Viking Metal

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Viking Metal is one of the sub-genres of metal music. As a style it takes ideas also found in Black Metal and Folk Metal, so can be seen as a descendent of them, similar to how power metal descended from speed metal, or stoner metal from doom metal. While this mix forms the basis for viking metal, the genre has diversified over the years, with some artists incorporating symphonic metal, doom metal, death metal and even traditional heavy metal. The genre takes its name from the common lyrical theme of the Viking Age, as well as Norse Mythology in general, which is also regular represented in the artist's imagery and artwork.

The viking metal sound is defined by taking elements of black metal music, though with more clean vocals typically applied than in actual black metal styles, and adding anthemic keyboards and influences from Nordic folk music. Due to its close relationship, many artists can fairly be describing as both viking and black metal or both viking and folk metal, if not all three. Although accepted as a fully-fledged genre in its own right, these crossovers with black metal and folk metal do make it so that what may be considered a 'pure' (or close to it) viking metal release to be comparatively rare next to other genres of metal.

Bathory, a Swedish act that started off by playing black/thrash metal, was a pioneer of the Viking Metal style and remains its best known act, being especially known for the albums Hammerheart (1990) and Twilight of the Gods (1991). Other notable acts of the genre include Mithotyn and Falkenbach.

The viking metal term is often confused with any metal act who writes with a viking theme, the most notable act erroneously identified as viking metal being Sweden's Amon Amarth, who play melodic death metal. The style has also incorrectly been considered to be restricted to Scandinavian artists, another misnomer as viking metal is a musical style and a band can hail from anywhere in the world.

- Style definition written by adg211288.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Folk Metal):
  • adg211288


Important: The Viking Metal sub-genre on Metal Music Archives is new and as such its contents may not fully reflect all the viking metal artists and releases currently in the database at this time. If you spot something you feel needs moving, please report it via our forum. Thank you.

viking metal top albums

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BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain Album Cover The Olden Domain
BORKNAGAR
4.21 | 28 ratings
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MOONSORROW Kivenkantaja Album Cover Kivenkantaja
MOONSORROW
4.22 | 23 ratings
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BATHORY Hammerheart Album Cover Hammerheart
BATHORY
4.11 | 50 ratings
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FALKENBACH ...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri... Album Cover ...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri...
FALKENBACH
4.28 | 9 ratings
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BATHORY Nordland II Album Cover Nordland II
BATHORY
4.13 | 17 ratings
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DARK FOREST Land of the Evening Star Album Cover Land of the Evening Star
DARK FOREST
4.21 | 8 ratings
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STORM Nordavind Album Cover Nordavind
STORM
4.08 | 6 ratings
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BATHORY Twilight of the Gods Album Cover Twilight of the Gods
BATHORY
3.91 | 29 ratings
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BATHORY Nordland I Album Cover Nordland I
BATHORY
3.92 | 18 ratings
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FALKENBACH Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty Album Cover Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
FALKENBACH
3.94 | 8 ratings
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FALKENBACH Heralding: The Fireblade Album Cover Heralding: The Fireblade
FALKENBACH
3.88 | 8 ratings
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FALKENBACH Tiurida Album Cover Tiurida
FALKENBACH
3.72 | 7 ratings
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Hour of Ragnarok
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viking metal Music Reviews

BORKNAGAR The Olden Domain

Album · 1997 · Viking Metal
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lukretion
Back in the mid-90s, Borknagar were pretty much one of the first black metal supergroups around. The band was formed and led by ex-Molested guitarist Øystein G. Brun, who grouped together an exceptional cast of fellow musicians, including Kristoffer Rygg (vocals; Ulver, Arcturus), Erik “Grim” Brødreskift (drums; Gorgoroth, Immortal), Roger “Infernus” Tiegs (bass; Gorgoroth) and Ivar Bjørnson (keyboards; Enslaved). After releasing a self-titled full-length in 1996, they replaced bass player Infernus with the relatively unknown Kai K. Lie, and headed to the then state-of-the-art Woodhouse Studios to record and self-produce their sophomore album The Olden Domain, which was then released on Century Media in 1997.

