Jul 172012

In one of yesterday’s posts I compared a song from Sweden’s King of Asgard to Naglfar and Immortal, and I got questioned about that comparison in one of the comments, suggesting that King of Asgard is a Viking metal band. That caused me to consider, certainly not for the first time, what “Viking metal” really means and whether there really is such a thing as a “Viking metal” genre.

These are questions that have been argued in many other places at many other times. For example, our brother Trollfiend devoted a post to the subject at ALSO, WOLVES last fall, insisting that, yes, it’s a genre and it’s defined by the band’s lyrical themes (though he also implied that, musically, it’s a subset of black metal). Other people contend it isn’t a genre at all, or that if it is, it begins and ends with Bathory and early Enslaved and everyone else can go fuck off. And still other people say it’s a pointless question — you either dig the music or you don’t, and who gives a rat’s ass what you call it.

The fact that there seems to be no consensus about how to define “Viking metal” weighs in favor of the argument that it isn’t a genre. That conclusion is bolstered by the significant diversity in the music of bands who different people classify as “Viking metal” (see, e.g., the bands included in the “Viking metal” tag at Last.fm or the Viking metal genre group at Metal Archives). Genre classifications are usually (though not always) defined by widely accepted hallmarks of the musical style, and if no such consensus exists, or if the sound of the music isn’t really the defining characteristic, can we really say that “Viking metal” is a genre?

Is the lyrical content really enough, especially when much of the time you can’t make out the words in the songs when you hear them?

Just to have something we can throw darts at, here’s the definition that appears at The Font of All Human Knowledge, in an article in which the contributors then proceed to contradict themselves:

Viking metal is a subgenre of black metal characterized by its chaotic and noisy sound, slow pace, use of keyboards, dark and violent imagery, and lyrical themes of Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking Age. It was developed in the 1980s through the mid-1990s as a rejection of Satanism and the occult, and instead embracing the Vikings and paganism as the leaders of opposition to Christianity. Influenced by Nordic folk music, it is considered a category of folk metal, but it is a separate branch of that style, as there are notable differences between Viking metal and folk metal. Another characteristic of the style is that nearly all bands claim to have Viking ancestry.

I haven’t done an exhaustive survey, but I’m still calling bullshit on that assertion that nearly all bands who are considered Viking metal claim to have Viking ancestry, or that claiming Viking ancestry is any kind of defining characteristic of the “genre”. While it’s probably fair to say that most bands considered to be “Viking metal” are from Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark, Norway), I don’t think most of them “claim” Viking ancestry — and there are certainly bands thought of by at least some people as Viking metal who are from outside Scandinavia and have never claimed Viking ancestry as far as I know.

But let’s go back to that definition’s musical references (leaving the lyrics to one side for now). On the one hand, it says Viking metal is a subgenre of black metal, and then later it says it’s a category of folk metal.  I guess it could be both — a style of music that incorporates both elements of black metal AND folk-influenced melodies.

But while the two bands most credited with starting “Viking metal” — Bathory and Enslaved — began life as black metal bands, the music they created which is credited with spawning the “genre” could hardly be called “folk metal”.

Also, if “folk-influenced black metal” is the defining characteristic of Viking metal as the music is heard by listeners, then we would need to exclude bands such as Amon Amarth. Their music (as they have repeatedly acknowledged) is much more in the vein of melodic death metal, despite the fact that lyrically the band’s songs are deeply steeped in Norse mythology and Viking lore (and they sure as fuck look and dress the part of latter-day Vikings). So, is this or is this not “Viking metal”?


And what should we do with a band like Sweden’s Naglfar? Again, their music’s lyrical themes (at least in the early days) might qualify the as a Viking metal band in the minds of many, but musically they seems to be more of an intersection between melodic black metal and melodic death metal, with not much folk in the mix:


What about that reference to slow pacing and the use of keyboards? If those were defining characteristics, wouldn’t we have to exclude a death metal band like Sweden’s Unleashed, whose music lyrically focuses on Viking culture and Norse folklore, and Norway’s Kampfar, whose music is also inspired by Norse folklore and whose very name is an ancient Norse battle cry referring to Odin or Wotan, or Illinois’ The Horde, who call their music “Viking thrash”?


