Jul 102015




(Grant Skelton compiled this unusual collection of music — a rare focus on acoustic music for our site.)

I love live acoustic performances and acoustic renditions of “heavy” songs. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the ’90s. I remember MTV’s Unplugged show. Alice In Chains’ Unplugged is my absolute favorite of their discography. Days Of The New may never again release new material, but their first self-titled album is a timeless musical triumph.

There’s something almost fragile about acoustic performances. You hear the vocalist inhale before he utters a note. The squeal of the guitar strings. The hum of the bass and the click of the drumsticks as the drummer counts into the next song. While some bands may not perform acoustic sets of their studio material, they may record an occasional acoustic interlude or ballad. How many thrash and death metal albums have you heard that have an acoustic introduction on the first track?

I’ve been compiling a list of metal bands performing acoustic versions of their material and/or acoustic-influenced songs or side projects for my radio show, Metal X (shameless plug). When I previously wrote about Dolven (shameless plug #2), I sifted through the InterVoid to try and find songs fitting this style. Opeth are a given. Acoustic instrumentation is no stranger at all to their music. Panopticon have toyed with folk and bluegrass on their recent albums. Katatonia’s Dethroned & Uncrowned pleased many and disgusted others. Agalloch (a band much beloved by the staff and readers of this site) have made extensive use of acoustic guitars, especially on their 2002 album The Mantle. Funeral doom stalwarts Mournful Congregation are likewise infatuated with acoustic guitars (thanks to TheMadIsraeli for that recommendation!).



So, what I have here are a few of the gems I found during my search for metal bands performing acoustically. For those who might like to dig a bit deeper into music like this, I have also included some of my non-metal findings.

First, the metal.


Scott Kelly/Steve Von Till

Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till of Neurosis both have solo acoustic projects. Expect a forlorn, mellow, and dismal mood here. Anyone who enjoys Johnny Cash’s American Recordings should warm right up to these guys.

Scott Kelly performing “We Let The Hell Come Home” from his 2012 album The Forgiven Ghost In Me:



“Birch Black Box” from Steve Von Till’s A Life Unto Itself, released this year:





Scott “Wino” Weinrich (St. Vitus, Spirit Caravan, Shrinebuilder) has also dabbled with acoustic material. Check out his 2015 album Freedom Conspiracy with German guitarist/vocalist Conny Ochs:





Thurisaz are a black metal band from Belgium. Their most recent album The Pulse Of Mourning was released back in March on Sleaszy Rider Records. But in January, the band put out a live acoustic album called… Live & Acoustic. Watch/listen to “Years Of Silence” below:





While they unfortunately have broken up, Uaral were a band from Chile whose style can best be described as “folk doom.” Stream Sound Of Pain and you will see why their demise is truly a shame.




October Falls

Hailing from Helsinki, October Falls make music in two formats: metal and acoustic. Their first full-length album Marras was an entirely instrumental acoustic album. Its sound was influenced by Ulver’s Kveldssanger (another noteworthy album for this roundup). October Falls’ folky brand of black/viking metal is also worth your time. But for the purposes of this post, listen to Marras below. The band’s Facebook page seems to indicate that they have written music for a new acoustic album, which they will hopefully record and release this year.





This German band broke up in 2006 but luckily reformed in 2010. Their 2014 offering The Turn Of The Tides was their first in 12 years.




Lucian The Wolfbearer

A one-man funeral doom metal project whose first album Void sounds like viking hymns sung around a campfire.




And now for the non-metal portion of the round-up. From my understanding, this type of music is sometimes referred to as “neofolk,” a genre that was entirely new to me.


Musk Ox

Ottawa, Ontario’s Musk Ox have shared the stage with Agalloch in the past. Founded in 2005 by Nathanaël Larochette (classical guitar), the band also includes cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Evan Runge on violin. Stream Musk Ox’s 2014 album Woodfall on Bandcamp.





