Posts Tagged ‘Folk Metal’

Skyclad wayward.jpg

After I don’t know how many years of not owning this record, I finally got a hold of a copy of the first (?) ever folk metal record from British heroes Skyclad. ‘The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth’ is a genre defining and iconic record, and may have never been bettered by the hundreds of bands it spawned. I picked up the 2017 deluxe release, and after 18 years, does it still give the same chills?

Simply, yes. ‘The Sky Beneath My Feet’ immediately buries itself deep into your memory, with the influences of their lineage from Sabbat and Satan coming through strongly. Ostensibly a British thrash record, what would germinate into folk metal begins to show face in the now famous ‘The Widdershins Jig’, but the galloping heavy metal of ‘Trance Dance (A Dreamtime Walkabout)’ burns with Martin Walkyier’s snarl. Even if it hadn’t birthed folk metal, Skyclad would have at minimum added another classic to the uneven lineage of British thrash. The killer ‘Our Dying Island’ is my favourite, but it is pushed very close by ‘Cradle Will Fall’. ‘The Widdershins Jig’ is the iconic folk metal seed, but as much credit can go to ‘Moongleam and Meadowsweet’ as well for its acoustic folk laden melodies.

On the face of it, the actual ‘folk metal’ credentials of ‘Wayward Sons of Mother Earth’ are mostly limited to the one or two songs, the cover and the legacy it began. The likes of ‘The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea’ and ‘Jonah’s Ark’ definitely embraced the folk more, but you would be a fool to discount what this record means. The source of an embryonic idea, but also one of the finest and quirkiest thrash records to escape from this isle.

Hildr Valkyrie - Revealing the Heathen Sun

Hildr Valkyrie is a one woman folk metal project from Greece, whose second full length ‘Revealing the Heathen Sun’ is out now on Stygian Crypt Productions. Hildr has been helped with the recording by Jan Twothousandarrows from label mates Folkodia with guitars and bass. This is some gothic, epic Viking metal for you to lift your pagan eyes to the great North!

The ghostly ‘The Primordial Sky God’ leads us into the dramatic, keyboard led ‘Over Land, Mountains and Shade’. Swelling gothic overtones coat these odes to the ancient days of time immemorium, and tracks like the soaring ‘We Are Heathens’ bring back memories of early Nightwish. But I like the harshness creeping in tracks like ‘Final Blot’, showing that Hildr Valkyrie isn’t all just folky gothic sweetness. There’s a definite edge lurking within the atmospheric melodies, and there are plenty of grandiose spoken word sections that conjure certain elements of modern Cradle of Filth (see ‘The Rune’s Song’ in particular).

‘My Oath’ is the most unsettling piece, where a commanding vocal seems to preach to the snarling, beastial voices underneath. It feels like a scene from an old horror movie, perhaps where an evil temptress summons demons to do her biddings. It is this almost cinematic experience that really raises ‘Revealing the Heathen Sun’ above the heaving masses of folk metal. Also, frankly, the catchy as fuck ‘An Ode to All-Father Odhinn’ helps too!

‘Revealing the Heathen Sun’ initially strikes you as a run of the mill symphonic/gothic metal record but that is definitely not the case. While many of those elements exist, Hildr weaves unusual melodies, ferocity and plenty of gothic melancholy throughout, creating a record that is engaging and captivating. She has a beautiful voice too!

Folkodia - Battle of the Milvian Bridge

International folk metal band Folkodia features members from 7 different countries, and their seventh full length ‘Battle of the Milvian Bridge’ is another rampant slab of anthemic Viking/folk metal. It is out now through Stygian Crypt Productions.

The opening title track is a massive galloping beast of a track, threading epic melodies throughout the heavy metal thunder. Taking cues from the likes of melodeath giants Amon Amarth and the catchy folkisms of the likes of Ensiferum or Metsatoll, Folkodia have perfected their sword and battle songs and each comes out with masterful aplomb. ‘The Maiden of Lorraine’ is full of epic hooks, while the raging ‘Battle of Salamis’ couples the intense blasting with plaintive violin work. All throughout ‘Battle of the Milvian Bridge’, Folkodia conjure the feel of ancient battles, tales of bravery and savagery drawing you in at each point.

Whether you’re singing along to the super catchy ‘Hussar Angels’, or banging your head at the thrashy gallop of ‘Sigillum Militium Xpisti’, Folkodia present something for everyone. ‘Battle of the Milvian Bridge’ will scratch your folk metal itch perfectly, while not being too predictable or stale. Top stuff!


Canada’s North Hammer are a one man project focusing on bringing us tales of mighty Vikings and northern battles through folk inspired melodic death metal. ‘Stormcaller’ is their debut record, and it is due out in just a few weeks on March 16th. If you like some epic, charging Amon Amarthisms, you’re going to have a field day with ‘Stormcaller’.

