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|Neo/Dark/Ritualistic Folk Favorites|
I wanted to create a list of some neofolk, dark folk, instrumental folk, and ritualistic folk albums that have left an impact on me. All the albums on this list are ones that I have great adoration for and hope that anyone interested in these styles can find some enjoyment in. Please feel free to leave some of your favorites in the comments. I'm always interested in finding old and new gems I may have missed along the years. List is in alphabetical order.
Universally lauded for their near infallible LP discography, Agalloch also managed to release an impressive collection of EPs. The White is their most in line with traditional neofolk, and arguably their greatest EP. Devoid of metal, and more experimental than their usual sound, The White incorporates acoustic guitars, keyboards, minimal percussion and vocals, and some excellent time based electric guitar effects to create a very enjoyable and introspective listen from start to finish.
All the Pretty Little Horses
Released the same year as Death in June’s What Ends When the Symbols Shatter (1996), Current 93’s masterpiece All the Pretty Little Horses, is the essential C93 release and for good reason. Held in high regard as an influential classic in the neofolk scene, front man David Tibet’s groundbreaking All the Pretty Little Horses is equal parts captivating and bizarre. A record way ahead of its time and one of the most iconic of the genre. While the vocals may turn some people off, going into this with an open mind will yield rewarding results.
Side note: David Tibet also has a side project called Nature and Organisation which he released a solely piano and cello driven album called Death in a Snow Leopard Winter. It is absolutely stunning from start to finish.
|3||Death in June|
But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?
What’s a neofolk list without a DI6 album? Might as well choose their essential album. Is this album repetitive? Monotonous? Is Douglas Pearce a controversial icon in the neofolk music scene? You betcha! However one quick listen through it and you’ll easily start to identify how much influence this 1992 release had on future generations of neofolk music. The simply strummed acoustic guitars and borderline spoken vocals found on this record became a staple of the genre, and its impact on the scene can’t be denied.
Eloign’s Old Yarns is a folk EP that I immediately connected with. It’s probably the most uplifting and lighthearted album on this list, but not one to be dismissed. Old Yarns combines several different instruments, styles, and ideas that carry it from start to finish but the acoustic strumming, picking, and calming vocals by sputnik’s very own bnelso55 do an excellent job of pulling you in. An underexposed gem that unfortunately has flown under the radar.
Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays
Germany’s Empyrium are legendary. While their first two records are excellent symphonic doom/black metal masterpieces, their third and fourth acoustic folk records are where I personally felt they really tapped into their ability to create a beautifully haunting atmosphere. Inspired by Ulver’s Kveldssanger, they take the best elements from that album and expand upon the blueprint to create a deeply melancholic record with excellent musicianship that will always remain a staple in the acoustic dark folk genre.
Their follow up Weiland was an incredibly close runner up for Empyrium’s addition to this list. With Weiland, they expanded on their sound, included more variety and percussion, and used vocals more sparsely. It is considered by many their best dark folk record, and anyone turned off by the vocals on WANTWGP might find more enjoyment out of Weiland.
|6||Fields of Mildew|
Shout out to TheSpirit for introducing this German one man project to me back in the day as it quickly became one of my absolute favorite hidden gems. Easily the darkest and most hauntingly atmospheric album on this list, II combines unsettling electric guitar melodies with deep melancholic vocals. The occasional hand drum makes its way into the mix, but this is a very stripped down record that is remarkable for creating such a haunting and unique atmosphere with so few instruments. The other two albums are also fantastic, most notably III if you are interested in diving further into this project.
Sweden’s Forndom play a ritualist folk style similar to Wardruna, but much more toned down in intensity. With an even greater emphasis on soundscapes, the atmosphere is fairly similar, hearkening back to olden times, yet in a more introspective and meditative fashion. To me Flykt is their masterpiece and an incredibly moving record for anyone willing to sink into it.
This is the only record I’ve heard by Denmark’s Heilung, but to be honest I almost want to keep it that way. This is ritualistic atmospheric Nordic folk music masterfully brought to life on stage. The sheer level of dedication and thought that went into this performance is alone worth listening to, but their ability to transport you to another time in a live setting is completely mesmerizing. One of the most impressive albums on this list hands down.