The “About” tab on the band’s Facebook page explains their music much better than I can:

Nebelung is an old german name for November, the month of melancholy and herald of forthcoming winter. It is at this time of the year – when the last leaves have fallen and the land lies bare and bleak –, when man has to lay down his weapons and confess his weakness towards the omnipotence of nature. It is the time of coming home, embracing the beloved ones and drawing nearer to the fire. For those, who wander lonely through the nights, it is the time of introspectiveness, sorrow and despair. With their music, Nebelung capture these feelings, mirroring in autumn rain and winter nights.





Nest are an ambient/neofolk project from Finland masterminded by Aslak Tolonen. Their music prominently features the kantele, a stringed instrument of the dulcimer family. In June of last year, Tolonen performed two different sets of Nest songs by himself on the kantele. One of these performances is posted below. They can be downloaded, along with Nest’s studio albums, at Nest’s Bandcamp page. As an aside, the band’s 2014 compilation Within A Decade includes covers of Skepticism (“The Gallant Crow”) and Agalloch (“Haunted Birds”).




This list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to post your own acoustic recommendations (metal or otherwise) in the comments. I welcome any suggestions and will listen to anything that is recommended.

I realize this is something a bit different than our usual fare here on No Clean Singing. Notwithstanding, I hope you have enjoyed it.


  1. Hell! Someone remembers Nest : D Great choice! As well as Empyrium.
    Thanks for reminder Mister Skeleton!

  2. Great list. This is an oldie but a goodie – check out Jim Matheos (Fates Warning). His 1993 solo album First Impressions is just acoustic guitar, cello and violin. It’s such a sad, soulful album.


  3. My pick to add to this

    • Sorry mates, my compueter fritzed out on me. Anyway, my metal pick for this would be Evergreen, arguably my favorite track off of Windhand’s last effort Soma. So haunting, like sirens calling from the void.


      Speaking of which, they have a knew one coming. Edited version of a new track, Two Urns, that I’ve been meaning to write about here (my time management skills haven’t been terribly stellar this summer):


      Related: Frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell released a solo folk-y album this year, which is among my favorites of the year (finally ordered a CD copy last week). Check it out on Bandcamp here, though a CD is actually cheaper than this digital download if you’re so inclined:


      • “Evergreen” is an outstanding track! Windhand were one that I’d heard before, but took time to grow on me. “Two Urns” rules. I cannot get that song out of my head. Also, will definitely check out Dorthia Cottrell’s solo stuff. Thanks Leperkahn!

  4. thank you for this compilation;
    good to see Uaral here, among these elite names, a friend suggested them to me a few weeks ago and since then an instant fan, i did not know they were disbanded already, indeed a loss.

    • Evidently their disbandment is recent, meaning 2013-ish. Perhaps a renewed interest in their music might spark a reunion!

  5. I really love acoustic pieces woven into metal, but I (normally) need metal as well, otherwise I’ll get restless.
    Thus I favor studio acoustics before live acoustics.
    A GREAT example would be Warrior of the Crescent Moon by Norwegian Aeternus.

    Some of the music also made me think about Lustre, which is a bit strange as they play calm atmospheric BM eithout excessive acoustic parts, as far as I can remember.

    You’ve mentioned Empyrium and Agalloch, which is practically all bands I know within this sub-genre. Fortunately I know one more, so that I can boast a bit.
    You should check out Tenhi, and in particular the album Väre. It’s not live, but still, chech out the proggy use of flute (and piano) in Vastakaiun – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MkwzQ4g3bg and the goth-metallic use of violins in Jäljen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPUspRA7Puo

    PS: kantele is one cool instrument.

    • I hadn’t heard the kantele before Nest. I’m falling in love with it the more I listen. Also, I will look into Lustre, Tehni, and Jaljen. Thanks for the recommendations!

  6. I haven’t heard the Scott Kelly track before, i really like it 🙂

    • I hadn’t either! Someone at The Sludgelord blog mentioned it to me. The whole album is phenomenal.

