Ah yes, Viking/Folk Metal, one of my all-time favorites! For those uninitiated, one may ask, what in the F*&K is "Viking Metal?" Good question, my little 8 cent grasshopper... Simply, it is Metal music about Vikings! (doh!) Viking Metal transcends Metal genres, as long as it has something to do with Odin, long ships, the old Gods, burning & pillaging, drinking mead, freezing climates, mountains and fjords, the Gods who are old, pillaging & burning, mead, Odin, even longer ships, even older Gods, the freezing ass cold, Odin, and a lot more mead! For example, Swedish Viking band Amon Amarth play Melodic Death Metal, while the great Enslaved from Norway, who were one of the progenitors of the Viking genre, play extreme Avant-Garde Black Metal. Tyr from the Faroe Islands actually play a more Power Metal based Folk Metal, but are considered Viking Metal because of their Viking themes. Got it?
One thing that just about all Viking Metal bands have is a folkish element to their music (however, this is not an absolute requirement). So what the F*&K is Folk Metal? It is Metal music that incorporates traditional European folk elements and instruments, such as fiddles, flutes, lutes, whistles, accordions, harps, that weird sounding instrument that goes "boing, boing, boing" (can't remember, arg!), beautiful folkish melodies, and occasionally, beautiful female vocals sung by beautiful females, heavy, heavy guitars, brutish GRIM blackish growls, and soaring clean vocals, with some songs very fast and aggressive (great skanking music, BTW), and gorgeous ballads evoking a time long past when Gods were really Gods, and not some Televangelized Abomination.
Viking Folk Metal was one of the great evolutions of traditional EPIC Heavy Metal, born in the 1980's. Yes, there were songs about Vikings back in the Days of Yore (the 80's) by such bands as Iron Maiden, Manowar, Manilla Road, Faithful Breath, Blitzkrieg, etc. However, it took the GREAT Quorthon from Bathory to really get the movement started with their landmark release "Hammerheart" in 1990, which was all about Vikings, Vikings, Vikings (and not the Minnesota kind). Viking themes were quickly picked up Enslaved, who were one of the revolutionary Norwegian Black Metal bands in the early to mid-1990's. All of this started a musical movement, a most righteous one, as Viking themes fit this very intense and gnarly Metal most excellently. The incubation and birth of Folk Metal also came to pass in roughly the same time frame, and all of it cross pollinated together by a a handful of bands that became the quintessential "mast" of the Viking Folk long ship, say yeah!
So here is my latest mix CD to share with you, the very aptly titled "Odin's Frozen Basketball Court." Here in Indiana, it ain't exactly Scandinavia, so I had to find some reference point to bring my environment into the fjord. Basketball is the main sport around here, although it is far from my favorite. I set this basketball goal up in my driveway so Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, and all could shoot some hoops when they come to visit! This disc is a weird bastard son, if ever there was one. I rarely, rarely go back and re-do my disc months after they were made. However, I made the original OFBC back in November 2007, while I also made another Viking Folk Metal disc called "Beard Of Storm" in March of the same year. To be honest, neither disc really played that well, and I was unhappy with both. So... I decided to crush them together into a better version of OFBC, which I am proud to share with you now.
Here is the track listing, with the band name linked to a web page where you can learn more about 'em, and possibly hear some more songs. The download links are after the track list.
