Subgenre of the Week: Viking Metal

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.

ensiferum
Finland’s Ensiferum. The band’s name is Latin for “sword bearer”

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 Tyr bring 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:

Corey’s Tracks:

  • Enslaved – “Roots of the Mountain”
  • Moonsorrow – “Kylän päässä”
  • Tyr – “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”
  • Korpiklaani – “Vodka”
  • Skálmöld – “Gleipnir”

Dan’s Tracks:

  • 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!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.