On the other hand, if lyrical focus were enough to define the genre, then wouldn’t Viking Funeral, the 2007 debut EP by Brooklyn’s Hull qualify (it’s streaming here), and wouldn’t we also have to include the Viking-inspired themes of Heidevolk from The Netherlands? And would that mean that we’d need to include Manowar, who is credited in many quarters with being an inspiration to the “Viking metal” genre?


Well, you can see how confusing I find most discussions of Viking metal, and how difficult I think it is to come up with a workable genre definition. It seems to me that a lyrical focus on Norse mythology and Viking culture/history is a necessary part of any definition — if a band isn’t singing ABOUT Vikings and their pagan beliefs, then it seems to me no one has any business calling them a “Viking metal” band.

On the other hand, it also seems to me that the lyrical focus alone can’t be the defining characteristic, unless we’re just willing to accept that “Viking metal” as a genre can sound like almost anything.

Okay, dear readers, have at it. What does “Viking metal” mean to you, and who are the bands you’d name as exemplars of the genre as it should be considered? And if you fall into the category of people who don’t care much about strict genre definitions, who are the bands you’d recommend that might be considered “Viking metal” if you bothered to slap a label on them?

Or should we abandon any pretense that “Viking metal” is a genre and stop using the term, relying instead on more acceptable genre classifications for the sound of the music?

As you ponder those questions, here’s some more music from bands often classified as “Viking metal” that I came across for the first time in researching for this post:





  113 Responses to ““VIKING METAL””

  1. Wow, I inspired a post! Anyways, I believe Viking Metal to be a broad term under which many different genres of metal lie. Unleashed call themselves, “Viking Death Metal”, and I would put Amon Amarth in that catagory, even if they wouldn’t. I don’t think the definition you referred to is correct, or at least isn’t correct now. That only explains Bathory’s later work. In my opinion, it is the lyrical content that makes you Viking Metal, although I reserve the right to change my opinion if scene kids start putting out Viking Deathcore.
    Einherjer would be a great example of Viking Metal, because I don’t think there’s anything else you could call it.

  2. Is Yngwie Viking Metal?

  3. I disagree with the notion that a genre is defined by lyrical content. I am a 15-year-old teenager who loves all forms of metal and often have a difficult time convincing my parents I am not becoming a serial killer or mass rapist because I listen to this form of music. I deliberately avoid “questionable” content music which means I am an odd reader of this blog, because I do not listen to metal that glorifies gore or killing. My point is that since metal has a lot of roots in bands that were rather disturbing it’s hard to convince them that metal has moved on and matured in a lot of places. They still balk at the term “black metal” because they relate it to metal bands that sing about Satan, the devil, and death, which a lot of them do, but I don’t listen to those.

    Not really as serious as saying Kings of Asgard is Viking metal because they sing about Vikings, just my two cents. Music should be defined by the sound and feel of the music, rather than the lyrical content. Would Kings of Asgard still sound Viking-ish if they were instrumental? Then they’re Viking metal, and it doesn’t really matter what they sing about, although if they sang about space stations and uninhabitable planets that would be a bit odd.

    • I have to disagree. The best example being Death metal, which began as a term because of its obsession with “death”.

      Black metal is slightly different as it’s defined more by ideals and aesthetics, with a consistent, but not definitive lyrical content.

      I don’t think Viking metal exists… yet. It can be a sub-sub-set though, as per Inquisitor’s post about Unleashed, et al.

      Viking myths and cultures are fertile ground for metal, but they are covered by lots of bands with slightly different musical styles and from different sub-genres.

      • But that is somewhat my point is that my parents believe I shouldn’t listen to anything under the label of “death metal” because it “glorifies” death, whereas I would argue there a lot of bands labelled “death metal” that don’t glorify or even really sing about death all that much.

        And by that logic, if you’re metal and you sing about death, are you death metal? I think that makes a lot of bands normally tossed under other genre umbrellas suddenly death metal. Or if you’re a metalcore band that sings about death, are you death metalcore?

