Celtic metal is a subgenre of folk metal that developed in the 1990s in Ireland. As the name suggests, the genre is a fusion of heavy metal music and Celtic music. The early pioneers of the genre were the three Irish bands Cruachan, Primordial and Waylander. The genre has since expanded beyond Irish shores and is known to be performed today by bands from numerous other countries.
—Ciaran O'Hagan of Waylander
The origins of Celtic metal can be traced to the earliest known exponent of folk metal, the English band Skyclad. Their "ambitious" and "groundbreaking" debut album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth was released in 1990 with the song "The Widdershins Jig" acclaimed as "particularly significant" and "a certain first in the realms of Metal". This debut album made an impact on a young Keith Fay who had formed a Tolkien-inspired black metal band by the name of Minas Tirith.
Inspired by the music of Skyclad and Horslips, Keith Fay set out to combine black metal with the folk music of Ireland. He formed the Irish band Cruachan in 1992 with a demo recording released in 1993. Like Waylander, Keith Fay also credits the Irish rock band Horslips as a "huge influence on Cruachan," further noting that "what they were doing in the 70's is the equivalent of what we do now." Cruachan's debut album Tuatha Na Gael was released in 1995 and the band has since been acclaimed as having "gone the greatest lengths of anyone in their attempts to expand" the genre of folk metal. With a specific focus on Celtic music and the use of Celtic mythology in their lyrics, Cruachan's style of folk metal is known today as Celtic metal.
Parallel to Cruachan, the black metal act Primordial also released a demo recording in 1993 and "found themselves heralded as frontrunners in the burgeoning second-wave black metal movement." Irish music plays "a very big role" in Primordial but in "a dark and subtle way" through the chords and timings.
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