While the debut album was pretty much rooted in black metal aesthetics, The Olden Domain offers a more eclectic blend of styles that stunned the extreme metal scene at the time. Black metal, Viking metal, classic HM and progressive rock are all audible influences across the eight songs of the album, giving the record a very definite and special sound. Øystein G. Brun blends in equal parts aggressive guitar riffs typical of the black metal scene with more folk-oriented leads and acoustic passages. His guitar tone is fat and noisy, and his playing is articulate but at the same time raw and spontaneous, which gives the music a distinct lo-fi feel (in fact the whole album was recorded in only two weeks and mixed in three days, which probably reinforces its underground feel). Grim’s drumming can be fast and furious when needed, but it often breaks down in more expressive and articulate playing, with lots of drum fills and builds that bring to mind the style of heavy progressive rock bands like King Crimson. Ivar Bjørnson’s keyboard textures are another hark back to the 1970s progressive rock aesthetics, which are particularly marked on symphonic tracks like “Grimland Domain” and “The Dawn of the End”. Meanwhile, Kristoffer Rygg offers a varied and excellent performance, alternating between raspy growls and theatrical cleans with his unmistakable baritone voice and unique phrasing.

The forward-thinking and progressive nature of the material is also apparent from the song structures, which is loose and fluid, exploring different tempos and moods in the space of a single composition without giving too many reference points to the listener. For this reason, The Olden Domain can be a fairly challenging album to listen to, but it definitely grows with repeated listens as one needs time to make sense of its stretched structures and complex arrangements. Yet, the record also possesses a raw immediacy that makes it easily accessible to those who are not inclined to invest too much time into it. This is especially true for tracks like the epic duo at the front of the disc (“The Eye of Oden”, “The Winterways”), and what is probably the best track of the album, “A Tale of Pagan Tongue”. These are all tracks dominated by strong guitar melodies that are very memorable and instantly likeable. Rygg’s vocals often double the guitar melody, accentuating even further its impact on the listener.

But all songs offer interesting moments, be it an atmospheric acoustic interlude, a glacial guitar riff, or an epic folk melody. There is also sufficient variety across tracks to keep things fresh. The two instrumental pieces, “Om hundrede aar er alting glemt” and ”Ascension of Our Fathers” are helpful in this respect. The first one is a short atmospheric song that revolves around a melancholic keyboard motif that is doubled up by an icy distorted guitar. It breaks up nicely the flow of the record, giving the listener a moment of respite from the black/viking metal assault of the previous two tracks, before the album plunges again into more extreme sounds. The other instrumental track is more of a band effort, with guitar, drums and bass playing around a folksy theme with a strong melancholic feeling. Meanwhile, “To Mount and Rove” shows a more marked classic heavy metal influence, especially in the opening guitar riff. However, this track is probably the weakest song of the lot, with a songwriting that is still partly immature and cannot make the various subsections of the composition flow nicely into one another.

This is probably the biggest limit of this record. While there are some excellent ideas that are genuinely interesting and exciting, Borknagar succeed in channeling them into smooth compositions only in a handful of tracks (the aforementioned “The Eye of Oden”, “The Winterways” and “A Tale of Pagan Tongue”, plus the symphonic “Grimland Domain”). Elsewhere, the song flow stutters somewhat, bordering on the chaotic. But for most part The Olden Domain is a thoroughly enjoyable album, showing a band of enormous potential and unafraid to carve an original and relatively untrodden path in the universe of extreme metal. For this reason, The Olden Domain is highly recommended to fans of bands like Enslaved, Ulver and Arcturus, and anyone interested in music that explores the boundaries between progressive rock, folk and black metal.

FALKENBACH ...En Their Medh Riki Fara...