        If genres are being placed by lyrical content, I think that is a much less useful way to define how bands sound than by naming after their sounds. It’d be so helpful if all descriptions of bands were their name, their genre (or how they sound) and their lyrical content. I think genre and lyrical content should be separated, for example, Christian metal bands. I started out with a lot of Christian metal and am slowly moving into more secular and more obscure metal because I tired of Christian metalcore. All Christian metal bands, of course, sing about Christianity. But it’s not useful to someone to say that August Burns Red, For Today, and Becoming the Archetype are all Christian metal even though they all play very different styles of music. August Burns Red is metalcore, For Today is deathcore, and Beceoming The Archetype is progressive death metal, so it’s not useful to throw them all under the same umbrella because they’re all Christian metal.

        • I, personally wouldn’t say death metal “glorifies” things such as violence, if it does have any negative connotation it would be trivializing them. But that’s my take.

      • You might have been able to define both death metal and black metal in the early days by their lyrical content, but you sure couldn’t do that today. For example, some of the most prominent U.S. black metal bands today do not lyrically focus on anti-Christianity or satanism, and that’s true of black metal bands in other countries, too. It’s also true that a huge percentage of current bands who would fall within the “death metal” label (or one of its thousand sub-genres) have lyrics that don’t focus on death and gore.

      • To confuse things further, there are bands often classified as black/pagan metal who either impliedly or explicitly reject Christianity, but celebrate pagan traditions and folklore rather than embracing satanism. Moonsorrow and Winterfylleth come to mind off the top of my head.

        • Cant say this with 100% accuracy, but “pagan” bands have always seemed to me, to be bands that focus on non-viking cultures

          • That may be true, because if the music focused on Viking culture, it would probably be termed Viking metal, but I think all Viking metal is also pagan metal (at least if we’re using lyrical focus as a defining criteria).

          • I’ve always seen the pagan metal label as bands who focus on non-viking western cultures. I’ve never heard anyone refer to Melechesh as pagan metal for example.

            • Metal Archives actually gave Melechesh “Middle Eastern Folk Metal” as part of their genre, but youre probably right. I mean Gyibaaw isnt called pagan metal even though some of theyre themes revolve around the indigenous people of Canada


      If you’re limiting yourself to certain genres of music to placate your parents, you’re doing teenage rebellion totally the wrong way.

      And what’s this: “I do not listen to metal that glorifies gore or killing.”
      So the fuck do you listen to? Music that glorifies my little ponies’ heart-shaped anuses?

      What’s wrong with kids today??? I bet you think phones were never connected to the wall and couldn’t tell a record from a Laserdisc!

      (Not sure if I need to say this or not, but I’m just kidding. It’s probably a good idea to choose music that both makes you happy and keeps your parents from sending you to military school.)

  4. I think it should always be used with it’s “parent genre”, if you will. Viking Black Metal, Viking Death Metal, etc. Christian metal is a similar issue for me, it can’t really be defined by lyrical content alone but you want to be aware that its a part of the music.

  5. Its got to be more than lyrical content…Unleashed is Swedish death metal pure and simple..Just because they play death metal about vikings dosnt mean they dont sound like Entombed, Dismember, and a 100 other bands from that area. Same with Amon Amarth… theyve always been a melodeath band who sings about vikings.

    I think more often than not the Wiki definition is the correct one (though its definitely not 100% accurate)…its black metal that tends to mix some folk elements into it. Your example from Bathory is off of Blood, Fire, Death, but thats normally considered a transition album while Hammerheart is generally considered a better example of Viking metal. Enslaved was definitely using folk elements like chanting and such in their Blodhemn album

    • Both of those are fair points (about Bathory and Enslaved). I’m not terribly familiar with either Hammerheart or Blodhemn. Do you think they fit the Wiki definition?

      • For Blodhemn…It depends on what you consider folk elements…I would say yes because theirs some clean vocal chanting/singing on a few of the tracks, and I consider it a folk element. They even hit a bit of a “humpa” sound on the track called “Nidingaslakt”, but overall its very subdued compared to a lot of bands.

