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”
A very metal Monday to everyone! As you may have gathered from its absence during this week’s Episode 4, Subgenre of the Week is now going to be a web-only series on Horns Up. Why’s that? We want to keep the podcast itself focused more on the metal conversation and banter between Corey and I and less on explanatory content. Hence, SotW’s move, in full, to the blog.
You’ll still get a history and Spotify playlist for each genre we cover–it’ll just be a treat for your eyeballs instead of your ears. With that said, let’s get into this week’s installment: Viking Metal.
So what is viking metal? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Viking metal is a subgenre of black metal and folk metal characterized by its noisy sound, slow pace, use of keyboards, dark and violent imagery, and, primarily, lyrical themes of Norse mythology, Norse paganism and the Viking Age. It developed in the 1980s through the mid-1990s as a rejection of Satanism and the occult, instead embracing the Vikings and paganism as the leaders of opposition to Christianity. Influenced by Nordic folk music, it is considered a fusion genre of folk metal and black metal, yet distinct from both.
Taken solely from a conceptual standpoint, you’d think viking metal would be similar to power metal. Which is to say, “you’d think 90 to 95 percent of it is pure cheese.” But what I’ve always liked about viking metal–and what sets it apart from power metal, for me–is how few stylistic limitations there are on the genre musically.
Within the same subgenre, you can have classic bands like Bathory or Windir showcasing more of a black metal influence, while Ensiferum or Tyrbring in more of an over-the-top, theatrical sound. Hell, Amon Amarth set their heavily Norse-inspired lyrics (“Valhall Awaits Me”?!?!?!) over what’s pretty much a standard, melodic death metal palette. And Enslaved? They’ve done more or less all of the above AND THEN SOME. There’s just a level of sonic diversity that few other subgenres can match. And in constructing this week’s Spotify playlist, we tried to cover as much of that diversity as we could:
Enslaved – “Roots of the Mountain”
Moonsorrow – “Kylän päässä”
Tyr – “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”
Korpiklaani – “Vodka”
Skálmöld – “Gleipnir”
Ensiferum – “Blood is the Price of Glory”
Amon Amarth – “The Pursuit of Vikings”
Bathory – “Shores in Flames”
Thyrfing – “From Wilderness Came Death”
Windir – “Arntor, A Warrior” (original Norwegian title = “Arntor, ein Windir”
Check it out below for your introduction to viking metal!