I’m not incredibly knowledgable on folk metal, but I have noticed a recent trend of bands that have done a great job putting folk elements into their music. Wintersun and Saor are the first to come to my mind, but even other, lesser known groups, like Forndom (which will hopefully find its own HLT in the future) have done incredible jobs reinventing the folk metal sound.What Russia’s Goatpsalm brings to the proverbial folk metal table is, in my opinion, incredibly original, at least in presentation. It’s as if the band has been able to strip folk metal down to its barest elements—the sounds of nature, the occasional acoustic guitar, and an assortment of ethnic instruments—and sort of build their sound up from there.
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From the beginning of their latest album, Downstream (a fair contender for the upper percentile of my AOTY list, honestly), Goatpsalm plays a style of metal that takes a while to really hit with traditional metal brutality (i.e. harsh vocals, chugging guitars, etc.), instead opting to use samples of nature, some well placed synths, and more acoustic instruments, before falling down the rabbit hole like some heavy metal Alice. When they get to their hard-hitting stuff, though, they have a great funeral doom sound that clutches you in the throes of its demise and demands you listen to the entire thing before it lets go. Essentially put, this is ambient metal of the highest quality.