Folk Metal

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Folk metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music that originated in Europe in the early 1990’s and has since become more widespread. Folk metal, as the name suggests, is a fusion between various heavy metal styles and folk music. English band Skyclad is often credited for being the creators of folk metal for their 1991 album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, which featured a full time violinist alongside the more commonplace metal band setup of vocals, guitars, bass and drums. Many artists have since greatly expanded on the use of such instruments, with mandolins, banjos, flutes, whistles, bodhráns, hurdy gurdy and more all being featured in various folk metal releases.

There is no standard as to which metal genres can be merged with folk music to create folk metal, with bands ranging from more traditional heavy metal influences to extreme metal, with black metal being a common choice. Likewise there is no standard on how the folk influences should be utilised within a folk metal band. Mostly notably folk metal bands may or may not incorporate traditional instruments such as violins or tin whistles alongside the metal instrumentation. Some bands prefer to rely solely on keyboards to create a folksy atmosphere in their music (such as the first two albums by Russian band Arkona), while others prefer to play folksy lead melodies on electric guitars (such as German band Wolfchant and Norwegian band Storm). Because there are no standard norms for either side of folk metal it has grown considerably since the release of The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth to become one of the most diverse metal genres to exist. Bands can now range from the melodic to the extreme.

Since the genre's genesis, several regional variants of folk metal have also developed, the most notable being Celtic metal, Medieval metal and Oriental metal. The bands Cruachan (from Ireland), Subway to Sally (from Germany) and Orphaned Land (from Israel) are considered to be among the pioneers of each style respectively. While sometimes included under Oriental metal, metal music that makes use of folk elements from Eastern Asia is sometimes considered a folk metal subgenre of its own or distributed among other metal genres. For instance, Tang Dynasty and Fu Xi are both known for incorporating traditional Chinese instrumentation into their music, but the former are normally considered a traditional heavy metal band while the latter are considered a doom metal band.

Yet more terms have been coined that are commonly associated with folk metal: Viking metal and pagan metal. These terms however, while they can refer to folk metal, can just as often refer to another style entirely, the other style often being black metal. Terms such as these are usually used in regard to an artist based on their lyrical themes, rather than the sound of their music and as such artists labelled as such can sound very different from each other.

Folk metal has also often been crossed with other established genres of metal music to form distinct hybrids between two metal styles, where the folk influences may or may not be present in every song the artist writes, such as the power metal act Falconer. It is also not uncommon in modern metal music for folk influences to crop up as a rare occurrence such as in an introductory instrumental or even in a regular song.

The genre has become increasingly popular among metal fans over the years, reaching new heights in the 2000’s. Today folk metal bands hail from all over the world, although the genre itself remains most popular in Europe. Many bands have gained widespread attention from the metal press with bands such as Korpiklaani, Ensiferum and Finntroll numbering among the world’s most successful folk metal bands as of 2011.

Inclusive Folk Metal Genres

Celtic Metal is folk metal that draws specifically on Celtic folk music as a source for it's folk elements.

Medieval Metal is folk metal that draws specifically on medieval music as a source for it's folk elements. It is common for Medieval Metal bands to sing in German.

Oriental Metal is folk metal which draws influence from Middle-Eastern folk music such as Jewish and Arabic. The style tends to be more distinct than either Celtic Metal or Medieval Metal, which many listeners often just call Folk Metal.

- Written by adg211288 with the input of the Metal Music Archives Admin Team

Sub-genre collaborator:
  • adg211288

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folk metal Music Reviews

ENSIFERUM Two Paths

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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DippoMagoo
With some bands, it’s hard for me not to be at least a bit nervous every time they put out a new album, whether it’s being worried they’ll do a misguided experiment that goes horribly wrong or just produce something that sounds so samey it comes across as a pointless retread. Then there are other bands, like Finnish folk metal band Ensiferum, where every time I hear they’re coming out with a new album, I feel nothing but extreme excitement, because every time they release a new album they manage to prove themselves as being the absolute best in their genre, sticking to tried and true elements while managing to add in a little something special each time, so that each album stands out from the pack. While their previous release, One Man Army, came across as a little familiar sounding compared to their past releases, it was still an excellent album with enough standout moments to make me confident they could keep their impressive run going, and now with their seventh full-length release, Two Paths, the band sounds more energized than ever and they’ve produced yet another album that contains all the expected elements, while managing to feel fresh and exciting at the same time.

