Folk metal – that curious mix of heavy metal and global folk music – has taken the world by storm to such a degree that whole music festivals are dedicated to it. Originating in Scandinavia, most of the best-known folk metal bands are from that area of the world, combining traditional music and even drinking songs with the driving rhythms of metal and rock. Here are five folk metal bands you should know.
Founded in Finland by Jari Mäenpää in 2003, Wintersun combines harsh and melodic male vocals with driven folk metal sound, often exploring themes relating to Finnish mythology, culture, and the human perspective on the universe. Utilizing not only the classic instruments of heavy metal such as guitar, operatic vocals, and drums, Wintersun also uses traditional and electronic elements in its work, creating a harmonious balance of grit and beauty.
Easily one of the most fun-sounding bands in the folk metal scene, Korpiklaani also hails from Finland and combines heavy metal style with lyrics in both English and Finnish about drinking, partying, and other such drolleries. Korpiklaani – whose name means “Forest Clan - also uses accordion in its music, making one feel as though they're listening to heavy metal on a pirate ship sailing the waters of the Baltic.
Hailing from Canada, Blackguard is a melodic death and folk metal band that has made waves as a strong opener for other metal acts like Epica, Kamelot, and Finntroll. With a flawless and energetic fusion of power, death, melodic, and folk metal, Blackguard has become one of the most respected names in folk metal.
Gåtehails from Norway, and represents one of the truest examples of folk metal to this day. The band combines traditional songs and stories of Norway and the surrounding Scandinavian region with heavy metal and electronic elements, enriched by the angelic voice of its singer, Gunnhild Sundli. Its name translates to “riddle,” and after a lengthy hiatus, the act has returned to touring and production.
Founded in Israel, Orphaned Land combines the eastern influences of Arabic and Asian music with the western influences of metal and rock to promote messages of peace, unity, and hope. In particular, Orphaned Land focuses on the dichotomy of the universe, the nature of religion (especially the Abrahamic faiths), and frequently utilizes stories of the Abrahamic traditions and traditional songs of the Middle East. The band has toured with some of the biggest names in metal, and has played some of the largest metal festivals, including Wacken Open Air and Gods of Metal.
With varying styles and regional influences, each of these folk metal bands offers a different message and style – all worth the listen.