Album · 1996 · Viking Metal
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siLLy puPPy
One of the very first Viking metal acts to emerge alongside the great Bathory was FALKENBACH which has pretty much been the brainchild of Markus Tümmers better known as Vratyas Vakyas who was born in raised in Germany but found inspiration while spending time in Iceland in the late 1980s. With his Teutonic origins combined with the Old Norse mythology and folk flavors of Iceland, Vakyas formed FALKENBACH as early as 1989 and released his demo “Havamal” the very same year and could be considered the very first example of German Pagan metal or what would become known as Viking metal although Bathory usually gets the creds for releasing his landmark “Hammerheart” the following year in 1990 but then again “Havamal”

FALKBENBACH ( German for “falcon brook”) released five demos before finally getting around to this full-fledged debut album …EN THEIR MEDH RIKI FARA… which is Old Norse for “…And In Glory Will They Go…” For those not in the know, the Icelandic language is the closest thing to Old Norse and therefore retains a lot of the folklore in tact which clearly has been the inspiration for reviving the mythologies and traditions of the Pagan revivals in the metal universe along of course with neighboring Scandinavia. If you’re familiar with Viking metal at all, you are probably accustomed to think that the style is a bit less dramatic than its second wave black metal counterpart with more emphasis on folk music and slower clean vocal lamenting rather than caustic black metal rage but that’s where EN THEIR truly surprises.

This album is actually a brilliant mix of Darkthrone inspired black metal, Old Norse folk music and the dreamier atmospheric style of metal that would become known as Viking metal once the term was established. This debut album originally consisted of seven tracks and was mixed in 1995 / 96 and initially released on cassettes limited to only 250 copies but as FALKENBACH gained notoriety the album was predictable reissued numerous times with bonus tracks on some. At this stage FALKENBACH was basically a one-man show with Vakyas performing all vocals, guitars, bass, drums and keyboards but make no mistake, EN THEIR sounds like a full band experience and a very compelling one at that.

First of all EN THEIR is very melodic with the Old Norse folk music as the canvas upon which the black metal wraps its caustic little tentacles around. Despite these early origins and lo-fi production values, Vakyas clearly had an ear for epic soundscapes which had already gestated into monstrous sprawling compositions with a couple tracks such as “Heathenpride” and “"Ásum ok álfum nær..." ("Near Gods and Elves…”)" sprawling past the seven-minute mark. The music is also well paced with a nice balancing act of dynamics, tempos and mood-enhancing elements. The lyrics are all in Old Norse but even if you don’t understand the lyrics, there is a sense of ancient wisdom tucked away into the artistic approach that serves as a connection to the long forgotten past.

True that FALKENBACH would craft more refined and better recorded albums a few years down the road but the musical accomplishment already present on this first offering is quite impressive as Vakyas had already mastered the art of epic compositional fortitude that is vital for the atmospheric and emotive styles that Pagan black metal and Viking metal requires. Since this album has been re-released and given a facelift, it has pretty much become a bonafide album in the FALKENBACH canon and one that should not be missed as it offers ample doses of all the ingredients that constitute a great Pagan metal album and unlike Bathory’s Viking metal phase, offers some bonafide second wave black metal moments as well.

BATHORY Twilight of the Gods

Album · 1991 · Viking Metal
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SilentScream213
Bathory (Quorthon) is the type of band that is always innovating. They managed to invent 2 completely original styles of metal, Black Metal with 1984’s Bathory, and Viking Metal 6 years later on Hammerheart. They toyed with this style on 88’s Blood Fire Death, and finally the genre came into fruition here.

While this album is amazingly unique for its time, I do find a slight step down from Blood Fire Death, which is odd because the bookend Viking Metal tracks of that album were my favorite. It turns out, slower paced epic Viking Metal doesn’t feel as powerful without a ton of Blackened Thrash pummeling you in between. Hammerheart has some truly epic songs that amaze (One Rode to Asa Bay is a masterpiece) but the majority of the material doesn’t leave me in the same awe as say, Blood Fire Death or A Fine Day to Die. Since this album is much more uplifting and much less dark, the riffs aren’t really evil or sinister; rather, they are just there. In all honesty, I can’t remember any notable riffs off the album, as it puts much more emphasis on atmosphere and Quorthon’s vocals. The rhythm section is slow and monotonous, but it does create a martial mood befitting the themes.

Off of those notes though, this is still a fantastic album, and Quorthon’s vocals are actually quite awesome. He’s evolved from a pure Black Metal shriek to what sounds like a haggard yell very capable of hitting and holding notes, which was necessary to make the jump from Black to Viking Metal. The atmosphere is effective and the backing vocals provide a great sense of grandeur to the whole package. The songs individually are not always Bathory’s greatest, but the album as a whole works very well due to these connecting themes.