Ensiferum’s lineup has remained very stable over the past several years, so it was a rare case when keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen left the band shortly after the release of One Man Army. Her replacement on tour was Netta Skog, who has gone on to officially join the band for Two Paths. Interestingly, Netta plays a digital accordion, which can be used to effectively recreate the kinds of keyboard sounds Emmi was using on the past three albums, while at the same time she can also use it as a normal accordion, which adds extra folk flavor to the music, something the band has done very effectively on this album. In fact, while albums like From Afar and One Man Army were pushing the band pretty far into a symphonic metal direction at times, on this album they have dialed those elements back a bit, and instead the majority of the album is dominated by folk melodies, with the accordion, in particular, being used very effectively to lead the way on many tracks, and there’s also the occasional use of violins and other folk instruments. Obviously, folk elements have always been a large part of Ensiferum’s music, but on this album, I notice them even more so than on their previous few releases, and they add extra flavor and energy to some already impressive music. While the folk elements dominate more than ever, though, there are still some very epic symphonic arrangements on a couple tracks, as well as the expected melodic death metal elements, which while again not as dominant as on some albums, are still very much present and are used as well as ever. The majority of the album is very fast paced and energetic, with most of the songs being written in such a way as to be extremely catchy and addictive, so fans hoping for some of the more complex and lengthy tracks found on the past few albums may be disappointed, as nothing here even approaches 5 and a half minutes. Instead, the songs are all simple, but extremely catchy and fun, which I personally don’t mind as a change of pace, since it allows the album to flow beautifully from one highlight to another, and it’s certainly an easy album to listen to several times in a row.

The band has always been known to use various different vocal deliveries on their albums, and Two Paths is certainly no exception to this rule. As always, harsh vocals are an important part of the music, and Petri Lindroos sounds as epic and powerful with his growls as ever. Also, as usual, the clean male vocals from bassist Sami Hinkka and guitarist Markus Toivonen are quite varied, sometimes even sounding a bit different from past albums, as they occasionally sound a bit more wild than usual, which fits in well on some of the more folk flavored tracks. Gang vocals and choirs are also used on many tracks, as always, and are as epic as ever, adding extra flavor to the music, and helping to make some already awesome choruses even better. Lastly, the band has used various different female vocalists throughout their past few albums, and this continues on this album. I’m not sure if the female vocals here are done by a guest or by Netta Skog, but either way they’re very impressive, sounding just a bit wild but also very pleasant and they add even more of a folk flavor to the music, whenever they appear, which mostly happens in short bursts as supporting vocals, but they do show up as lead vocals a couple times and are quite nice.

Songwriting is an area where Ensiferum has always excelled, so it’s no surprise that Two Paths is a consistently amazing album from start to finish, with none of the songs being anywhere near less than perfect. The album begins with an intro, which makes nice use of folk melodies and symphonic arrangements, while also having nice female vocals early on before we get the main melody that we’ll be hearing a couple more times on the album. In fact, while this intro track is very heroic and epic sounding, there’s also an outro track which feels like the reverse, as it uses the same main melody but it’s slowed down and sounds a lot sadder, which serves as a nice contrast. But those aren’t the only two times that melody appears, as it’s actually taken straight from the lead single and proper opener “For Those About to Fight for Metal”. In case anyone is like me and instantly thinks of AC/DC when seeing that name, it actually does feel like an intentional reference, as the chorus has a line that certainly reminds me of a famous track from that band and even the extended guitar intro is a little bit similar. Once the song gets going, though, it’s pure Ensiferum through and through, moving at a very high tempo throughout, with some explosive riffs, epic choirs, symphonic arrangements, folk melodies and an extremely epic chorus, dominated by choir vocals. It basically feels like a full representation of their sound and it definitely gives listeners an idea of what to expect, from the super energetic, more straightforward songwriting found throughout the album. It also has an awesome instrumental section in the middle where the guitars lead the way for a while, and then suddenly Netta takes over with her accordion and it gets really epic from there. Definitely an exciting opening track, but surprisingly not even one of my favorites on the album, as awesome as it is.

