Heavy metal...with a traditional touch!
July 10, 2014 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Fans of history, mythology, language, and music: allow Metsatöll's Lauri Õunapuu to present his arsenal of traditional Estonian instruments. Then continue below the fold for an introduction to the world of folk metal.

It's nothing new for metal bands to incorporate historical or mythological themes into their music. But in the early 2000s, a new sub-genre began growing in popularity, largely driven by a surge of unconventional Finnish bands who adapted traditional melodies, instruments, and/or lyrical content to heavy metal. Drawing inspiration from a deep well of history, legend, and tradition, folk metal is now represented by a diversity of bands across Europe (and increasingly, the world).

A few highlights of the genre:

Ensiferum (Finland)
"A Finnish Medley: Forging Folk Metal" on Ethnomusicology Review
Interview by Norse mythologist Karl Seigfried
From Afar (Live at Bloodstock Open Air 2010), One More Magic Potion

Turisas (Finland)
"Heavy Metal as Public History: A Review of Tursas, Live at the Gramercy Theater" on The Appendix
Dnieper Rapids (Live at Nummirock 2008), Battle Metal, Rasputin (Boney M cover)

Týr (Faroe Islands)
Interview by Norse mythologist Karl Seigfried
Regin Smidur, Sinklars Visa

Heidevolk (Netherlands)
Interview by Norse mythologist Karl Seigfried
Nehalennia, Als De Dood Weer Naar Ons Lacht, Vulgaris Magistralis (Normal cover)

Korpiklaani (Finland)
Metsamies, Juodaan Viinaa (Live at Wacken Open Air 2009) (Hector cover), Tuoppi Oltta (Live)

Finntroll (Finland)
Under Bergets Rot, Ett Norrskensdåd, Trollhammaren (Live)

Metsatöll (Estonia)
Vaid Vaprust, Kahjakaldad (Live at Tuska Open Air 2012), Muhu õud (Live at Tuska Open Air 2012)

Eluveitie (Switzerland)
Thousandfold, Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom, Inis Mona

Dalriada (Hungary)
A Dudás, Zách Klára, A Nap és Szél Háza (mp3)

Previously: Skyclad (England)

Want more?
Essential folk metal listening list from r/folkmetal
posted by gueneverey (16 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite tune from Dalriada is Tavaszköszöntő.

For Ensiferum it's Token of Time or the epic Lai Lai Hei, which was the first song I heard from them. Things weren't ever quite as good after Iron, but Petri made Blood is the Price of Glory a complete massacre (in the best sense) live. Good times.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2014

Ferrum Aeternum has almost 700 plays in iTunes 'cause I used it as an alarm clock for years. If I didn't get out of bed by the time the pretty flutes and stuff were finishing up, then Iron kicked in.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:55 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it is possible to be more metal than the opening verse of Iron, I really don't know how.
The silence breaks the ground
A shadow is riding the horizon
An arcane man arrives to town
Remoresless and condemned
Tasted the snake's poison
Broken every bone
Felt a thousand gunshot wounds
But there's nothing that whiskey can't cure
posted by Wolfdog at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Loved the instrumental show & tell, as I'm fascinated with the huge variety of musical instruments our species has come up with. I have a bad habit of collecting unusual (and mostly inexpensive) instruments and then not learning to play them very well, but they still give me a lot of pleasure.
Heavy metal leaves me cold, but thanks a lot for that first video! The hiiu kannel was my favorite, because I've never seen anything quite like it (the regular kannel looks an awful lot like the Finnish kantele, but that "hiiu" thing is something else entirely). Also that guy is quite charming.
posted by uosuaq at 5:08 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grampa Guitars?
posted by The Power Nap at 5:10 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Early 2000's? Otyg formed in 1995. I've mostly grown out of this genre, but it was HUGE for me when it first came out. Ultimately, it served as a gateway drug to stronger stuff.

Älvadimmans Omdaning
A somewhat misguided cover of Holy Diver

If you prefer the whole album:
Sagovindars Boning

posted by deadbilly at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2014

Very nice post. One thing I would add is that folk metal is definitely no longer a strictly European/Western thing- there are a number of non-European bands that draw their inspiration from their own musical traditions, with some fascinating musical results. Some particular favorites of mine, which should give something of an idea of the diversity (and international nature) of the genre these days:

Tengger Calvary: Hero, Cavalry Folk (Inner Mongolian- complete with khoomei vocals)

Orphaned Land: Ocean Land, Norra El Norra (Israeli, influenced by Mizrahi folk music)

Rudra: Hymns from the Blazing Chariot (Indian)

Melechesh: Mystics of the Pillar (Assyrian)

Misogi: Susanowo (Japanese)

Shangren: Monkey King (Chinese)
posted by a louis wain cat at 9:32 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fantastic post, thanks gueneverey!
posted by daisyk at 5:47 AM on July 11, 2014

I heard Mago de Oz on a college radio station while on an inter-state drive once. Had to call the radio station back to get the name of the station.

I find this great music for concentration because 1) metal 2) other strands that are recognizable 3) lyrics I don't understand so don't distract me.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:44 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you, a louis wain cat! I felt a bit guilty including only European bands, but as non-Euro bands are only vaguely on my radar, I knew I couldn't do them justice with my haphazard googling.

And yes, of course folk metal began in the '90s, but I was trying to avoid saying the genre "exploded" in the early 2000s, like every other article ever.
posted by gueneverey at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, Metsatöll on the blue! I was a founding member actually, played the drums. I went to school starting from 1st grade with the main dude Markus, we were best friends. But I quit already in 2004 because of going to uni in another city. Still, it was a blast, we had some great gigs.

Shameless self-promotion: here I am playing the drums and the shaman drum. I think the video and the song totally rock.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

gueneverey, I didn't mean my comment to be all "I knew about this way before it was cool." So if it came off as that, I apologize. My primary goal was just to add a few songs to the mix.
posted by deadbilly at 11:22 AM on July 11, 2014

Finntroll! Tyr! great bands, great post.

I saw Turisas, Enfiserum and Equilibrium (which is a band that belongs on your list) live in one evening at Backstage in Munich... but I haven't managed to catch those two yet.

This is the video that I would have picked for Tyr.
posted by illongruci at 11:58 AM on July 11, 2014

Zomg Pyrogenesis! You just made my day!
posted by gueneverey at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I pretty much listened to only one song all damned day on Friday.. Metsatoll's Kuu..
posted by bird internet at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2014

This thread feels incomplete without a reference to Amorphis's Tales From the Thousand Lakes" (1994).
posted by Wolfdog at 5:36 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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