BATHORY Hammerheart

Album · 1990 · Viking Metal
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SilentScream213
Bathory (Quorthon) is the type of band that is always innovating. They managed to invent 2 completely original styles of metal, Black Metal with 1984’s Bathory, and Viking Metal 6 years later on Hammerheart. They toyed with this style on 88’s Blood Fire Death, and finally the genre came into fruition here.

While this album is amazingly unique for its time, I do find a slight step down from Blood Fire Death, which is odd because the bookend Viking Metal tracks of that album were my favorite. It turns out, slower paced epic Viking Metal doesn’t feel as powerful without a ton of Blackened Thrash pummeling you in between. Hammerheart has some truly epic songs that amaze (One Rode to Asa Bay is a masterpiece) but the majority of the material doesn’t leave me in the same awe as say, Blood Fire Death or A Fine Day to Die. Since this album is much more uplifting and much less dark, the riffs aren’t really evil or sinister; rather, they are just there. In all honesty, I can’t remember any notable riffs off the album, as it puts much more emphasis on atmosphere and Quorthon’s vocals. The rhythm section is slow and monotonous, but it does create a martial mood befitting the themes.

Off of those notes though, this is still a fantastic album, and Quorthon’s vocals are actually quite awesome. He’s evolved from a pure Black Metal shriek to what sounds like a haggard yell very capable of hitting and holding notes, which was necessary to make the jump from Black to Viking Metal. The atmosphere is effective and the backing vocals provide a great sense of grandeur to the whole package. The songs individually are not always Bathory’s greatest, but the album as a whole works very well due to these connecting themes.

GRENDEL Beowulf

Album · 2005 · Viking Metal
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siLLy puPPy
GRENDEL was the mythical beast and one of three antagonists in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf and has also been a very well-used band name that has been used by a melodic death metal band from Finland, a Dutch aggrotech act, a Spanish power metal band and a Polish neo-prog group however this GRENDEL is a black / viking metal act from the extreme northern city of Sondrio, Italy which is situated in the Alps next to the Swiss border.

Formed in 2005, this band has released four full-length albums with this debut BEOWULF emerging in 2007. The band was founded by Mordred (vocals) and Chainerdog aka Klingsor (guitar, bass, backing vocals) and then split up in 2008 after this debut but reformed in 2009 without Mordrid. This album features eight tracks at 38 minutes of playing time. The lineup is the trio of Chainerdog, Mordred and drummer Loathing. The album was limited to 500 copies on the Narok Records label.

BEOWULF is a mix of second wave black metal with viking and folk influences. The black metal features the typical tremolo picking, heavy distortion and muddy rawness of early 90s black metal acts as well as blastbeats and breakdowns. Also on board are the raspy vocals and the rather Darkthrone inspired compositional styles that are all too common.

What makes GRENDEL a bit different from other black metal acts is that it includes segments of viking metal with folk influences and clean earnest vocals reciting Pagan ritual stuff obviously lifted from the subject matter of the album title. It’s a rather nice mix of black and viking metal influences with neither really dominating but given the emphasis on the subject matter i tend to see this more as viking metal with black metal influences rather than the other way around.

While not excelling to the top ranks of black or viking metal albums, GRENDEL has crafted an interesting mix of the two styles with a nice raw yet excellent production that allows the black metal elements to sound authentic yet raw while allowing the less brutal moments to sound rich and full. The epic Pagan ritual styles segments can sound a bit like Enslaved at similar moments and although these styles of metal have been done to death, GRENDEL nevertheless executes them quite well despite not exactly finding its own distinct sound.

While all is performed well, something about BEOWULF evokes a more epic approach than delivered as GRENDEL simply relies on trading off between black metal and viking metal to get its points across. It would’ve been more satisfying if the compositions were a bit more thought out and various other nuances were explored but as a debut album, this is certainly a worthy black / viking metal listening experience once you exhaust the usual suspects that provided the inspiration behind these black, folk and viking moments. Nice intro and outro for sure.

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