        On Hammerheart Quarthon completely changes his sound….almost all the thrashy 1st wave elements are gone. Its a much slower paced album. All the vocals are sung cleanly as well, but theres definitely a lot of folk mixed into this album

      • I always considered Blodhemn a brutal Black Metal album.. Sure, there’s a chant here and there, but its usually just blasting along at a billion miles an hour. Had to be one of the fastest albums in existence when it was released.

  6. Maybe a better example of Viking Metal would be a band like TYR(warning:contains clean singing). Many of their songs are in there native tongue, which has been used since the days of the Vikings. They also use a lot of melodies from their native folk songs. Who knows, it could be a heavier version of real Viking music.

  7. I don’t subscribe to the notion that musical genres are defined by lyrics. Although it seems that most of the bands I think of as “viking metal” share lyrical themes about vikings or war. On Itunes, I have bands classified as “Black Metal/Viking Metal”, “Folk Metal/Viking Metal”, and one as “Dark Metal/Viking Metal” (Dark Metal could be another debatable genre). So I agree with Byrd above that it should be included with a parent genre.

    It’s not a genre in its own right, imo, but it does have certain characteristics that can be included in other main genres.

    • Oh geez man..dont even joke about that “Dark Metal” genre. Ive never met two people who can agree just what the hell its supposed to be

      • Hah. I’ve seen it used to refer to Agalloch and Obsequiae, among other bands. I think one of those two should get it, but I haven’t made up my mind which one.

        • Bethlehem is the first band I think I saw use that label, but they had a lot of black metal in their sound. Ive also seen it applied to gothic and doom metal bands too. Its got to be the vaguest “genre” Ive ever heard of. Not even Wiki has a real definition for it

          • First time seeing that genre label . . . Agalloch, huh?

            • This could easily be a subject for another post — how the genre of black metal has been stretched and redefined. I’m sure that proponents of Trve Norwegian Black Metal would reject the idea, but I think Agalloch is still a black metal band and that they, along with many other bands, have creatively used the stylistic elements of first and second-wave black metal as a foundation for building new things.

      • I’ve always thought of “dark metal” as a blend of black, doom, and folk, and maybe to a lesser extent other non-metal genres such as post-rock, neo-folk, drone, and ambient. So I lump Agalloch, Fen, Obsequiae, October Falls, etc. into that category.

    • Yeah, I’m with SurgicalBrute. Dark Metal seems more like a label people slap on bands that don’t fit anywhere else. It really doesn’t seem like a meaningful genre term.

      • From bands I’ve seen it applied to, the only real consistency seems to be that it’s closely related to black metal, but less dissonant and more somber than traditional BM. I think, down the line, it could be a useful descriptor. But for right now yeah, it’s not very specific or well-defined.

  8. People need to stop complaining about NSBM then. If lyrical content has no bearing on the definition of a genre, NSBM doesn’t exist either and should just be referred to as “black metal”.

    • NSBM dosnt exist as a genre..Theres nothing to separate it from regular black metal other than the lyrics. I think that makes it more of a sub-category. Kind of like DSBM or Goregrind

      • So…can’t we say that Viking metal is a sub category and leave it at that?

        • Im fine with that

        • I ask this because the reaction to the term is usually polarizing, with one side being all “fuck yeah Viking metal” and the other side being “Viking metal doesn’t exist!”

          So why not posit that Viking metal exists as a subset of other musical genres and can be used to refer to a certain group of bands with that defining characteristic?

          • I think thats what Byrd was saying up above..and its probably as close to a “real” answer as this subject has

          • I think that’s where I’m ending up after writing the post and reading the comments.

            • The whole issue of genre classifications is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years, so this is my two cents…or more like fifty-two cents. People always seem to get their panties in a wad when disagreeing about this sort of thing and inevitably leads to statements like, “Why do you have to confine music by applying it with labels? Just shut up, listen to it, and enjoy it.” However, such attitudes fundamentally misunderstand the the purpose of classification. Classifying anything into distinct groups is something that is done out of utility, and music is no exception. Genres are applied to music for the purpose of making it easier to describe and understand its’ characteristics. Period.