  7. I love this article, especially because you mention days of the new, who while I may not be a fan I appreciate that you enjoy them. Acoustic music kind of took over Metal for me a few years ago, majority of what I listen to, although some Metal still stuck around.

    Shame you did not mention Green Carnation-Acoustic Verses. I think it would be great if Anathema did an acoustic record. Antimatter mainly use acoustic in their music.

    I wrote a review for Nebelung at heathen harvest, give it a look if you want. Great band.

    • I think I remember seeing Green Carnation in passing. I’ll make sure to give that another look. Also, I agree on Anathema. Their music would fit perfectly in an acoustic setting. I’ll also make it a point to check out Antimatter.

      I recently stumbled across Heathen Harvest while putting together some of these neofolk entries. I will make it a point to give that review a look. Thanks for the positive comments!

  8. Great idea for a post. So many streams, I’ll have to check back to make my way through some more of these. But so far, Lucian the Wolfbearer tickles my fancy. You had me at Viking hyms sung round a campfire.

    Speaking of which, that’s pretty much exactly how you could describe Wardruna: lately I’ve been cranking them a lot after discovering the ‘Vikings’ series and thinking ‘wow, this has a cool soundtrack’. Turns out as well as the soundtrack the show also features some of Wardruna’s songs. They’re not metal, but they use (from their website, which explains it better than I ever could):
    “old and historical instruments such as primitive deer-hide frame drums, Kraviklyra, tagelharpe, mouth harp, goat horn, lur and more. Non-traditional instruments and other sources of sound like trees, rocks, water and torches are also used…….poetic metres as well as lyrics written in Norwegian, Old Norse and Proto-Norse tongue,”
    ….. so in my books, ‘metal’ in intent if not sound!

    I would describe it as a kind of stripped back tribal sound, but with vocals and stringed instruments. It’s been one of the best ‘late to the party’ finds for me this year (their two albums so far were released in 2009 & 2013):
    …plus, you can buy straight from the band’s website, and in FLAC if you’re that way inclined.

    • Glad you liked Lucian The Wolfbearer! His funeral doom material is also worth your time.

      Thanks for the recommendation on Wardruna! I will absolutely check that out.

    • Seconding the Warduna recommendation. Actually picked up both CDs in a museum in Bergen last summer. Also, pretty sure the dude behind Warduna had a hand in curating Roadburn along with a dude in Enslaved this year.

      Side note: big fan of the Viking series too. Some of the shots in that series give Nat Geo a run for their money. Didn’t make the connection between hearing their music on the show until later – discovered both separately.

      • Why am I not surprised you’ve heard of them Leperkahn – you seem to have heard of everything! At first take finding their CDs in a museum sounded strange, but makes great sense. Apparently they gave a concert at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. And yes I am tots jelly like a little schoolgirl you found them in Bergen; I came across them through the less awesome-sounding means of the Vikings TV series website 😉

        And completely agree on the scenery in Vikings, makes me hungry to travel again… It’s funny how often I’ll be watching something and find myself paying far more attention to the soundtrack than what’s on screen, but it was really this scene where they’re returning home from a raid and ‘Helvegen’ is playing that clinched it for me. It was just one of those moments where I thought ‘I have to fucking find that music!’. Also, Fever Ray (who does the opening credits song ‘If I had a heart’) isn’t bad; not metal at all, more like a Swedish Lorde.

        • I didn’t know who did that intro song – I’ll have to explore Fever Ray more. And sadly, I seem to have misplaced my Wardruna CDs at some point – gonna have to do a comprehensive sweep of my home to find those suckers.

  9. Grandpa’s geetarrrs. (Great article. Thanks!)

  10. Nechochwen has a lot of great acoustic music. Sometimes it’s melded with black metal, but their first album, Algonkian Mythos (2008) is entirely acoustic I think, as well as the first half of their 2012 album, Oto.

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