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Folk Metal

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"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."
Turisas, Prologue of Rex Regi Rebellis

Primary Stylistic Influences:

Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Folk metal is a combination of folk music and Heavy Metal. It's easily one of the most diverse subgenres of metal, due to the wide variety of both metal styles and Folk Music influences different folk metal bands incorporate. On the Metal side, the primary influence has been Death Metal and Black Metal, particularly for bands from Northern Europe (Scandinavia and Germany especially); 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 / Gothic Metal are also increasingly common, and a few bands even play Folk Punk / Metal crossover. Folk influences are typically derived from music traditions local to the bands' places of origin or ethnic heritage, but some bands eschew this and incorporate folk music from countries they have no connection to, and many also incorporate a mashup of multiple influences, with Irish and Celtic revival being among the most common in both of these categories. Use of keyboards to replicate the sound of traditional instruments, as well as more atmospheric musical effects, is common; but quite a few bands also employ actual traditional instruments and even preform with them live.

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 '90s, but became popular in Europe during the 2000's. 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.

Compare Bardcore, a genre of music that uses classic instruments to create medieval or antiquity-themed versions of contemporary songs, some of which are metal tunes.

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 Genre Mashup
  • Alestorm - A combination of Pirate themed folk metal and largely European styled Power Metal.
  • Alien Weaponry - New Zealand-based Thrash Metal/Groove Metal band with elements of traditional Maori music, as well as lyrics partly written in native Maori.
  • Al Namrood - Saudi Arabian Oriental folk/black metal.
  • Amorphis - Mixes Folk Metal with elements of death metal (less so now) and prog.
  • Arandu Arakuaa - A combination of melodic death metal and Brazilian indigenous music, with lyrics in the Tupi language.
  • Arkona - Russian Folk/Pagan band exploiting Slavic themes (the name refers to last bastion of Slavic paganism). Their vocalist is also one of the few female metal singers to cover both the "soprano" and "gravel" parts of Soprano and Gravel.
  • Bathory - Trope Maker for Viking Metal starting with the two epics on Blood Fire Death (1988), Blood on Ice (mostly recorded in 1989, but not released until 1996), and Hammerheart (1990)
  • Battlelore - Gothic/Power/Folk Metal
  • Bloodywood – Indian (Punjabi, specifically) folk metal mixed with Rap Metal, of all things.
  • Brezno - Slovenian folk metal
  • Burzum - neo-medieval
  • Cellar Darling - incorporates the hurdy-gurdy and transverse flute
  • Cemican - Mexican Progressive/Power/Thrash/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
  • D - Medieval music and folk dance
  • D Artagnan — medieval metal
  • Dalriada - Hungarian Folk Metal; notable for covering several of János Arany's ballads in 10+ minute epics.
  • Drudkh - Ukrainian Folk/Black Metal
  • Eluveitie - Gaulish for 'The Swiss'; Celtic/Melodic Death Metal, with some of the lyrics in Gaulish.
  • Elvenking - Power/Folk metal
  • Ensiferum - Death/Power/Folk Metal
  • Enslaved - They tend more towards Black Metal and Progressive Metal than folk metal, but as the primary Trope Codifier for Viking metal, they deserve a listing here. Some of their songs, such as "Yggdrasil", are unmistakable examples of folk metal.
  • Equilibrium - Symphonic folk metal
  • Fair to Midland - A mixture of folk, country, and metal.
  • Falconer - Power/Folk metal
  • Falkenbach - mixed with Viking metal and (on some releases) Black 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.
  • Finsterforst - Mixed with Progressive Metal and a bit of Black Metal. They've earned quite a lot of comparisons to Moonsorrow due to the strong similarities, though they've developed a bit more of a distinctive sound on their more recent albums. It helps that they have a full-time accordion player.
  • Hammers of Misfortune -
  • Heilung: The band describe their sound as "amplified history," and the music is mostly voices, drums and subtle electronic effects with no guitars. Amazon still class them as Heavy Metal, possibly because the band sing in Old Norse and write their album track lists in runes. After all, you don't get much more metal than Vikings.
