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LefterisK
Metal newbie

Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:43 pm
Posts: 327
Location: Greece
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:32 pm 
 

Lately, I have been revisiting (with much enjoyment) the first two Borknagar albums. While I was browsing through the Archives my eye fell on the Viking/Folk/Black metal tag, and as I kept listening I tried to distinguish the Viking parts, the folk parts, etc. It is something I often do with many of the bands I listen to just to dig deeper into the music and get a better understanding of the influences. Then I though of Pagan Black Metal, another subgenre deeply rooted in folk music, and things got perplexed. The definition of the genres, according to rateyourmusic.com, is the following:

Quote:
Viking metal is a subgenre of metal music with roots in Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart albums by Bathory. Those releases created a clean transition from earlier Black Metal music to embody what is now known as Viking metal. Some of the most common features of Viking metal are powerful, clean vocals and "epic" choirs, galloping riffs and drumming, rich anthemic keyboards, the use of Nordic Folk Music instruments such as fiddles, flutes, and blowing horns; as well as a cold, sad atmosphere. Additionally, bands often incorporate black metal shrieks and blast-beats. Also, as the name suggests, the lyrical content of the music is often focused on Norse mythology and the Viking Age.

Pagan Black Metal is a subgenre of Black Metal that includes certain folk elements in its sound. It usually features replicated and sometimes real folk instruments, with frequent addition of acoustic guitars. The guitars are generally more melodic and played in a less abrasive way than those in typical Black Metal. The drums are mostly mid or fast paced, with blast-beats not being uncommon. The vocals utilized are usually a combination of harsh, Black Metal shrieks with clean and epic vocals. Raw production is very common, many times made intentionally to recreate a cold and primitive atmosphere. The subject matter usually concerns paganism, nature, mysticism and other similar and related topics. The genre is mostly underground with important regional and national acts in the Nordic, Slavic, and Central European countries. There are also important acts in Spain and France.

Folk metal is a subgenre of Metal music that developed primarily in Europe throughout the early 1990s. As the name suggests, the music itself is a fusion of metal with Traditional Folk Music, usually with heavy usage of folk instruments such as the flute, violin, accordion, and various others. However, while retaining folk melodies in their music, some bands rely more on standard metal instrumentation, thus partly or completely neglecting the usage of folk instruments, which are frequently replicated on keyboards. Lyrical content of the genre is most commonly related to nature, mythology, paganism and fantasy.


We see that all three sub-genres are basically a blend of folk with metal instrumentation. Folk metal is the most discernible of the three, because, to my mind, the folk element is obviously prevalent, with the metal parts taking a secondary role; some songs are simply folk songs, music and lyric-wise, played with metal instruments. Storm's Nordavind, Isengard (albeit more metal) or the second Myrkur album provide some good examples of folk black metal albums. But what about the other two? Where do we draw the line? Where is the viking element in Borknagar? If we accept that both Viking and Pagan metal make use of folk music, traditional folk instruments, acoustic guitars and the occasional clean epic vocals, are the lyrics responsible for the final categorisation of the band? Any song examples would be more than welcome.
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BasqueStorm
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Joined: Wed May 26, 2010 2:21 pm
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:06 pm 
 

LefterisK wrote:
While I was browsing through the Archives my eye fell on the Viking/Folk/Black metal tag, and as I kept listening I tried to distinguish the Viking parts, the folk parts, etc.
...
Where do we draw the line?

https://forum.metal-archives.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=102592

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blackmantram
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Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:51 pm
Posts: 514
Location: Colombia
PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:30 am 
 

It's really not that hard. Folk metal is both a style and an Umbrella term, any band including traditional music and instrumentation is automatically called Folk, however as a style is more associated with the heavy metal + celtic music variant.
Pagan metal or Pagan black metal is most used to describe a theme than a musical style, however there's a current of Slavic bands which have been referred to as "pagan metal" that share a similar style between them and cannot be tagged as straight folk metal. They play a blend of folk, heavy and doom with a touch of black. It's more or less the slavic equivalent of viking metal.
Viking metal is basically anything sounding like Bathory's Hammerheart/Twilight of the gods. Mid-paced, epic choruses, atmospheric keys.

For me, the best way for understanding a genre is getting familiar with it in its purest form.