Opener ‘Avatar’ is exactly that; massive chugging riffs with killer melodies and throaty roars launch from their longboats, ready to cleanse the heathen lands in blood. North Hammer clearly know exactly which side their bread is buttered on, and make no apologies for the huge riffs that rain blows down upon us mere mortals. The anthemic ‘Magic Mead’ is reminiscient of Ensiferum at their most singalong, and the clattering swords of ‘Tip of the Spear’ makes for a fine battle hymn. The acoustic shades of the drizzly ‘Black Forest Rain’ is washed away by the glorious ‘Spellbinder’, weaving epic leads into a galloping brute of a track.

North Hammer hit all the right notes with ‘Stormcaller’, a strong and swift record full of great tracks and it leaves you invigorating and ready for anything. A record for axe swinging, mead swilling and blood spilling, ‘Stormcaller’ is one of the most fun and fist pumping records you’ll hear this year.

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Pagan metallers Pereplut hail from Russia, where some of the finest European pagan and folk metal around is hailing from these days. Their new record, ‘At the Ancient TRimes’, is a beautifully constructed collection of songs that yearn for simpler times, that ache of a certain traditionalist je ne sais quoi that is both heart pumping and heartrending in equal measure. It is out now through Stygian Crypt.

After the melancholic and folky intro track, we begin to delve into ancient Slavic forests, hunting for spirits and places where the touch of modernity has not reached. Pereplut have more than a little Korpiklaani about them, but without the drunken piss taking. Imagine the windswept majesty of Metsatoll but with a little more forest magic. ‘At the Ancient Times’ isn’t all whimsy, flutes and ‘plastic pagan’ moments though; there is a defiant metal heart beating in here that mixes some almost Bay Area thrash moments (‘Тропою волколака’) and some melodeath crunch.

By the time the pastoral shades of the last track fades out, you’ve experienced a journey through lost cultures and folk magic. Pereplut may never become the most famous of this genre, but to miss out on an album of this quality would be a crime. Pereplut deserve your attention, so go support them!

Downcast Twilight - Under the Wings of the Aquila

British metallers Downcast Twilight draw their cover aesthetic from classic black metal yet ply a death/folk blend with a distinct Roman theme on ‘Under the Wings of the Aquila’, their 2016 full length on Stygian Crypt Productions. Their debut record takes us back to the greatest civilisation of all, and is a potent mix of folk instrumentation and death metal heaviness.

An almost infectious melodicism pervades each song on ‘…the Aquila’, inserting a healthy dose of catchiness into tracks like the vibrant ‘Soldier of Pompeii’ or the gloomy ‘The Tyrant and the Sage’. A chunky selection of riffs bring to mind some early Lamb of God, as does the vocals in parts, but the folky elements of ‘The Witches of Anglesey’ are more subtle and hidden beneath layers of crunchy, galloping riffs. Ghostly flute lingers behind the superlative ”The Ides of March’, which has more than a dash of Amon Amarth about it. In fact, the pagan fury of the Swedish giants looms large over Downcast Twilight throughout their debut.

‘Death in Alexandria’ might be my favourite track here, or maybe the brutal kick of ‘The Ironclad Legion’, a little bit harsher than some of the others and that really works for me. ‘Under the Wings of the Aquila’ is a record that shows much promise, and Downcast Twilight have got something a little unique and special about them. Symphonic but not overly so, blending folk and death metals together gently into a solid start that builds with each listen. Awesome.

Epic blackened folk metal is what to expect from the glorious new record from Canadian band Thrawsunblat, following on from their previous piece of dark art, ‘Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings’. It is being released for the first time on vinyl by Broken Limbs Records, and it’s sure to give new life to the soaring savagery hidden beneath.

‘Fires That Light the Earth’ is everything you could want in a long, powerful blackened folk metal song; replete with clean vocals and infectious melodies. Acoustic sections are woven into songs, rather than added as mere separate interludes; this really helps to make them integral to the album, rather than throwaway pieces. There’s clearly a raging black metal heart beating at the centre of Thrawsunblat, but rarely has that been so vibrantly paired with such uplifting and powerful music as it is in ‘She Who Made the Stars’.

Fury reigns in the blasting strength of ‘Dead of Winter’, but again it isn’t uncommon for Thrawsunblat to weave disparate paths into a single, glorious whole. Blastbeats flood the land, while folk melodies swoop in on icy winds of black metal. It’s incredibly evocative, and probably is the best example of true atmospheric black metal this side of the likes of Chiral or Panopticon. Closer ‘In Mist We Walk’ is chilling in its touch on your emotions, pulling strings expertly to achieve its blackened goal.

Thrawsunblat have thrust a last minute challenger to my albums of the year list. Not that I put one of those together anymore, but it has definitely moved well up into my most listened. A spine tingling, emotional rollercoaster that’ll suck you in and leave you breathless.

Korpiklaani - Noita

Korpiklaani are one of those bands who you can always rely on to write a good, FUN metal album usually based around skipping around forests blazing drunk. Or so the stereotype goes. They are what people who hate ‘folk metal’ point at as an example of what is wrong with the genre, but for me Korpiklaani have always been a riot. Sure, their record output has suffered somewhat in parts due to their prolific nature, but their last three records have been hits for me and I’m a big fan. So it is with anticipation I welcome ‘Noita’ onto my stereo.