              It is a testament to metal’s diversity and creativity that people often complain about how metalheads constantly argue about genre classification. This entire article is obviously and example of that. But it always bothers me when people suggest that applying very descriptive labels to music is “pretentious” or somehow undermines the creative process. Jari’s self-applied label of Wintersun as “Extreme Majestic Technical Epic Melodic Metal” tells me much more about it than simply calling it melodic death metal (the most common genre classification I’ve run across). However, with that said perhaps one needs to make distinctions between genres and said “descriptive labels”. I know I just stated that genres exist for the purpose of communicating musical descriptions, but not all descriptions are genres. My Wintersun comment is a perfect example.

              Which brings us to the topic at hand: viking metal. Is it a genre or a descriptive label? I suppose it comes down to how you define what a genre is. In my mind, musical genres are independent categories with specific musical definitions, so genres shouldn’t overlap with one another (which is not to say that artists can’t combine them!). Viking metal clearly overlaps with death and black metal to say the least, and lyrical content is an aesthetic, not musical, definition. Which means I’d say it’s a descriptive label.

              Other “descriptive labels” might include “progressive”, “technical”, “National Socialist”, “folk”, “epic”, “extreme”, “depressive”, “pagan”, “atmospheric”, and “melodic”. I suppose the tricky question in my line of thinking then becomes, “What’s the difference between a descriptive label and a sub-genre?” Again, going back to my idea that a musical genre is an “independent category with specific musical definitions” I’d argue that a sub-genre exists only when the defining characteristics are unique to its parent genre. This would mean that “melodic death metal” isn’t a sub-genre of death metal so much as “melodic” is a label that can be applied various parent genres…namely both death and black metal. By the same logic, “progressive death metal” isn’t a sub-genre either, rather “progressive” is a label that can be applied to pretty much any of the major metal genres.

              The obvious problem with that definition of sub-genre is that most people do consider “melodic death”, progressive power”, “folk black”, “technical thrash”, etc. as sub-genres. So perhaps it makes sense to expand the definition of a sub-genre a little bit to include well-established or widely recognized styles within a particular genres even if said style isn’t specific to that genre. This way we can still claim folk death, folk black , folk power, and folk heavy metal as distinct sub-genres, but exclude more subjective labels like “Viking/pagan”, or “epic”.

              • Thanks for taking the time to write this — very nicely done, and the concept of distinguishing sub-genres from descriptive adjectives is an interesting one. I do think, as you note in your last paragraph, that some sub-genres have by now become so well-accepted that trying to reclassify them as descriptors would be difficult.

                Also, I guess it’s obvious from the post, but I agree that genre classifications are worthwhile, and worth taking seriously, for the reasons you describe. I also think it’s a cool aspect of metal culture, which people outside of metal would never guess — this aspect of many fans thinking seriously about the music (as well as headbanging to it), dissecting and cataloguing it and engaging in intellectual debates over how it should be classified and described.

          • Venn diagrams FTW (even if the diagram is merely implied)

  9. On the flip side, I don’t see why a diverse group of metal bands that have a unifying characteristic shouldn’t be defined by that unifying characteristic, especially when that characteristic does, in fact, refer to an aspect of the music. Obviously “metal bands whose members all wear black tshirts” doesn’t tell you anything about the music. “Viking metal” might not tell you anything about the way the guitar is played or if the drummer uses gravity rolls or if there is clean singing or not, but it tells you you will be hearing songs about Vikings. For someone like me, that might actually be a deciding factor in whether or not I like the music. Viking business is obviously important enough to the bands in question that they make ALL OF THEIR SONGS ABOUT IT, so why shouldn’t that importance be recognized? I don’t like melodic death metal at all, but I listen to Amon Amarth because Vikings!

    • I think Viking Metal does say something about the music, but it’s almost like “I know it when I hear it”. Maybe I’m just not good at describing music, but Amon Amarth does go heavy on the tremolo, which I think is a common trait in viking metal, and they have those riffs that just SOUND like they belong in the soundtrack for an epic battle.

      • I’d say heavy use of tremolo picking’s only common in Viking metal because it’s common in black metal (and also fairly common in melodeath; just listen to Eucharist). I do agree that some riffs just feel like they’re Viking or pagan (I think my prime example would be A Pagan Storm by Wolfchant) but personally I wouldn’t say that about Amon Amarth.