Next is “Way of the Warrior”, another explosive, fast paced track with an awesome chorus. This track uses more traditional keyboard sounds, but the actual melodies definitely have a folk feel to them, and it actually reminds me a little bit of “One Magic Potion” from Victory Songs, which was always a favorite of mine. In fact, while this album definitely has elements of all the band’s albums with Petri Lindroos, if I were to compare it most to one album in particular, I’d go with Victory Songs, due to the heavy focus on folk elements and also due to some of the gang vocal arrangements sounding quite similar to songs from that album. The title track follows and is the most folk infused of the first few tracks, with the accordion playing a very prominent role throughout and sounding quite impressive, and I also hear some violins during the verses, which adds extra flavor. Meanwhile, we get some very wild clean vocals throughout the track, especially during the chorus, and while it took a couple listens for me to get used to how they sound, I now think they fit the track very well, and it’s definitely a catchy and very fun track, which actually feels very fresh, as while it is fast paced, it isn’t overly heavy and has a more traditional folk feel to it at times. After that is a track which comes from the opposite spectrum, that being the super explosive “King of Storms”, a very heavy, super bombastic track which very much feels like it would have fit perfectly on From Afar or One Man Army. It’s the kind of epic, symphonic flavored melodic death metal that dominated those two albums, and on this track, it’s pulled off as effectively as ever, with some explosive verses, insanely epic symphonic arrangements and a huge chorus as always. It’s also one of the tracks where Petri most gets to dominate with his harsh vocals, though the very deep clean vocals during the chorus are also impressive.

And of course, the track right after that has to once again serve as a contrast to the track preceding it, as “Feast of Valkyries” is a more laid back, very folk infused track. Right from the start, the accordion dominates on this track, and it sounds very nice. While it’s still a fairly upbeat track musically, it isn’t as fast or as heavy as most other tracks on the album, instead of being more relaxed and very melodic. During the verses, we get some rather unique sounding female vocals, which lead the way through the track, before giving way to some epic gang vocals during the insanely epic and catchy chorus, which again brings back fond memories of Victory Songs. What we get next is a slight surprise, as “Don’t You Say” has more of a folk rock feel to it, being very upbeat but rather light and not at all heavy compared to most songs on the album. In fact, everything from the more simplistic drum patterns to the super catchy chorus, makes it feel like a more accessible, almost radio friendly track by Ensiferum standards. The track has no harsh vocals and is sung almost entirely by one singer, who does an excellent job and his voice fits the folk flavor of the track perfectly (the one exception is a brief use of female vocals as support right near the end.) I can see some fans being disappointed by this track, but I personally love it, as it serves as a nice change of pace from some of the heavier songs and the folk melodies are beautiful, especially the use of a violin throughout, while the chorus is an absolutely killer and super addictive. In fact, it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album, even if it is by far the least metal.

Heading towards the end, “I Shall Never Kneel” is another standout, which again has strong folk elements throughout, though it’s a heavier track, with varied tempos throughout. Its main riff is fast paced, and there are some explosive moments throughout, but the verses and chorus are more mid paced, and there’s also a very beautiful slower section in the middle where the keyboards take over and we get some nice female vocals. On the whole, it’s a very fun track and uses the full range of vocals fans can expect from the band, all in one track, which is cool. After that we get another very folk flavored track in “God is Dead”, which actually has my favorite use of the accordion on the entire album, as the lead melody is absolutely beautiful and adds a ton of folk flavor to the music, while the track overall is fast paced and is simply a wild, good time, with an insanely epic chorus, wild but awesome sounding clean vocals, and it’s simply one of the most wildly fun and addictive tracks I’ve heard all year, even if I’m not overly fond of the lyrics. This track is one case where the music and songwriting are simply so awesome, it wins out over the lyrics. Lastly, “Hail to the Victor” is the slowest track on the album, leading off with a nice guitar melody, before settling down and turning into a slow but epic melodic death metal track with strong symphonic elements, It has an amazing chorus, where clean vocals show up, but while the first half is very good, the track gets much better around halfway through, as the guitar tone suddenly changes, becoming more epic, and we get some huge symphonic arrangements, in a section that very much reminds me of the album Unsung Heroes and especially the track “Burning Leaves”, except dialed up to an 11. From there, we get some incredibly epic choir vocals, and the track ends in epic fashion. While that is the last proper song on the album, followed by the outro I mentioned earlier, the band also elected to provide alternate versions of the tracks “Don’t You Say” and “God is Dead”, with these versions featuring harsh vocals throughout. While some folks may prefer one version over the other, I personally think both songs work equally well with either clean or harsh vocal, as both are simply so incredibly fun and well written, they’ll work for me in either form, so having these alternate versions is certainly a nice treat, and I always listen to both versions of each track every time I play the album.