  • Hollenthon - Symphonic death metal mixed folk metal
  • Holy Blood - Christian Black/Folk Metal
  • The Hu - Mongolian folk/blues metal (they describe their genre as "hunnu rock"). Notable for their use of the morin khuur and mixing Harsh Vocals with throat singing.
  • 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.
  • Jambinai - Korean post-metal with heavy folk influence. Use traditional Korean instruments such as the haegeum and geomungo for the bulk of their sound.
  • Kontrust - Austrian/Polish Folk
  • 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.
  • Mägo de Oz: They started as Spanish Folk/Celtic Metal, although they have marched throughout almost every metal style.
  • Mael Mórdha - Celtic/Doom Metal
  • Melechesh - Assyrian-Armeniannote  Oriental/Black metal
  • Metsatöll - Estonian folk metal, most notable for using the torupill (Estonian bagpipes).
  • Mono Inc - A rather unusual example; they started out as Goth Rock, gradually incorporating more metal and folk elements and medieval theming. It's difficult to say exactly when the balance tipped into Folk Metal, but Welcome to Hell is a good candidate.
  • 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.
  • Myrath - Tunisian Progressive/Oriental Metal, crossing over with Power Metal
  • Nawather - Tunisian progressive/Oriental metal
  • Negură Bunget - Black/folk/progressive/folk-metal from Romania with a strong Transylvanian theme.
  • Oathean
  • 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
  • Rotting Christ - Started out as straight black metal, though they started infusing gothic metal into their sound, along with Greek folk and neofolk.
  • Rudra - Indo-Singaporean blackened death/folk metal
  • Salem - Oriental Metal
  • Saltatio Mortis - Medieval metal
  • Saurom - Spanish Folk/Celtic metal
  • Schandmaul - Medieval metal
  • Skagos - Canadian folk/black/post-metal
  • Skyclad - Folk Metal
  • Skyforger - Latvian folk metal
  • Sói Đen - Vietnamese folk metal
  • SloughFeg - Traditional Heavy Metal with Celtic influences.
  • Subway to Sally - Medieval metal
  • Suidakra - Celtic/Melodic Death Metal (some of their early stuff was Black Metal)
  • Tengger Cavalry - Mongolian folk metal
  • Trivax - Iraniannote  folk/blackened death metal
  • Turisas - Viking themed Folk Metal
  • Týr - Folk Metal with progressive elements from the Faroe Islands.
  • Ulver - Their first album, which serves as a possible Trope Codifier for folk/black metal fusions. Afterwards, they delved into Genre Roulette; every single album by this band is a New Sound Album.
  • Unbowed - Canadian brutal folk metal band with heavy black metal influences.
  • Wagakki Band - traditional Japanese music mixed with metal. Name literally translates to "traditional instrument band".
  • Wayfarer - US folk/black with prominent gothic country elements
  • Waylander- Celtic metal.
  • Wilderun - US progressive metal with extremely prominent prog folk elements
  • Wintersun - Finnish folk metal
  • Wuthering Heights - Celtic elements incorporated with a few other genres
  • Yaotl Mictlan — Mayan (!) folk/black metal

The following tropes can be found in folk metal:

  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Very frequently, to the point where it's almost easier to count the acts that don't employ this. Nigh-omnipresent in Celtic metal in particular (aside from Primordial, who rather notably eschew them altogether).
  • Good Old Ways: Quite many bands express longing for the old times, include pagan themes in their songs, or are neo-Pagan themselves.
  • Lighter and Softer: Relatively speaking, as it's still pretty hard, but the sub-subgenre of medieval metal is this to Folk Metal as a whole. Drawing more influence from Traditional Heavy Metal, hard rock, and folk punk than Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal tends to mellow it out a bit, and it's more inclined to do acoustic-only Folk Rock songs.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: For some reason (possibly through Finntroll), trolls became a sort of a mascot for certain currents within the genre.
  • 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.
    • Irish folk-rockers Horslips were early pioneers of this genre: rock guitars and keyboards alongside traditional instruments, playing modern takes on old songs.


Video Example(s):


Bloodywood - "Gaddaar"

"Gaddaar" by New Delhi folk rap metal trio Bloodywood harshly criticizes politicians who stoke ethnic and religious divisions to energize and radicalize their voting bases and enrich themselves. The song was written in a mixture of Hindi and English, plus a bit of Urdu.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ProtestSong

Media sources: