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07.12.18 Neo/Dark/Ritualistic Folk Favorites 02.28.18 New Rota Fortunae EP out now (user proj

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.
1Agalloch
The White


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.

https://agalloch.bandcamp.com/album/the-white-ep
2Current 93
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.

https://current931.bandcamp.com/album/all-the-pretty-little-horses

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oElXaC5KsEg
3Death 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.

https://deathinjune.bandcamp.com/album/but-what-ends-when-the-symbols-shatter
4Eloign
Old Yarns


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.

https://eloign.bandcamp.com/album/old-yarns
5Empyrium
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.

https://empyrium.bandcamp.com/album/where-at-night-the-wood-grouse-plays

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.

https://empyrium.bandcamp.com/album/weiland
6Fields of Mildew
II


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.

https://fieldsofmildew.bandcamp.com/album/ii
7Forndom
Flykt


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.

https://forndom.bandcamp.com/album/flykt
8Heilung
LIFA


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.

https://heilung.bandcamp.com/
9Neutral
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.

https://infinitefog.bandcamp.com/album/neutral-the-days-of-self-abandonment
10Meus
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.

https://meus.bandcamp.com/album/miserere-mei-deus

Also worth noting, Meus will be joining Winterfylleth and Wolcensmen on a handful of UK tour dates later this year.
11Musk Ox
Woodfall


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.

https://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com/album/woodfall
12Nest (FIN)
Woodsmoke


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.

https://nestfin.bandcamp.com/album/woodsmoke
13Neun Welten
Destrunken


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.

https://neun-welten.bandcamp.com/album/destrunken
14October Falls
Marras


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.

https://octoberfalls.bandcamp.com/album/marras-album
15Sangre de Muerdago
Noite


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.

https://sangredemuerdago.bandcamp.com/album/noite

https://sangredemuerdago.bandcamp.com/album/o-cami-o-das-mans-valeiras
16Sonne Hagal
Ockerwasser


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.

https://tescogermany.bandcamp.com/album/ockerwasser
17Tenhi
Maaaet


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.

https://tenhi.bandcamp.com/album/maa-et

https://tenhi.bandcamp.com/album/v-re

https://tenhi.bandcamp.com/album/airut-ciwi
18Ulver
Kveldssanger


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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWTpdOPAZDw
19Ulvesang
Ulvesang


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.

https://ulvesang.bandcamp.com/album/ulvesang
20Vali
Forlatt


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.

https://vali.bandcamp.com/
21Vindensang
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.

https://vindensang.bandcamp.com/album/terminus-rebirth-in-eight-parts
22Wardruna
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.
Also Gaahl.

https://warduna.bandcamp.com/album/runaljod-yggdrasil
23Winterfylleth
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.

https://winterfylleth.bandcamp.com/album/the-hallowing-of-heirdom
24Wolcensmen
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.

https://wolcensmen.bandcamp.com/album/songs-from-the-fyrgen
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