At this point, I never expect anything less than greatness from Ensiferum, and I’m never disappointed. Two Paths is once again no exception, as it’s yet another masterful album that has all the elements fans of the band have come to expect, while also having stronger folk elements than the band has had in a long time, as well as being one of their most energetic albums ever. It’s certainly yet another highlight in their impressive career and is easily my favorite folk metal album since at the very least Unsung Heroes, possibly even eclipsing that and going back to From Afar, which stands as my favorite from the band. Either way, though, I highly recommend it to all fans of folk, symphonic and melodic death metal, as it’s certainly a must hear, and one of my top three albums of 2017 so far.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/09/02/ensiferum-two-paths-review/

CRIMFALL Amain

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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DippoMagoo
There are many metal bands right now who can fluidly blend together elements of genres such as folk, symphonic and melodic death metal all in one package, so any band trying to pull off that kind of sound has their work cut out for them, trying to find a way to stand out. One band, I tried a few years ago but wasn’t overly impressed by, was Finnish band Crimfall. I barely remember anything about their second release, The Writ of Sword, except that I thought it had some good moments but wasn’t too enjoyable overall, so a new release for them wasn’t exactly on my radar. But now they’re back with their third full-length release, Amain, and I have to say, this time around they have definitely impressed me!

The band released their first two albums with two different labels, and have again changed labels this time, being picked up by Metal Blade, who of course also have Ensiferum in their lineup. I mention this, because the two bands definitely have some stylistic similarities, with both blending elements of folk, symphonic metal, and melodic death metal, using varying amounts of all those elements throughout their songs, and also mixing in varying amounts of harsh vocals, clean vocals, and choirs. However, the biggest difference between Crimfall and any similar band is that while they certainly do have their epic moments, at least on Amain I find their music to be a bit more complex at times, as many tracks on this release are a lot calmer and take more time to build up than one would expect from this style of music. Obviously, there are some huge instant winners like the two singles “The Last of Stands” and “Mother of Unbelievers”, where the music goes full out epic, with some explosive guitar work, epic orchestras, and some folk elements, but there are many extended quieter sections on this album, and many tracks take a few listens to fully click.

Vocally, the band offers the kind of approach one would expect from this mix of genres. Which is to say, there are the expected harsh vocals, which are done very well by Mikko Häkkinen, who has a very powerful voice that would work perfectly on a pure Melo-death album, as well as some epic choir vocals during choruses. And of course there are the clean vocals, which are handled by Helena Haaparanta, who mostly stays in a lower register, and has a very powerful voice that works great on the louder, more epic passages, but she also excels during the many softer sections, as her voice is very smooth and very beautiful at times. There are also some clean male vocals, most notably on “It’s a Long Road”. I’m not sure who does them, but they’re very good, slightly animated and pretty emotional, really adding to the feel of that particular track.

Moving on to songwriting, the album gets off to an excellent start. After a brief intro track, which has some voice overs, listeners are treated to the explosive opening track “The Last of Stands”, which opens up with a brief folk infused section where Helena delivers some beautiful vocals before the guitars kick in and we get our first taste of the epic growls. From there the track picks up the pace, leading to a section with epic vocals from Helena and then eventually a stunning chorus, sung by choirs. This is a very fast paced and explosive track which has some of the best guitar work on the album, and certainly gives listeners a taste of the band’s cinematic style, while also being possibly the most instantly enjoyable track on the album.

After that, the album takes a surprising turn, as we get the four part epic “Ten Winters Apart”, which feels like one song split into four tracks. Obviously, these tracks all flow into each other perfectly, and together they form a narrative, with the occasional use of voiceovers, though I find they add to the experience and aren’t distracting. Overall, the first two tracks are mostly fairly calm for the most part, with the occasional explosive growl section, but it’s mostly Helena dominating the vocal passages, especially on Pt. 2, where it turns into a ballad. Pt. 3 is the darkest, most explosive track, and has an exciting folk passage near the end, while Pt. 4 is probably the most upbeat track. On the whole, it’s a great sequence, though it does feel a bit odd to place it so early on the album, especially coming off such an explosive opening track.

