Starter Kit analyzes the ins-and-outs of some of the more obscure and niche sub-genres within the metal spectrum and offers a small group of bands that best represent the sound. Read other Starter Kit entries here.
Folk music is a style that has always influenced metal and rock. Especially post metal and its more ponderous predecessors, have both legs deeply rooted in the foundations of folk. As such, it enjoys a wealth of iterations and conversations on what it is, why it exists and how we should draw from it. What this conversation is often missing is the understanding that folk music is the palette with which a lot of modern music now paints. More genres than you know owe their genesis to the folk revivals of the 50’s and 60’s. The goal of these, among others, were to supply the flesh and bone to the growing, modern culture since classical music was perceived (and was often) sterile and detached from the tastes and sensibilities of the new middle class.
Therefore, a lot of folk is ingrained into the way we listen to music today. I think that as a result of that, an artist relying on tried and true folk sensibilities is doing nothing wrong; they are simply laying bare the roots of their music and the basic influences which informed it. Examples include Opeth, In Flames, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden.
The other point which is often heard and is misplaced is the demand from folk to be innovative. That kind of misses the point of what folk is about. Folk is about creating a communal sound, about channeling historical aspects and themes into music that tells a story, sets the mood or creates a theme. It’s not about new things and about innovation per se, although that can certainly come into play (for example, Ulver‘s Kveldssanger). However, it’s not a major element.
Think of it like a fairy tale: I need to start it with “once upon a time” and it needs to have certain common elements so that you can recognize it as such a tale. Otherwise, the tale doesn’t make sense and you might walk away from reading it with completely different ideas than what I set out to convey. Now, you might say that’s boring and if so, folk is probably not for you. But within the genre, or people that draw upon the genre, it’s not necessarily laziness or complacency (although that can be the case of course). It’s something deeper in how the genre is created and understood.
Read on below for some of the examples how folk is being used today to convey themes and sounds which are kin to metal in their focus: nature, loneliness, sadness, anger, depression. While they draw on traditional ideas, the bands of the oft-misunderstood genres cited here tell fairy tales: established stories with modern twists, telling us things about ourselves and the world around us.