Viking Metal: Batorhy (Hammerheart, Twilight, Nordland I & II), Falkenbach, Einherjer, Vanaheim, Storm.
Folk Metal: Skyclad, Otyg, Korpiklaani, Mago de oz.
Pagan metal (the Slavic style): Arkona (Аркона), Butterfly Temple, Pagan Reign, Nevid (Невидь), God's Tower, Lesiar (Лесьяр),

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Peyp
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Joined: Mon May 25, 2015 1:16 am
Posts: 197
Location: California, United States
PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:10 pm 
 

I've never had a problem with distinguishing viking metal from folk metal. Viking metal is slower and more epic than folk metal, which - unless it's being described as a crossover, like melodic death/folk or black/folk - is more like traditional metal with folk instruments or influences. A hallmark example of viking metal is Bathory's One Rode to Asa Bay - a slow, drawn-out song with a gloomy atmosphere - whereas folk metal can be more like Eluveitie's Inis Mona - a song that has an average runtime, basic verse-chorus progression, and heavy folk instrumentation. It's important to note that viking and folk metal can coexist... if a song has that epic atmosphere but also heavy use of folk instruments, it could be labeled as "viking/folk". This Moonsorrow song is an example of a black/folk/viking crossover.

Pagan metal is a little more difficult as many believe the title to be interchangeable with viking metal, while others believe they are two different entities. I used to consider them the same thing and change between "viking" and "pagan" depending on whether or not the influence was nordic or slavic. However, my opinion on the matter has changed. RYM calls it "generally more melodic and played in a less abrasive way than those in typical black metal", and the drums "mid or fast-paced". I thoroughly agree with that statement. Some music, such as Skyforger - Latvian Riflemen has a distinct sound in the guitar leadwork that other bands use, like XIV Dark Centuries or Natural Spirit or Kroda. It doesn't sound as abrasive as everyday black metal, but it's not melodic in a way that could be categorized as "melodic black metal" like Dissection or Catamenia. It's never slow like viking metal, but doesn't necessarily need folk influences (though of course it can have them). I use the sound in the guitar leadwork to distinguish a song as "pagan". Of course, it's a loose way to categorize, and I can make mistakes, but generally when I follow this method it lines up with sound descriptions on Metal-Archives and the definition RYM gives.

Some have different opinions/definitions on what boundaries are, and some often mistake one for the other, however the basic parameters stated on RYM are correct. People will always disagree on what's what or what the specifics are, but what they say only makes sense when you've listened to enough of it. I'd suggest going through various albums labeled viking, pagan and folk on here and discovering the difference for yourself. Either way, I think MA has already clearly drawn a line, but it doesn't have to be 100% accurate as long as it gets the point across.
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Draehl
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Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:13 pm
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:46 pm 
 

I personally don't consider Viking Metal a genre. There's the umbrella of 'Folk Metal', which can take influence from any culture/traditional music. Nordic folk is certainly one of the most popular. If you're taking stuff like Falkenbach, they're simply Blackened Folk (same example would extend to 'Pagan Metal'). Amon Amarth, etc. are just Nordic themed Death Metal that doesn't really even have any folk melodies.

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PaganiusI
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Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:49 pm
Posts: 966
Location: Germany
PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:48 pm 
 

Draehl wrote:
I personally don't consider Viking Metal a genre. There's the umbrella of 'Folk Metal', which can take influence from any culture/traditional music. Nordic folk is certainly one of the most popular. If you're taking stuff like Falkenbach, they're simply Blackened Folk (same example would extend to 'Pagan Metal'). Amon Amarth, etc. are just Nordic themed Death Metal that doesn't really even have any folk melodies.

That's why Amon Amarth is Melodic Death Metal and has nothing to do with Viking Metal as a genre...
Why is everyone who doesn't consider Viking Metal to be a genre coming up with freaking Amon Amarth?
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narsilianshard
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Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:22 pm
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Location: Portland
PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:15 pm 
 

It never ceases to amaze me that people care how others define subgenres. If it doesn't make sense in your own brain, then just call it whatever the fuck you want. OP, you're trying to fit other people's definitions into your own interpretation of music so of course nothing will fit 100% perfectly.

These labels only exist because saying "black metal that's kinda slow and doomy but also uses folk elements and mostly has lyrics about norse mythology" or "black metal that's maybe faster but still has folk elements and lyrics that might be mythological but not necessarily nodic" takes too fucking long; people just call them Viking/Pagan as a shorthand and because the internet loves categories. You can call any of these bands black/folk metal and no one except for pedantic nerds would disagree.
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raumr
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Joined: Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:11 pm
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Location: Norway
PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:46 pm 
 

Draehl wrote:
I personally don't consider Viking Metal a genre. There's the umbrella of 'Folk Metal', which can take influence from any culture/traditional music. Nordic folk is certainly one of the most popular. If you're taking stuff like Falkenbach, they're simply Blackened Folk (same example would extend to 'Pagan Metal'). Amon Amarth, etc. are just Nordic themed Death Metal that doesn't really even have any folk melodies.