  10. So…viking metal is not so much a music genre, but it is quite the thematic genre.

    Well. That wasn’t so hard.

    Now, let’s got have sex with sheep.

  11. I wished “Black Viking” metal refered to songs about Masai Warriors who made a perilously epic (epically perilous?) journey to the frigid tundras of the White Lands (lol), having many adventures along the way.

    Fuck it; that’s what it means from now on in my head.

  12. I don’t have much to contribute to the argument, just here to stir the pot a little more.


    Canada’s Vesperia is absolutely viking-themed and viking-inspired, but has barely a trace of black metal in their sound. More like pagan-folk-thrash. Or something. Plus they’re Canadian. But weren’t Canada’s first European visitors vikings? Viking metal. QED.

  13. also, awesome use of a still from valhalla rising, sir. I can’t believe no one else said anything about it. I love that movie. [the stickler in me wants to point out that there’s only one viking on that boat, and the rest are christians, so it doesn’t really apply to this post, but then the guy who loves that movie remembered that the one viking is SO BADASS OMFPantheon it doesn’t matter and outweighs their silly monotheistic belief system.]

  14. Holy shit, there’s a lot of discussion here.

    I actually addressed this topic a little over a year ago. I absolutely reject classifying music based on lyrical content, so here is what I wrote: “It refers to a style of music based in black metal, but with more emphasis on a dramatic sound, rather than the dark “necro” sound of old-school black metal. It often features clean vocals and keyboard accompaniment, and a strong folk music influence. Bathory is often considered the first Viking metal band, with their album Blood Fire Death.” I didn’t go into as much detail as I perhaps should have, but it’s also important to note that it’s usually mid-paced.

    • Good post — obviously, it anticipated much of the discussion here (I pride myself on being late to the party with almost everything). As a description of the music, yours probably does capture the sound of what most people would call “Viking metal” if a survey were taken, but I still think it would leave out a lot of bands who are also popularly viewed as Viking metal. The idea of using “Viking” as a descriptive adjective applied to certain kinds of music within well-accepted/well-defined genre classifications is still holding the most appeal to me.

      Would you agree that even though the lyrics shouldn’t be the sole basis for a genre classification, they can be a necessary element of the classification? I can’t see classifying a band’s music as Viking metal if they’re not singing about Viking culture and Norse lore.

      • No, I wouldn’t agree with that statement at all. Out of anyone I know, Patrick of Beards Etc. is the most educated on the subject of Viking, folk, and pagan metal (at least as far as I’m aware). He wrote this post on the topic of the differences among those three genres, saying this:

        “Viking metal is designed to sound “epic”. Sound effects with clashing swords and crashing surf often appear. Songs are typically lengthy narratives. Deep-voiced male chants, battle-horns, large bells or gongs, slow tempos, and significant doses of reverb are all frequently employed to create mental images of golden halls and Viking battles.”

        He also wrote “Is Viking metal real?” In that one, he provided these examples:

        “There is no genre or sub-genre of music which can be solely defined based on lyrical content. A good illustration is that Amon Amarth are a death metal band that sings about Vikings, while Moonsorrow are a Viking metal band that doesn’t. . . . Just because it’s hard to tell whether that old Enslaved album you’re playing is black metal or Viking metal doesn’t mean there’s no difference between the two. Falkenbach still don’t belong to the same sub-genre as Darkthrone. And for the record, they don’t belong with Korpiklaani either. ”

        I’m very much in agreement with him, that Moonsorrow is a Viking metal band that doesn’t sing about Vikings. To say that lyrical content is an essential characteristic of the genre is just silly. As a hypothetical, say that there’s a band that plays Viking metal with lyrics about Vikings. All the band’s members are in another band, and in this other band they play the exact same songs but with lyrics about Zulu warriors . . . or kittens, whatever. Are they different musically? No. And that’s the only function that genre classifications serve.

        Now, is it useful to say that “Viking metal typically has lyrics about Vikings”? Yes, as useful as saying that “death metal typically has lyrics about gore, violence, and zombies.” It might help you identify it or know what to expect, but lyrics can’t define the genre.

