"As you sit in your quiet home, surrounded by peace, comfort and civilization, do you, listener, remember those memories, grand and tearful, which still, after hundreds of years, remain now radiant with the brightness of sunlight, and now darkening, like indelible bloodstains? Can your thoughts, torpid with repose, transport themselves back to the horrors and joys of the past? Follow me. I will lead you down into the well. My hand is weak and my sketch humble, but your heart will guide you better than I. Upon that I rely, and begin."
Folk metal is a combination of various folk music genres and various metal genres.
—Turisas, Prologue of Rex Regi Rebellis
One of the most diverse Metal categories, due to the diversity of both metal styles and Folk Music
influences. On the Metal side, the primary influence appears to be Death Metal
and Black Metal
, particularly for bands from Northern Europe (Scandinavia, Germany, and the UK); with the latter being most common in conjunction with strong pagan and/or anti-Christian themes. Substantial influences from Power Metal
, Progressive Metal
, and Doom
are also increasingly common; as is Punk/Metal
crossover. Folk influences are typically derived from music traditions local to the bands' places of origin or ethnic heritage; but a few incorporate multiple influences, with Irish and Celtic revival being among the most common. Use of keyboards to replicate the sound of traditional instruments, as well as more atmospheric musical effects, is common; but a few bands rely primarily or entirely on traditional instruments.
The first successful folk metal band was Skyclad
. Though Skyclad's first album was released in 1990, the genre didn't start to pick up steam until 1994, when such bands as Cruachan
and Orphaned Land
were founded. It remained relatively obscure in The Nineties
, but became popular in Europe during the 2000s
. Finnish bands Korpiklaani
and Finntroll are often credited with being the primary influence in the recent explosion of Folk Metal
's popularity outside of Europe; and Finland has produced arguably the largest percentage of offerings in the genre. Since its founding, the sub-genres Celtic metal
, Oriental metal
and medieval metal
have branched off.
The more standout bands of Folk Metal are:
- Ade - Italian brutal death metal mixed with Roman martial music.
- Aeternam - Canadian melodic death with heavy Oriental influences.
- Agalloch - Includes Folk Metal but is a slight case of Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
- Alestorm - A combination of Pirate themed folk metal and American styled Power Metal.
- Amorphis - Mixes Folk Metal with elements of death metal (less so now) and prog.
- Arkona - Russian Folk/Pagan band exploiting Slavic themes (the name refers to last bastion of Slavic paganism). Their vocalist subverts Soprano and Gravel by being a growling woman.
- Battlelore - Gothic/Power/Folk Metal
- Brezno - Slovenian folk metal
- Chthonic (Chinese name: 閃靈 - Shǎnlíng, or "Elusive Spirit") - Taiwanese black metal featuring the erhu, a classical Chinese stringed instrument.
- Cruachan - Celtic Metal
- Dalriada - Hungarian Folk Metal; notable for covering several of János Arany's ballads in 10+ minute epics.
- Eluveitie - Celtic/Melodic Death Metal
- Elvenking - Power/Folk metal
- Ensiferum - Death/Power/Folk Metal
- Equilibrium - Symphonic folk metal
- Fair To Midland - A mixture of folk, country, and metal
- Finntroll - Black/Folk Metal with a heavy dose of humppa (a sort of Finnish polka) and strictly troll-themed lyrics. One of the odder examples of... anything.
- Holy Blood - Christian Black/Folk Metal
- In Extremo - Medieval Metal. They were the ones who evolved the genre from the Medieval Folk Rock Subway to Sally and Ougenweide played to actual Metal.
- Korpiklaani - More Folk than Metal, often sings about booze. Use both modern and traditional instruments. According to lead singer Jonne Järvelä, could be described as 'old people's music with heavy metal guitars' in Finland.
- The Lord Weird Slough Feg (also known simply as "Slough Feg") - More of a traditional metal band, but they do have some folkish elements.
- Mago de Öz: Spanish band.
- Mael Mórdha - Celtic/Doom Metal
- Melechesh - Assyrian-Armeniannote Oriental/Black metal
- Metsatöll - Estonian folk metal, most notable for using the torupill (Estonian bagpipes).
- Moonsorrow - Melodic black/folk metal, with substantial Progressive Metal influence from Verisäkeet on (three of their songs approach 30 minutes in length, one of them being seconds over that)
- Moonspell - Their early material, as they later took a more gothic-oriented direction.
- Orphaned Land - Israeli Progressive/Oriental Metal (also death and doom metal influence)
- Pagan Reign - Russian folk metal
- Panopticon - US black metal crossed with bluegrass.
- Primordial - Irish blackened doom/folk metal
- RottingChrist - Started out as straight black metal, though they started infusing gothic metal into their sound, along with Greek folk and neofolk.
- Salem - Oriental Metal
- SaltatioMortis - Medieval metal
- Schandmaul - Medieval metal
- Skyclad - Folk Metal
- Skyforger - Latvian folk metal
- Subway to Sally - Medieval metal
- Suidakra - Celtic/Melodic Death Metal (some of their early stuff was Black Metal)
- Turisas - Viking themed Folk Metal
- Týr - Folk Metal with progressive elements.
- Unbowed - Canadian brutal folk metal band with heavy black metal influences.
- Waylander- Celtic metal.
The following tropes can be found in folk metal:
- Good Old Ways: Quite many bands express longing for the old times, include pagan themes in their songs, or are neo-Pagan themselves.
- Heavy Mithril: Displayed by a fair number of bands within the genre.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The whole premise of "metal plus folk" is this. Within the genre itself, Finntroll is the standout example.
- Our Trolls Are Different: For some reason (possibly through Finntroll), trolls became a sort of a mascot for certain currents within the genre.
- Trope Codifier: Korpiklaani.
- Trope Maker: Skyclad. Of the three offshoots of folk metal: Cruachan is the Trope Maker for Celtic Metal, Orphaned Land is the Trope Maker for Oriental Metal, and In Extremo is the Trope Maker for Medieval Metal.
- Ur Example:
- The latter portion of the Led Zeppelin song "Gallows Pole", as well as other Zeppelin songs like "Over the Hills and Far Away" and (for that matter) "Stairway to Heaven".
- Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey In The Jar".
- Irish folk-rockers The Horslips were early pioneers of this genre: rock guitars and keyboards alongside traditional instruments, playing modern takes on old songs.