‘Noita’ is, on first impressions, a little more sombre and a bit more sober for want of a better term. The album art, for a start, is a bit more moody and darker than previous records, and while there are still plenty of upbeat, happy singalongs, the overall feeling is one of introspection in parts. Opener ‘Viinamäen Mies’ is traditional Korpiklaani fare, with a bouncy rhythm and Jonne’s rasping, hoiky vocals. All the band’s trademarks are there, the accordion, the Finnish lyrics, the fiddles. The galloping ‘Pilli On Pajusta Tehty’ is next, followed by the grander and more melancholic ‘Lempo’. ‘Lempo’ is a fine example of how Korpiklaani mix up their sound, rather than sticking straight to their ‘formulaic’ folk metal anthems and it’s a highlight of the record for me.

‘Sahti’ will be an instant live favourite, with its pogo inducing main melody and shoutalong moments. It’s the closest you’ll come to a ‘single’ track here, although the barreling ‘Luontoni’ pushes it with its heavy metal heart beating hard. ‘Minä Näin Vedessä Neidon’ is a folk ballad to be proud of, led by mournful violin and a softening of Jonne’s rasp. The bonkers ‘Jouni Jouni’ shakes it up again, being a Finnish language cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ ‘Mony Mony’. Which I don’t know at all, but it’s a total party tune.

I like to think of a Korpiklaani album as like a night round a campfire drinking. The faster party tunes like ‘Sahti’ or ‘Viinamaen Mies’ are for earlier on, whereas the more moody ‘Ämmänhauta’ is for later on, when the fire dies to embers and everyone has hit that sleepy drunk stage. As for ‘Noita’, it stands up against the best work Korpiklaani has done in the past and surpasses it, with a more mature songwriting style while not losing that FUN that made us all fall in love the first time.


Drawing inspiration from dark times in their nation’s past, Belarusian pagan black metallers Massenhinrichtung (German for ‘mass execution’) have released ‘Zakon Zbroi’ on Darker than Black Records. It is their second full length, coming a full seven years after their debut ‘Go Beyond Gist’.

After the thrumming, swelling ambience of first track ‘The Dawn Upon the Bug River’, ‘Zakon Zbroi’ kicks into high gear with the scathing ‘The Order of Force’, which is laced with uber catchy melodies within the razor sharp riffing. Massenhinrichtung have this wonderful authenticity about their music. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard another Belarusian band before now, but it feels very much like tradition instruments and themes are part and parcel of the record. The record is very atmospheric, and reminds me a lot of Drudkh’s more esoteric moments.

‘The Ghost of Devastated Motherland’ is a great example of how to combine folk and pagan melodies of influence without taking away the savagery of the metal. It has some pagan elements but the black metal core is always evident. The additional instrumentation is done elegantly and subtly. ‘The Blizzard’ positively gallops along, with a suitably relentless blastbeat storm bearing down on us, while the ghostly intro to ‘The Paths to Stellar Swamps’ bleeds into a soaringly melodic black metal song with dashes of clean vocals and little Celtic nuances. It’s probably the most accomplished piece here musically, with a ripping solo to boot. ‘The Winter of Belarusian Lands’ is also suitably Drudkh-esque, with mournful violin meshing into the song nicely.

Massenhinrichtung are an exciting band. Combining pagan/folk influences and black metal without hitting every cliche in the book is difficult, but ‘Zakon Zbroi’ ticks all the boxes without seeming passe. The melodic riffs are addictive, while the harder passages provide a welcome headbanging session. ‘Zakon Zbroi’ is likely to be up there as one of my favourite black metal releases of 2015 at the end of the year.


Latvian pagan folk metal heroes Skyforger return with their newest record, ‘Senprusija’, meaning ‘Old Prussia’, and is almost an hour of dark pagan metal dedicated to the tales of the Baltic peoples of old Prussia. It’s been five years since their last, ‘Kurbads’, and its been worth the wait. Side note, and I know its totally unintentional but the cover to ‘Senprusija’ totally reminds me of the cover of Fozzy’s ‘All That Remains’. I know that ‘Senprusija’s artwork is designed to show how there is nothing but bones left of Old Prussia, its just the first thing that jumped into my head.

After a melancholic, folky intro, the title track explodes into life with an icy cold, almost black metal feel. There’s plenty of galloping NWOBHM style leads, and even some pan pipes, creating a fist pumping pagan anthem. ‘Sudavu jatnieki’ is another rampaging folk metal anthem, with some darker heavier moments. ‘Tagad vai nekad’ is one of the best headbangers you’ll hear this year. Skyforger have their pagan and folk roots, blended with some cold black metal in parts, but at the core of their music is an innate sense of heavy metal.

Skyforger have crafted a fine record here, melding together traditional folk elements (see the ethnic chanting on the chugging doom laden ‘Ramava’) with some some great song writing and some great riffs. Holding high the banner of their country’s heritage, Skyforger bring the melody, the heaviness and the passion to ‘Senprusija’. Someone will have to go pretty far to beat this as one of the highlights of any metal genre this year, but particularly folk metal. Cīnīties par godu!!