        • I guess I’m still not buying into the effort to classify Viking metal as a genre separate from others regardless of the lyrics. That definition you quoted from Patrick is true of some bands or albums considered to be Viking metal, but I don’t think even Bathory or Enslaved satisfy all of those criteria. And while I would agree with the point about the music sounding “epic”, that’s such a vague and overused term (one that I certainly overuse) that it applies to a wide swath of metal.

          • Rather than “epic” I would use the term “anthemic,” as that’s a little more specific. Black metal typically doesn’t have clean, chanting vocals and keyboards, and traditionally not slower tempos either. I think that’s enough to, at the very least, consider it a distinct subgenre of black metal (related to symphonic black metal, although SBM sounds more like “regular BM with symphonic/synthesizer added in”).

            Not much has been said about pagan metal in here, I noticed. My conclusion about pagan metal is that it’s basically black metal with traditional folk instrumentation added in, and like Viking metal, it’s typically slowed down and more atmosphere-centric than black metal.

            I have seen a Venn diagram of the genres of folk metal, pagan metal, Viking metal, and black metal overlapping somehwere.

            Anyway, I agree that Viking metal is not the most distinct genre (pagan metal even less so) but in the end I think it’s useful enough to retain.

            • That definition of pagan metal makes sense, though I’m gonna be stubborn and say that I think the lyrics play into the definition of pagan metal, too. 🙂

  15. This was a fun read, but I think you guys are simultaneously over-thinking this and under-thinking it.

    What do Ghost, Glorior Belli, and Goatwhorehave in common aside from the letter G? Satan. They don’t play a genre called Satanic Metal. They play various types of metal with Satanic themes. “Satanic” is just a descriptor for their shtick (or their mission, if you’re a true believer).

    As a side note, nerdy arguments about the nuances of sub genre distinctions always strike me as distinctly unmetal. I vote we switch to a taxonomy of grunts, shrieks, growls, guitar-imitating mouth noises, and the occasional castratto squeal for the wussier power metal bands.

    We can start by accepting “djent” as a genre since we all know exactly what a djent band sounds like. There can be a “djent rawr” sub genre for the ballsier stuff and a “djent waah” for the whinier stuff. You could even work in lyrical themes as an additional descriptor, as in “djent rawr Sataaaan!!!” vs. “djent waah nobodyunderstandsme!!!”

    Somebody meme us up some onomatopoeias for the other major genres and we can figure out the corner cases as we go.

    • I gotta disagree with you one one point: As I mentioned up above in response to TGLumberjack’s comment, I think this kind of intellectual debate over genre classifications and descriptions is an endearing aspect of metal culture, and one I’m proud of. Show me a metalhead who’s not a nerd at some level, and I’ll show you a poser.

      As for djent, I’ve seen and heard people vehemently denying that “djent” is a genre classification, but I’m with you — we all know what a “djent band” is going to sound like, even if different flourishes get tacked on in an effort by the band to distinguish itself from the gazillion other guys doing the same thing. Which brings to mind the new Murder Construct song . . .

      • To be clear, I’m not saying “unmetal” to mock posers. It’s just an observation about the disconnect between projected attitude and actual behavior.

        I find the intellectual debate endearing too and I obviously enjoy contributing to the discussion, but when your whole scene is supposedly about hedonism, rebelling against the mainstream, chaos, misanthropy, and, uh, Vikings, you start to look a little noncommital to the cause when you have a bunch of rules, norms, and dress codes (even skanky ones). You aren’t a nihilist if you only reject some institutions and laws. Nihilism means rejecting them all.

        My guess that most of the living incarnations of metal we all admire (e.g. Halford, Abbath, Tom G Warrior, Cronos, Fenriz, etc.) don’t give a shit about conforming to anybody’s expectations. They just do what they like and people are free to merrily fuck off if they aren’t interested. THAT is metal.

        Debating whether or not Emperor should be classified as symphonic black metal despite the fact that they use keyboards instead of an orchestra? Not so metal.

        Hopefully the distinction is clear. I’m not suggesting it isn’t still a vital and enjoyable part of being a nerdy metalhead.