Дни Самозабвения (The Days Of Self-abandonment)
Russia’s Neutral combine traditional neofolk with a darker more melancholic style to create a somber yet tranquil listening experience. I admittedly have not had a chance to experience their entire discography, but The Days of Self-abandonment is an album I find myself coming back to again and again. Devoid of any percussion, the dreamy guitars, strings, and deep croons carry each track along a deeply introspective journey.
Miserere Mei Deus
Meus has been grinding away at honing their craft in instrumental neofolk for years, and the latest album Miserere Mei Deus is a testament to progression and quality song crafting. Possibly the most stripped down album on this list Miserere Mei Deus showcases very little more than just an acoustic guitar and beautiful melodies, and proves you don’t need a multitude of instruments or effects to create compelling music.
Also worth noting, Meus will be joining Winterfylleth and Wolcensmen on a handful of UK tour dates later this year.
Canada’s Musk Ox need no introduction. Their prominent use of cello, alongside masterfully played classical guitar is immediately identifiable. While self-described as Chamber Folk, Nathanaël Larochette’s songwriting is excellent and carries each track on Woodfall through an emotional journey, weaving contemplative sections flawlessly into uplifting crescendos that effortlessly pull you in from start to finish.
In the beginning of times, the mighty Väinämöinen triumphantly slayed the great pike and by combining its massive jawbone with the mane of the devil’s horse, Hiisi, forged the first kantele. Since its creation, the kantele has served as the national instrument of Finland and the bell like sounds produced by plucking the lap harp have been used to create stories as majestic as the Kalevala itself. Nest, the one man folk project by Aslak Tolonen from Finland has captured the spirit of ancient times and the majestic wilderness by combining the harp string melodies of his kantele, with atmospheric keys and ritualistic tribal drumming, to create something truly unique and authentic to the spirit of his homeland. Woodsmoke his debut LP is arguably his masterwork, but the follow up Trail of the Unwary, and two EPs Fabled Lore and Hidden Stream are also worth checking out.
Germany’s Neun Welten play a melancholic style of dark folk in the vein of Kveldsanger, and Empyrium’s dark folk records, however, they expand upon those sounds by including more instrumental variety and percussion. Finding a perfect balance between the primitive sound of early dark folk and the incorporation of more intense drumming at times, they create a style that’s rather difficult to pin down. Destrunken is a varied album that’s rooted in folk, but not afraid to experiment with other elements.
As my first exposure to instrumental acoustic dark folk music, I have a deep reverence for Finland’s October Falls. While more recently shifting to a black folk metal project, October Falls’ mastermind M. Lehto started off this project composing incredibly moving instrumental classical guitar pieces that resonated strongly for me and the first full length LP Marras is to me Lehto’s masterwork. While driven mostly by the nylon plucking of solemn classical guitars, subtle piano, keyboards, percussion, chants, strings, flutes, and field recordings help build the backbone for this nature inspired classic.
|15||Sangre de Muerdago|
Where do I even begin attempting to describe this band in a short blurb. Sangre De Muerdago (“Blood of Mistletoe”) are a dark folk group that are on an entirely different plane of musical existence than a majority of their peers. Their music and ethos are firmly rooted in Galician folk music. The melancholic vocals of multi-instrumentalist Pablo C. Ursusson are exceptional, and the variety of instruments (guitar, harp, hand percussions, viola, flute, hurdy-gurdy, etc.) are so masterfully incorporated into their music, that I always seem to find something new with each listen. Their latest album Noite is has been in perpetual rotation since its release this year (2018), but their previous album O Camiño das Mans Valeiras from 2015 is equally as impressive.
Germany’s Sonne Hagal have created one of my absolute favorite neofolk records, Ockerwasser. Carried largely by acoustic guitars, the addition of strings, synthesizers, samples, and deep melancholic vocals, are combined to make an incredibly diverse record that never strays too far away from their signature sound. It’s a very traditional sounding record that manages to combine enough flourishes of experimentation throughout to keep it interesting from start to finish.
