One of the most unusual heavy metal subgenres is Viking Metal. This style, unlike so many others, is not confined to a single sound, making it rather broad.
Quorthon, a late Bathory visionary who also helped black metal grow in the late ’80s, is known for creating Viking Metal. The origin of Viking themes in metal, however, predates Bathory’s historical lyrical tendencies, and Manowar was the one to introduce stories of this bygone warrior era, which brilliantly complemented Norse mythology.
It makes sense that many bands would incorporate Norse mythology and Viking themes into their heavy metal music. Region and cultural heritage are undoubtedly major determinants among European and Scandinavian nations.
However, there is a certain element in the Vikings’ raw force, spirituality, battle tactics, mysticism, culture, and way of life that appeals to contemporary heavy metal enthusiasts. Both have a fierce loyalty to their tribes, are natural-born warriors, and enjoy musical ceremonies that let them communicate with the spirits.
If the Vikings still existed today, they would be head-banging and moshing at metal concerts with passionate followers. Here is our ranking of the top 10 Viking metal bands.
Unleashed is one of the best bands to come out of Sweden in terms of death metal, and this pagan metal band was formed in 1989. The Viking metal band made the decision to diverge from the current extreme metal trend by focusing many of its tracks on early, pre-Christian Norse history and the Vikings.
Over the years, Unleashed has established itself as a savage death metal force, a huge musical attack machine that has a lyrical and thematic focus while simultaneously being hellish. The combination of brutal, crushing riffs, harsh, dark, demonic vocals, blast beats, and crazy guitar solos creates a sound that perfectly complements Entombed, Bolt Thrower, Deicide, and Dismember.
This Viking metal band is from the Faroe Islands, which is located between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic, west of Scotland. The name of the band, which was founded in 1998, is derived from the Norse god of law and justice.
Also, the lyrics and music are primarily influenced by Faroese or Norwegian folk, mythology, and old Nordic concepts of war and spirituality. The band has experienced great success, particularly at home in the Faroe Islands and the surrounding area. This band’s music is filled with images and legends of mighty Viking Gods.
Another Swedish death metal band; this one formed in 1995. A legendary, epic, and supernatural sword from Norse mythology bears the name Thyrfing.
Darker melodic death metal components are combined with clear instrumental passages, slower drumming, medieval-sounding melodies, and more experimental vocals on various tracks to create the band’s distinctive sound. Throughout its nearly 20-year career, the band has released several albums and performed on tours across Europe.
A dark, desolate brew of mystifying and exciting black metal with a focus on ancient Viking Culture is what Norway’s Kampfar tries to create. Although the majority of the band’s songs are written and sung in Norwegian, the spooky atmosphere and historical significance of the Viking Spirit and legacy are still clearly audible.
The Viking metal band has released six full albums, including Djevelmakt (2014), and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Since 1989, this German one-man Viking metal band has been producing an epic style of Viking metal under the direction of Vratyas Vakyas. The band started out with a more necro raw black metal approach, but like many other bands on this list, the music evolved to have more of a folk metal feel while keeping the themes of Viking Warriors and Nordic heritage.
Furthermore, the Viking metal group has six full-length albums under its belt, the most recent of which are: Asa (2013) and Tiurida (2011).
The distinctions between Viking Metal and Pagan or Folk Metal are maybe hazier when it comes to Moonsorrow, who was born in Finland in 1995. This Finnish metal band combined black metal with all these musical styles, as well as some old Norse legends and Finnish mythology. The lyrics are almost entirely in Finnish.
Bathory, possibly one of the most enigmatic Viking metal bands, is unquestionably a cult favorite among punk and heavy metal enthusiasts. The Swedish extreme metal band, led by the multi-instrumentalist, poet, and lunatic known as Quothron, was initially brought into the world in 1983.
Along with Venom, Bathory’s first four albums set the basis for Satanic Scandinavian black metal, although many consider Blood Fire Death (1988) and Hammerheart (1990) to be the pioneering works of “Viking Metal.”
The music took the ferocity and intensity of black metal but added depth of perception with acoustic passages, clearer vocals, and more harmonies that were cloaked in extreme metal’s gloomier aura.
After 1985, Bathory stopped performing live, although Quthron kept on recording songs until his tragic and untimely death in 2004.
We couldn’t have a list of Viking metal bands without including the one and only, Manowar, a band with American roots that has only developed a cult following abroad. The self-styled Kings of Metal have been raising their swords in combat for heavy symphonic metal music with a sound that is thundering, epic, majestic, and full-on in-your-face power metal.
Manowar’s career spans over an impressive three-decade piece of history, and during that time, the Pagan metal band has broken numerous world records, including the ones for the loudest performance (held by the Guinness Book of World Records in both 1984 and 1994) and the longest performance.
In 2007, the Viking metal band performed for more than three hours at the Kaliakra Rock Festival in Bulgaria, and again in 2008, when they played for an astounding five hours and one minute.
They were a member of the early black metal genre and were founded in Norway in 1991. Over time, the folk metal band developed a musical style that went beyond only blast rhythms and guttural vocals, starting out with a primordial, raw, deeper sound.
Enslaved broke the mold of what traditional black metal sounded like by producing gloomy, tortured songs while also including cleaner, slower sections, ethereal instrumentals, and progressive, even psychedelic, elements into their music.
However, the lyrics and melodies were mostly focused on topics like Viking Mythology, the Ancient Norse culture that was built on gods, and the natural world.
Norwegian was used in some of the band’s earlier compositions. Enslaved was a Finnish folk metal band that pushed black metal to unimaginable heights while maintaining the spooky, mysterious atmosphere of the genre’s origins, much like Emperor and even Opeth.
This Swedish band of Viking metalheads was founded in 1992. The group’s brutal death metal is incredibly melodic with overtones of thrash, and it offers listeners an epic, ferocious, hammer-smashing sound that is audible both on the band’s recordings and in live performances.
Johan Hegg, the band’s lead singer, epitomizes a typical Viking: a big bearded person with long blonde hair who performs with a ferocious roar and drinks from a long horn.
Also, not to mention the recent massive theatrical productions that featured Viking Ships and big smoke-breathing dragons. The group emerged from Sweden’s underground extreme metal scene to perform on stages throughout the globe alongside bands like Six Feet Under, Mastodon, Slayer, and Morbid Angel.
The Genre of Viking Age
Essentially, the genre is diverse in sound, and it is often seen as a hybrid of black metal, death metal, and traditional Nordic folk music.
While Satanic ideas and themes were widely used in black metal to criticize Christianity, Viking metal supported paganism and the Viking Age.
Most bands who play Viking metal are from Nordic countries, and Viking metal band members take great satisfaction in proclaiming to be descended from ancient berserker warriors.
Now that we’ve provided you with the top 10 Viking black metal bands, and discussed their genres, how about giving it a listen? It might not be for everyone, but it’s a good idea to extend your music knowledge.
Who Invented Viking Black Metal?
Quorthon, a late Bathory visionary who also helped black metal grow in the late ’80s, is known for creating Viking Metal.
Is Viking Metal a Real Genre?
Although some people view Viking metal as more of a cross-genre term than a specific genre due to its wide range of musical styles, it is often thought of as black metal with Nordic folk music elements.
What Would Viking Music Be Called?