    • I for one support this idea and am now going to go listen to some BWAAAAAAAAAHHHHH chudda chudda chudda SCREEEEE

  16. Screw viking metal. What’s war metal? Is it Bolt Thrower? Blasphemophagher and Diocletian? All of them? I WANTS ANSWERS.

    • A friend of mine who isn’t into extreme metal listened to Diocletian on my ipod thinking that war metal would be like “battle metal” (Turisas). She didn’t half get a surprise from that.

    • I always thought it was like those Aussie and/or Canadian bands who play a fast, over-the-top ridiculous mix of death, black, and/or thrash, like Deströyer 666, Denouncement Pyre, or Tyrants Blood. I don’t think others agree with that.

      • I pretty much agree with your description, but not the bands you mentioned. I’m not extensively familiar with any of the three but I think that, at least with Denouncement Pyre, the styles aren’t blended together enough to be considered something besides “Black/Death” or “Black/Thrash”. I think Blasphemophagher, Diocletian, Antediluvian, etc would be more fitting.

        • I agree with your band choice. Trying to come up with defining musical qualities would be a challenge. It seems to borrow picking and drumming styles from both death metal and black metal, combined into a blast-front of noise, with uber-low. harsh, doom-style vocals — and then adds a lot of radioactive fallout.

          • I actually have a little “metal dictionary” on my site that’s supposed to be a work in progress . . . but no progress has been made in some time. The war metal definition states that it’s not really a genuine genre, but “more of a musical scene and approach.”

    • Its not a real genre…Its a term used by fans of black/death that tends to be very heavy on the blasting. Usually it has a very raw production on it as well. Lyrical themes tend to revolve around blasphemy, satan, ant-christian, and war. More recently people have taken to calling it bestial black metal.

      Diocletian and Blaphemophager would be war metal…Bolt Thrower isnt.

  17. Hey, this thread broke 100!

    I think that makes it time for a massive wall of sweaty sheep anus.

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  18. Pagan metal is Viking metal that isn’t about Vikings.

    You guys can go ahead with your “folk-infused blackened death with Norse mythological and/or historical lyrical themes”. I’m going to stick with “Viking metal” because I’m lazy.

    • Never understood who made up that theme, a genre should be about what kind of music they play, not lyrical content. I’ll give you guys a couple examples, first of all these bands, all of them play a mixture of black and death metal and most of em with folk influences, since they use existing genre’s and musically aren’t doing much new, why change the names? If we are going to classify all lyrical content as genre names just because u like vikings for example, then samurai metal, pirate metal, cyborg metal, war metal, fairy metal, dark forest metal, love metal, fear metal, could all be valid genres. See where i am going with this? Genre names like heavy metal, death metal, black metal, melodic death metal, are all created because there is a lot of difference in musical playstyle, in these genres they can write about whatever they want, a death metal band can write about emotions as well as gore these days, that doesn’t make it emotional death metal. Subgenres that are named after lyrical content are pointless, just created by elitists who want to differentiate more and more from other metal genres. for example ‘satanic’ black metal can be a guidline for lyrical content but that doesnt make it less black metal than a black metal band who writes about dungeons and dragons. If they play the same kind of music.

  19. This is a very interesting response to the Wiki article on Viking metal as it stood in 2012. I am a fairly prolific Wikipedia article, and I had started contributing to that article shortly before this write-up. I was aware that aspects of it were rather contradictory, but I was trying to work with what was already there and what I could find in sources. Since then, I’ve made some massive additions to the article, and it has been passed as a “Good article.” Granted, the article doesn’t really clarify what qualifies a band as “Viking metal,” but it explains WHY the genre is so confusing to describe. I would be fascinated to see what Islander would say about the current article.

    • Wow! What an incredibly comprehensive article, and a vast improvement over what I remember from 2012. You have created an amazing resource here. And as you say, rather than try to provide some “one size fits all” definition of “Viking metal” — which really can’t be done — it gives an excellent description of the variety of music that has been characterized with that heading. Thank you!

      • You’re welcome, and thanks for the compliment! Since around 2011-2012 onward, a lot of good scholarly material has come out about Viking metal, so that allowed me to expand on the wiki article a lot more.

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