveitie, Italy’s Elvenking, and Russia’s Arkona. The United States can be thanked (profusely) for bringing us Agalloch, but aside from the Portland, Oregon based group, folk metal is considerably more rare in this area of the world.
Anyway, enough of that. It would take a lot of time and a lot of pages to fully go through the depths of this subgenre (and don’t threaten me with a good time…this is a genre I very much enjoy). So instead of having me spell it out, why don’t we just give it a listen?
Agalloch – “I am the Wooden Doors”
Wintersun – “Sleeping Stars”
Eluveitie – “Neverland”
Turisas – “Stand Up and Fight”
Skyforger – “Oh Fog, Oh Dew”
Primodial – “Heathen Tribes”
Arkona – “Na strazhe novyh let”
Equilibrium – “Unbesiegt”
Finntroll – “Födosagan”
Orphaned Land – “The Path Part 1 – Treading Through Darkness”
Orphaned Land – “The Path Part 2 – The Pilgrimage to Or Shalem”