Viking metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music characterised by its galloping pace, keyboard-rich anthemic sound, bleakness and dramatic emphasis on Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking Age.
Viking metal is "noisy, chaotic, and often augmented by sorrowful keyboard melodies." Like folk metal bands, Viking metal acts "generally utilize some acoustic and other unusual instruments in addition to the traditional metal instruments."
The genre of Viking metal was pioneered by the Swedish band Bathory. Their first album Bathory was released in 1984 and is "regarded by many as the first black metal record." The band's fourth album Blood Fire Death was released in 1988 and includes two early examples of Viking metal – the songs "A Fine Day to Die" and "Blood Fire Death". Eduardo Rivadavia of Allmusic describes this as "possibly the first true example" of Viking metal. It was followed in 1990 with the release of Hammerheart, a landmark album that "formally introduced" to the metal world the "archetypical Viking metal album." By then the band had completely departed from "the Satanic mould" and was "squarely in Viking mythology." The Viking metal music of Bathory was characterised by Wagnerian "lengthy epics, ostentatious arrangements, chorused vocals, and ambient keyboards."
The year 1991 saw the formation of the Norwegian group Enslaved. Their debut album Vikingligr Veldi arrived in 1994 with "many melodies being borrowed from ethnic Scandinavian folk music to lend additional authenticity to the vicious, fast-paced black metal." Inspired by Bathory, Enslaved set out to "create Viking metal devoted to retelling Norway's legends and traditions of old." Their second album Frost, also from 1994, was "an important release for the extreme music subgenre of Viking metal." With "Viking themes, razor sharp guitars, blastbeat drums, and an ear for orchestration resulting in complex structures, bountiful harmonies and time changes," Enslaved has since been acclaimed as "probably the foremost exponents" of the genre.
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