Much like Sangre De Muerdago, it is impossible for me to do this band justice attempting to describe their music and my incredibly deep connection to their records. Finland’s Tenhi are masters at their craft. Their dark neofolk compositions are perfect, and their atmosphere is otherworldly. Their lyrics are entirely in Finnish, and they utilize several instruments including piano, subtle percussion, strings, guitars, and a jaw harp. My favorite record perpetually changes, but in addition to Maaaet, I highly recommend Vare, and the Airut:Ciwi EP as it contains probably my favorite song ever written, Kielo. If you enjoy these, their entire discography is worth diving deep into.
Here it is, Ulver’s “Twilight Songs”. The 2nd installment to the “Black Metal Trilogie,” and the furthest thing musically from what one would expect. Described by Garm as an "Immature attempt at making a classical album", the impact this record would have on similar future acts is nigh immeasurable. Kveldssanger is an extension of the acoustic beauty found on Bergtatt and includes classical guitar, Cello, and Garm’s iconic booming choral chants. The best of the genre? Probably not, but without a doubt an indisputable classic for its impact on the scene.
Nova Scotia’s premier instrumental dark/neofolk act Ulvesang have developed quite a name for themselves in the past few years. Despite recently releasing their critically acclaimed The Hunt which I enjoyed, it is their 2015 self-titled release that has really captivated me since its inception. The complementing guitars of Alex Boyd & Ana Dujakovic play off each other with such vibrant life and the unique reverb laden production on this helps it stand out from their peers. Their excellent use of choral chants and field recordings, help create a feeling of being peacefully lost in a forgotten wilderness.
Norwegian composer Vàli has recorded two of the best, if not the best, nature inspired instrumental dark folk albums ever written. His compositional skill, instrumental variety, and introspective melodies are unparalleled. Both 2004’s Forlatt and 2013’s Skogslandskap are breathtaking from start to finish. If there’s one artist on this list I would recommend checking for anyone interested in the scene it’s hands down Vali. Start with Forlatt, listen through Skogslandskap, and let the beauty envelop you.
Terminus: Rebirth in Eight Parts...
Okay, maybe it’s a stretch including this album on here as it is somewhat of an ambient record, however, its ethos is very much rooted in a connection with nature and compliments many of the other records on this list. This album by Pennsylvania’s Vindensang is not for the easily distracted. Terminus is an album best enjoyed laying in an open field on an Autumn night, staring into the nightsky above. Consisting mainly of field recording soundscapes, synths, whispered vocals, and sparse guitars and percussion, Terminus is a meditative experience to get lost in. A truly unique experience for the patient soul.
Runaljod - Yggdrasil
Wardruna play a style of Nordic ritualistic, shamanic, atmospheric, folk music that is rooted in olden times. Runaljod – Yggdrasil is the soundtrack to pagan invocation; the music of the forests; a channeling of spiritual energy from the past. Their instruments include deer-hide frame drums, Kraviklyra, tagelharpe, mouth harp, goat horn, lur, and other sources of sound like trees, rocks, water and torches.
The Hallowing of Heirdom
What happens when a black metal band decides to record an acoustic folk record for their 6th full length release? In the case of Winterfylleth they were able to really hit their stride and release one of the most compelling and enjoyable folk albums of the year. I can’t help but imagine that Winterfylleth guitarist Dan Capp’s monumental vision and success with his similar sounding solo project Wolcensmen paved the way for this release. The Hallowing of Heirdom explores a more traditional sounding style, with excellent songwriting and musicianship and while it is a record I very much enjoy, it didn’t have quite the impact that Wolcensmen’s Songs from the Fyrgen had. That being said, it’s still an excellent record worthy of several listens and I certainly wouldn’t mind if they returned to this style on a future release.