How about this song? Would you consider this blackened folk metal?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2QcMIJNH38

I think viking metal is a useful genre tag. It covers the loud, bombastic, heavy metal with synth and male choirs genre that is associated with Bathory, Falkenbach and Graveland in particular.

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Draehl
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Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:13 pm
Posts: 85
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:57 pm 
 

raumr wrote:
Draehl wrote:
I personally don't consider Viking Metal a genre. There's the umbrella of 'Folk Metal', which can take influence from any culture/traditional music. Nordic folk is certainly one of the most popular. If you're taking stuff like Falkenbach, they're simply Blackened Folk (same example would extend to 'Pagan Metal'). Amon Amarth, etc. are just Nordic themed Death Metal that doesn't really even have any folk melodies.

How about this song? Would you consider this blackened folk metal?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2QcMIJNH38

I think viking metal is a useful genre tag. It covers the loud, bombastic, heavy metal with synth and male choirs genre that is associated with Bathory, Falkenbach and Graveland in particular.


Blackened Folk IMO. The melodies and vocals (on this song) are Folk styled while the overall mood, production, and instrumentation draws more from the BM side. Falkenbach are a fun one because they slide pretty well between the two influences from song to song. One of my favorite bands of the style.

Call it whatever you like though. I just don't feel that subject matter makes a genre. More upbeat bands like Tyr or Ensiferum who sonically sound quite different get lumped in by association, while acts that more tightly blend Black and Folk elements like Falkenbach/Bathory aren't called Viking Metal- Ildra, Dordeduh, Nokturnal Mortum, etc. somehow don't sound musically closer because there's no Nordic aesthetic? At least the 'Pagan Metal' label makes for a less sterile sounding alternative for 'Blackened Folk' and more importantly reaches across cultural influences. Not hating on any of the music here btw- I'm a fan of all of the above.

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LefterisK
Metal newbie

Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:43 pm
Posts: 327
Location: Greece
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 6:01 pm 
 

narsilianshard wrote:
It never ceases to amaze me that people care how others define subgenres. If it doesn't make sense in your own brain, then just call it whatever the fuck you want. OP, you're trying to fit other people's definitions into your own interpretation of music so of course nothing will fit 100% perfectly.

These labels only exist because saying "black metal that's kinda slow and doomy but also uses folk elements and mostly has lyrics about norse mythology" or "black metal that's maybe faster but still has folk elements and lyrics that might be mythological but not necessarily nodic" takes too fucking long; people just call them Viking/Pagan as a shorthand and because the internet loves categories. You can call any of these bands black/folk metal and no one except for pedantic nerds would disagree.


The reason I created this thread is to use other people's definition together with my own perception of what the genres are in order to understand this distinction in a better way. Somehow it is easier when you "examine" things with a conscious look. I am well aware that there's not going to be a conclusion on the subject matter, but the discussion is still very helpful for me. blackmantram's and Peyp's replies (whom I both thank very much) were particularly helpful.

Back on topic, Borknagar's music in the first two albums is definitely Bathory influenced, but the Norwegian black metal element is more prevalent in the riffs, despite the heavy use of atmospheric synths and acoustic guitar passages. I guess the Viking black metal was attached to them because of their Nordic aesthetic and lyrical concepts.
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ambientsorrow
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Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:25 am
Posts: 208
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:12 pm 
 

blackmantram wrote:
It's really not that hard. Folk metal is both a style and an Umbrella term, any band including traditional music and instrumentation is automatically called Folk, however as a style is more associated with the heavy metal + celtic music variant.
Pagan metal or Pagan black metal is most used to describe a theme than a musical style, however there's a current of Slavic bands which have been referred to as "pagan metal" that share a similar style between them and cannot be tagged as straight folk metal. They play a blend of folk, heavy and doom with a touch of black. It's more or less the slavic equivalent of viking metal.
Viking metal is basically anything sounding like Bathory's Hammerheart/Twilight of the gods. Mid-paced, epic choruses, atmospheric keys.

For me, the best way for understanding a genre is getting familiar with it in its purest form.

Viking Metal: Batorhy (Hammerheart, Twilight, Nordland I & II), Falkenbach, Einherjer, Vanaheim, Storm.
Folk Metal: Skyclad, Otyg, Korpiklaani, Mago de oz.
Pagan metal (the Slavic style): Arkona (Аркона), Butterfly Temple, Pagan Reign, Nevid (Невидь), God's Tower, Lesiar (Лесьяр),


So if Pagan Metal is just a theme can it be applied to bands that have no relation to the folk genre, or is the Pagan tag just applied to the bands that fall under the Folk Metal umbrella?

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