Next is another standout in “Mother of Unbelievers”, which opens up with an extended folk passage, before giving way to the heaviest guitar riffs on the album, and the opening verse is very intense, with some powerful growls from Mikko, though the highlight of the track is the chorus, where Helena delivers some very epic and powerful vocals, probably her best work on the entire album. After that is another calmer track in “It’s a Long Road”, which starts off as a ballad, with some pretty solid clean male vocals early on, and going into the chorus, but the track builds up tension as it goes along, with growls kicking in around halfway through, and from there the track gets heavier and becomes pretty epic as it goes along. This track took a few listens to click for me, but once it did it ended up being one of my favorites. The following track “Wayward Verities” is probably the most folk infused track on the album, starting off with some epic group chants, before the growls kick in and then as the track gets heavier it certainly reminds me a lot of some Ensiferum tracks, though Helena’s vocals help it to stand out, and she does a great job as always. It’s definitely a fun, catchy song and one of the more instantly entertaining tracks on the album. Lastly, we have “Until Falls the Rain”, the longest individual track on the album. This track is mostly fairly calm and has some great melodies, as well as some excellent vocals, but I find musically there isn’t much to it and there aren’t really enough memorable moments to justify the near 8-minute running time. The epic vocals and voice overs help, but overall I find it to be the weakest track on the album.

Overall, Amain is an excellent release, which has a nice blend of folk, symphonic and melodic death metal elements, as well as a nice mix of heavier, more immediately satisfying tracks, and some calmer, slower building tracks. The closing track doesn’t do much for me, but everything else is excellent, and it’s an album I can easily recommend to fans of any of the genres I mentioned, as well as obviously fans of the band’s prior releases. Hopefully, Crimfall takes less time to release a fourth album and hopefully they can build on this release and produce something even better in the future.

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/08/26/crimfall-amain-review/

MOONSORROW Suden uni

Album · 2001 · Folk Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
After a string of demos proving that they had what it took to master the art of becoming mere black metal clones of their Norwegian neighbors, the Finnish Pagan folk metal band MOONSORROW that formed in 1995 in Helsinki had differentiated themselves enough from the pack and released their debut album as the old millennium was swallowed up by the Northern lights and a new change of guard had occurred. While present on the demos, the Pagan folk elements were obscured in a lo-fi cacophonous din of buzzsaw feedback and pissed cat screams. On their debut album SUDEN UNI (“Wolf’s Dream”) cousins Ville Sorvali and Henri Sorvali added on Marko Tarvonen for percussion as well as an army of guests who provide nothing more than handclaps!

Right from the very first track "Ukkosenjumalan poika" ("Son of the God of Thunder”) it’s clear that MOONSORROW had latched onto a style that is theirs alone. While the black metal is as ferocious as ever with heavily distorted guitar and bass fuzziness, the compositions are now composed as Pagan folk melodies that utilize epic hummable catchiness with the black metal augmenting the intensity into overdrive and often dominating to the point where the folk is buried. While the band would prove shortly to blend these elements together even more seamlessly with their second album of the same year “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta,” the result of the blending of blatant folk melodies on keyboard, accordion and mouth harp in full company of black metal shrieks, guitar fury and the insane drumming prowess of Tarvonen was quite novel at the time and is quite satisfying even at this early stage as it seems once MOONSORROW hit pay dirt with their signature sound that any variations of their elements dominating was secondary to the strength of the compositions churned out.

At this point MOONSORROW hadn’t quite ventured into the world of progressive metal as with their later releases but the tracks on SUDEN UNI are ripe for the picking as each track exudes an epic feel with several extended length tracks clocking in over six minutes with the profound “1065: Aika” just squeaking over the eleven minute mark. On SUDEN UNI the beauty is in the pacing of the elements as each synth drenched moody atmosphere builds up intensity as the guitars and drum fury are coaxed from their reticence and then allowed to unleash hypnotic fury into the musical patterns that provide a simultaneous epic charm and sonic assault. Ville Sorvali’s vocals have improved big time as his pissed off cat shrieks have become more distinguished shrieks and offers some clean vocal Viking metal moments as well although the band dislike that term and insist on being referred to as Pagan black folk metal.

For me SUDEN UNI is not a weak debut in the least despite the elements not being as neatly tucked together as cleverly as on future albums. This one is more straightforward in nature but not one bit less satisfying and actually sounds more diverse than some of the epic albums with sprawling never-ending tracks like “V: Hävitetty.” SUDEN UNI has been released in two significant forms. The first release with the fire orange album cover with a ghostly wolf howling into the blood red horizon and re-released in 2003 with the cover art i prefer with a human body donning a wolf’s head holding a spiral-ended staff of some sort. This edition includes the bonus track "Tulkaapa äijät!" ("Come Along, Fellows!”) which is probably the closest thing to a black metal drinking song that MOONSORROW has ever recorded. While not a vital experience in relationship to the rest of the album since it doesn’t have the epic feel, it nonetheless is a nice little lighthearted (black metal style) closer. SUDEN UNI is hardly a throwaway debut release. This is a major step from the demo laden abyss from whence they came and a true declaration of blackened folk metal innovation.