1. Manegarm - Dodens Strand 5:04 - "Vredens Tid" <2005> (Sweden)
2. Solefald - Necrodyssey 3:47 - "Black For Death" <2006> (Norway)
3. Myrkgrav - De To Spellemenn 2:49 - "Trollskau, Skromt Og Kolabrenning" <2006> (Norway)
4. Heidevolk - Het Gelders Volkslied 3:42 - "De Strijdlust Is Geboren" <2005> Netherlands
5. Fjoergyn - Der Tag Der Wolfe 7:40 - "Ernte Im Herbst" <2005> (Germany)
6. Vintersorg - Dopt I En Jokelsjo 5:42 - "Solens Roetter" <2007> (Sweden)
7. Manegarm - Vaggvisa 3:34 - "Urmines Havd: The Forest Sessions" <2006> (Sweden)
8. Menhir - Das Hildebrandslied 8:58 - "Hildebrandslied" <2007> (Germany)
9. Wintersun - Beautiful Death 8:17 - "Wintersun" <2004> (Finland)
10. Moonsorrow - Jaasta Syntynyt / Varjojen Virta 30:10 - "V: Havitetty" <2007> (Finland)
Download Part One
Download Part Two
Things get off to a rippin' start with Manegarm, arguably the best Viking Folk band in the biz. This uptempo scorcher tipples the mead cart with searing fiddle, crunchy ass guitars, growly growls, soaring clean vox, and the inimitable drunken Viking choirs! Solefald, the resident futuristic Avant-Garde wunderkind spins backwards in time to an Icelandic saga, complete with a "Necroddyssey." When Lars "I play a Hammond B-3" Nedland sings, and Cornelius croaks, you know you got the good stuff goin' down. Myrkgrav is a one-man-band miracle, soaking up as much Viking Folk as humanly allowed in their succinct 2:49 Folk Metal Fest. Heidevolk are marvelously righteous, flute intro a sparkin', simple guitar melody quite straightforward, baritone harmonies swinging the alehorns side-to-side, and even some twin harmonic guitars (a rarity in Viking Folk)!
Fjoergyn's track begins with a famous symphonic melody borrowed from somewhere, but I can't place this piece of classical jazz, before a crunchy guitar interrupts and vocal harmonies are backed by some growled and whispered secrets. Very good symphonic Viking Folk sh*t this is! It is followed by the legend himself, Mr. V and Vintersorg, one of the founding fathers of the Folk Metal genre, even though they have Progressed far along the Avant-Garde path. On their recent "Solens Roetter" album, they step backwards and forwards at the same time to revisit some of their folkish roots. This song is so catchy it should be on the Top Viking 40, hosted by Casey "Thorstein" Kasem! I love the acoustic guitar intro!
All of a sudden things get very quiet, pretty, and somber with Manegarm's return, and the incredible "Vaggvisa," an all acoustic piece featuring the evocative vocals of guest Umer Mossige-Norheim (of Tva Fisk Och En Flask fame, and pictured above). She possesses one of the most incredible female folk voices in the history of this world (and most likely the next). She has worked with Manegarm on a number of their albums. On the all acoustic mini-CD "Urmines Havd: The Forest Sessions," she takes quite a few lead vox spots. Due props must be also be given to their main man vocalist Erik Grawsio, who's clean vocals keep getting better and better, making him one of the great male singers around. Then Menhir appear from Germany, and again we are treated with fantastic clean vocals, this time courtesy of Heiko Gerull, who's soaring baritone sends shivers up and down this spine. "Das Hildebrandslied" conjures up my Germanic Heathen heritage, and I smile! Wintersun are one of the darlings of the Viking Folk genre, and you can hear why in their "Beautiful Death."
All of this leads up to Moonsorrow's incredibly EPIC 30 minute "Jaasta Syntynyt / Varjojen Virta." Nobody does EPIC Viking Folk Metal like Moonsorrow. Their approach is so broad, so vast, so incredibly rich, and so incredibly cinematic, you would almost swear Cecil B. DeMille was in the band! The 30 minutes roll by like waves pounding the shore, shifting and changing, subtle in many places, very forcible in others. How Ville Seponpoika Sorvali can capture over 1000 years of Nordic wrath and pain in his intensely emotional bloodcurdling shrieks is beyond me. He must be possessed, and that is a good thing!
I post this disc for two reasons: 1) to share the listening experience 2) to expose you to these bands, and their music, which is far, far, far from the mainstream. SUPPORT THE BANDS! BUY THEIR MUSIC! Follow the links to their web sites! They deserve your attention! Here are a couple of links to great online Metal stores where you can buy their music!
The End Records
Give Me 8 Cents,
P.S. I apologize and feel incredibly sad and stupid that I did not include all of the umlauts in the song titles, band and musician names. That is bad, I will probably have a lousy seat at Odin's table in his Great Hall in the Sky!
Illustration by my son, Anvilhead Rudosson!