Songs from the Fyrgen
Dan Capp is a name that should be on everyone’s radar. Some of you may know him as the guitarist of black metal stalwarts, Winterfylleth, but in 2016 he released a monolithic “Epic Heathen Folk” album entitled Songs from the Fyrgen. Composed almost entirely by Capp, this massive record combines traditional sounding folk melodies and lyrics, with the whole gamut of instruments. With the help of several guest musicians, pianos, acoustic guitars, flutes, synthesizers, cello, and a bodhran, bring Capp’s epic vision to life with his fantastic vocals proudly soaring high throughout the album. Easily one of my favorite releases of 2016, which has somehow flown completely under the radar on Sputnik.
|let's hear your favorites|
|Nice list. A personal favourite of mine is NYIÞ, though they're far heavier on the ritual side.|
|i have forndom, wardruna, musk ox, vali, i will add to your list:|
nebelung - palingenesis
nuen welten - vergessene pfade
gonna check a couple of these others, thanks
|also i post this album sometime because it doesn't have any apparent following despite being awesome - beltane - rockhill|
it's a celtic vibe album and not brooding dark nordic folk a la wardruna BUT it still has a fun pagan feel and it's energetic.
|you intrigued me with Eloign, jamming now.|
|I think you should check Sam Gopal /Escalator. Classic psych, doom, folk with dark lyrics fronted by a very young Lemmy Kilmister, great shit around 69-70 not sure how old you want to go, but think it would be worth it. Also Coven/Witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls, also 69|
|Hell yes to this list |
|Thanks everyone for the recs and the list feature, I haven't heard a lot of these and am looking forward to checking them out.|
@Budgie, I need to give Palingenesis some more spins. It's their best album I've heard but wasn't entirely sold on it after my initial listen and haven't returned since. Should probably revisit it though
|Can't wait to listen to some of these, awesome list. My recs would be:|
In Gowan Ring - Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home
The Moon and the Nightspirit - Holdrejtek
Nucleus Torn - Andromeda Awaiting
Nachtreich / Spectral Lore - The Quivering Lights
Nachtreich - Sturmgang
|v nice list. all my favorites are on here, i would just add Uaral's Lamentos which is some really unique doomfolk|
|@Elynna, thanks for those recs, the only one I've heard from those is Nachtreich's side of the Spectral Lore split which I really enjoyed!|
@Keyblade, ah Uaral. I remember Sounds of Pain and there's song with a section of him literally crying. One of the most interesting moments in music for me.. but I'll definitely check Lamentos
|man i forgot about 21, i used to love that album|
|Eloign was decent.|
|Thanks for checking it out, it's one of the better user-made albums|
|bump to remind me to check some later.|
|Thank you for the shout-out and for including me on this stellar list. It's flattering to see my project appear alongside so many of my favorites. 6, 9, and 21 are all unfamiliar to me, though, so I know what I'll be listening to next! |
|And thanks to Papa for listening and sharing your thoughts! |
|Sweet list. Overwhelming tbh, I have no idea where to begin.|
|Awesome list !|
I'll add :
Stara Rzeka - Zamknęły się oczy ziemi
Amenra - Alive
Boduf Songs - Stench Of Exist
Songs Ohia - Ghost Tropic
Sol Invictus - In The Rain
Sudatsuga - Hain Ba Sun Hex
Hala Strana - Fielding
Also an entire discog dive into the amazing world of Natural Snow Buildings
Those are the ones I can think of on the top of my head
|Awesome list man, I think Father Murphy - Rising would fit this list.|
|Sweet list, gonna def check some of these|
|20 is amazing by the way|
|Father Murphy |
|3 is goat|
|I have a solid 20+ albums on a list to check out now thanks to you guys :)|
|I think Comus - First Utterance would fit nicely on here|
|This list needs Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat|
|1000 percent checking out 24 holy|
|Fuckn glorious list|
|1, 18 and 23 all slay. Gotta check these hard. I loved Ulvesang’s most recent album so I’ll have to check 19 asap.|
|Of the wand and the moon|
Lonndom - viddernas tolv kapitel
|Awesome list bro and an honour to be on a list like this for a man of your taste! |
|I feel like Wovenhand is a bit too close to blues. Doesn't folk me up imo|