EMPYRIUM Songs of Moors & Misty Fields

Album · 1997 · Folk Metal
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Warthur
Dialling back on the symphonic elements of their debut album, leaning on the folk metal aspects more and teasing out the doom metal undercurrents of their sound, on their second album Empyrium produce what may be the finest release of their metal-oriented years. With the next album onwards, they would shift into the dark folk territory they already find themselves on the threshold of here, but this last incorporation of metal aspects into their sound is quite excellent, and sets a precedent for musical territory later explored by the likes of Agalloch. An enchanting 45 minutes and an album that truly deserved to put Empyrium on the map.

ATLAS PAIN What the Oak Left

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
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adg211288
Folk metal and I have an unusual relationship: I'm quick to count it among my favourite styles of metal, but I can list all the folk metal bands I truly consider myself a fan of on my fingers (and if I discount the ones that are heavily based in black metal or power metal (etcetera) I only need one hand). Even more so than with death metal I'm very picky when it comes to this genre. Where am I going with this you ask? Simple - it's just so easy for a folk metal artist/release to press all the wrong buttons for me. As it's a diverse genre that can draw from a large genre pool of influences on both the folk and metal sides I wouldn't say that there's an inherent objectively 'right' way to create it (though for my money the right way is authentic folk instrumentation, but I have heard good simulated stuff too), but there are many albums out there that in one way or another seem to miss the point behind the whole folk metal idea.

Italian band Atlas Pain brand their style as 'epic-folk metal' but their debut full-length album What the Oak Left (2017) unfortunately comes across as being one of the ones that missed the point. There are two ways that folk metal acts miss the point and it's not necessarily anything to do with simulating folk melodies instead of using real instruments to create them (not every artist especially newer ones have access to such things), but rather failing to find balance between folk and metal. Some bands are strong on the folk side but lacking on the metal side. Some bands are the other way around, Atlas Pain being one of them.

These guys are a relatively new entry in the Italian metal scene and have a prior demo (2014) and an EP, Behind the Front Page (2015), under their belts. I have to give them credit where it is due, they prove themselves quite capable in their metal aspects on What the Oak Left. It's a decent and at times even brilliant debut album, energetically played, fun and has plenty of epic moments. Theirs is a symphonic take on the folk metal genre and if I listen to the album as a symphonic metal album I come away feeling a great deal of appreciation for it. Their metal backdrop draws on both power metal and melodic death metal elements and the band are clearly capable of catering to the audience of epic, catchy and polished metal music, while retaining an extreme edge thanks to the primarily growled vocals. The feel of the whole thing is primarily melodic death metal/extreme power metal, with a rare dip into more black metal orientated growls, though musically the album doesn't ever go near anything remotely black metal. It's far too polished and power metal sounding for that.

But the folk part of What the Oak Left really trips it up. It's actually the symphonic elements that end up hindering it in the long run despite providing some of the album's best and most epic moments. The impression I get it that they've been applied a bit too excessively which causes them to detract from the album's status as folk metal. The band are actually delivering some great folk melodies on a regular basis, using either the orchestrations or the lead guitar, but the whole feeling of them being simulated is hard to ignore here because the folk ideas always manage to seem of secondary importance to whatever else is going on at the time, be it an epic orchestration or a speedy power metal guitar riff.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me that approach doesn't work. It sounds more like a kind of folkish metal rather than the real thing, just like viking metal and pagan black metal can be folkish in their ways. To my ears even though I do enjoy the album it creates the nagging feeling that it's missing something, which brings me back around to what I said at the start of this review: the thing What the Oak Left is missing, if it is supposed be a folk metal album (and I can't find any reason to argue that it isn't considering Atlas Pain's own branding for their music), is the point. The clue is in the genre name. Folk metal. What that means is don't slack on your metal elements but the folk should be a dominant feature as well. I can't honestly say that's always the case here. The times the band do get it right though are very good, which gives me hope for future releases.

Just to be clear, What the Oak Left is a very good album from Atlas Pain but I have to rate it as a folk metal album and as one of those it's lacking in a crucial way. But if you want to rate it as what it actually comes across as, a folkish symphonic melodic death/extreme power metal album, then you can easily add another full star to my rating. You'll have to consider me coming away from this one with a mixed opinion.

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