folk metal

A few weeks ago, I noted that I found it interesting how extreme metal and folk music had found themselves intertwined. The combination of the two elements doesn't make a lot of sense, but yet the folk-influenced versions of extreme sounds are usually far more preferable than there more traditional colleagues. The introduction of new and unusual instruments does something that I think is of vital importance to extreme metal, something I find is sorely lacking in almost everything that falls under that umbrella; diversity.

What makes folk metal interesting is how it is the unlikely union of two things that should not go together. Metal is hard, brash, and abrasive, while folk music is soft, acoustic, and introspective. Folk would be at the bottom of the list of other genres I would expect metal to ever be paired with, given the fundamental differences between them, and yet there is a healthy and thriving scene of folk metal bands that have managed to forge a connection between the two styles.

Let’s cut to the chase. Turisas’ “Turisas2013” is a clear contender for Album Of The Year honors. There’s no two ways about it. Yes, it has a sub-standard title, but let’s not be shallow enough to let that get in the way. Everything about this record is wonderful, a surprising improvement over even the lofty accomplishment that was “Stand Up and Fight.”

My wife is a very patient woman, who only takes a less-than-casual interest in heavy metal because it makes it easier for us to spend time together. The following conversation happened in our living room:

Me: “I’m not quite sure what to make of this album.”
Her: “Who is it?”
Me: “Finntroll. It’s their new record, it’s all over the place.”
Her: “Well, I don’t hate it. It sounds kind of fun.”

In the quickly multiplying and increasingly competitive world of folk metal, bands are given an early choice between two camps, each representing one of the possible idiomatic sounds of the genre. First, you could truly embrace the roots of the music you are channeling, incorporating an increased number of traditional or esoteric instruments and arrangement. The other path, equally valid in the halls of metal, is to bend more towards the melodic death metal trend, using the folk elements as garnish surrounding the main dish of metal being served.

Johnny, rosin up your bow and play that fiddle hard! There’s a new Eluveitie album, which means it’s time to grab your fife and fiddle and head out in the Swiss/Celtic countryside and play your heart out!

If “Stand Up and Fight” can’t make you smile at least a little, you’re taking yourself way too seriously.

Turisas manages to triumph valiantly on this new album through a combination of gigantic attitude, sense of the moment, dramatic construction and no small amount of rock and roll sensibility.