Folk and metal are two types of music that you might not think go together, but folk metal is a genre that has been around in Finland since the 90s.
With the emergence of relatively new artists, such as Ritva Nero, the tradition of folk metal still seems strong in Finland.
What is Folk Metal?
Folk metal is a genre of music that fuses heavy metal with traditional folk music. It combines the intense and powerful sounds of heavy metal guitars and drums with the sounds of folk instruments, such as violins and bagpipes.
Folk metal is also known for incorporating traditional styles of folk singing, as well as traditional folk dancing in music videos and during live performances.
There are many regional variations of folk metal, with some of the early acts of the genre hailing from England and Ireland.
The different folk music of each country often influences the sound of folk metal in that country. For example, in the British Isles, folk metal is often heavily infused with Celtic folk music styles.
However, folk metal bands have also been known to choose to focus on a style from other regions. It’s not uncommon for a Spanish folk metal band to play Nordic folk music, for example.
Among the regional styles, there are different subgenres like medieval metal, which combines heavy metal with medieval folk music.
Additionally, some folk metal bands choose to focus their music on different types of heavy metal, from black metal to power metal.
Throughout the 90s, folk metal bands popped up across Europe, but the genre really started to explode in the early 2000s when it gained popularity in Finland. Some of the most popular Finnish folk metal bands include Finntroll, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani, Turisas and Moonsorrow.
A new era of Finnish folk metal
Formed only in 2017, Ritva Nero are the newcomers of Finnish folk metal. They are reinventing the heavy metal genre and calling their music party metal folk.
Ritva Nero recently released her debut album Immortal Tradition on January 14, 2022. The album features 9 songs, each of which combines heavy metal rock with a different style of folk dance music including polka, mazurka and maanitus.
The group also released a music video for a song featuring the latter style of Finnish folk dance, titled Master of Maanitus.
The music video alternates between black and white shots of the band members playing their various rock and folk instruments and shots of masked and tracksuit-clad dancers performing folk dances in various settings. Overall, the track and accompanying music video are upbeat and evoke feelings of spring on the horizon at the end of a long, cold Finnish winter.
Other Immortal Tradition songs vary in tempo and style. For example, there’s the fast-paced, frenzied polka track 4: Megapolka. The next track, Rahapolska Helsingista, begins much slower before building into an epic soundtrack-worthy finale of a cinematic climax.
In fact, if any of the Immortal Tradition songs ever find their way to royalty free music sites, they would all make some pretty epic soundtrack material.
Members of Ritva Nero’s band incorporate soprano saxophone, Finnish bagpipes, and nyckelharpa into their songs, alongside traditional heavy metal-style percussion and rock-style bass.
Learn more about Ritva Nero
Ritva Nero is composed of Sanna Salonen (soprano saxophone), Petri Prauda (Finnish bagpipes), Emilia Lajunen (nyckelharpa), Jani Snellman (electric bass) and Patrik Fält (drums).
The group formed in 2017 when Salonen was preparing to compose and perform his bachelor’s degree concert for the folk music department of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.
Salonen wanted to combine the folk music that was popular in the 1800s with the fast, hard drumming style of heavy metal. His idea was that the low frequency of heavy metal drumming would not take away from the nuanced melodies of folk music.
Salonene met his first two bandmates, Prauda and Lajunen, at the folk music department of the Sibelius Academy. They then asked Fält and Snellman to join, as they were already well known for their rock bass playing and heavy metal drumming, respectively.
The band played their first performance at the Salonen license concert, and their unique style of Finnish folk metal was heard by the public for the first time. The music was a hit with audiences and Ritva Nero went on to perform at several folk music festivals across Europe.
In 2021, Ritva Nero signed with groundbreaking Finnish label Bafe’s Factory. Immortal traditions is their debut album and was preceded by the digital single Trepatska Thrasher.
Finland has been at the forefront of folk metal since the early 2000s, and Finnish artists like Ritva Nero continue to develop new styles, such as folk party metal.
It is refreshing to see that traditional styles of folk music and dance can be combined with more modern genres to keep them alive and breathe new life into traditions that have hundreds of years of history.
Bands like Ritva Nero can continue to bridge the gaps between genres, with the ability to play both rock and folk concerts and festivals, bringing new sounds to the ears of listeners young and old.