Anyone who’s gone out after a Dropkick Murphys concert knows that barroom singalongs are not a thing merely of the past. But metal fans might not be so inclined, drifting off rather to less accessible places than the pub: enchanted meadows, the depths of hell, their parents’ basement, etc. Me, I would go to Finland. It was not until Ensiferum exploded into the world in 2001 that I realized quite how compatible beer and metal could be. I distinctly recall making pretty much everyone I knew at the time listen to “Goblins’ Dance”:
Ensiferum were not the first Finns to cross the Baltic at three hundred and twenty kilobits per second, but Finntroll, who released their debut in 1999, Midnattens Widunder, were just too bizarre at first to be more than a novelty. The band sang in Swedish (because it sounds more evil than Finnish, so they say) and merged some pretty dark metal with a Finnish folk style known as Humppa. On Visor Om Slutet they went acoustic and introduced kazoo solos. On Nattfödd and the Trollhammaren they incorporated something I can only properly describe as “pirate metal”, and on Ur jordens djup they went Caribbean. There newest album, Nifelvind, came out this February, and your guess is as good as mine. Raise a pint and bang your head, there’s really no other way to react to this. Here’s my favorite track off of it, “Under bergets rot”:
Korpiklaani really perfected this weird Finnish folk metal genre though. They appeared in 2003 out of the ashes of another folk metal band, Shaman, which I’ve not heard, and managed to release six albums in seven years. Korpiklaani are probably the most tame band on this list, a feat they accomplish not by turning down the distortion so much as by really infusing the folk and harnessing a talent to write an endless number of catchy, fairly optimistic songs. It wouldn’t matter which album I take the sample from; they all sound the same, and believe me, a decade from now I hope I can still say that. Enjoy “Kohmelo”, off of their 2009 album, Karkelo. The bitrate on this video is horrible, but you’ll get the idea:
After releasing a string of demos in the late 90s, Turisas put out their first full length in 2004. What can I say? It wasn’t very good. Despite offering drinking songs like “One More” (during which the frontman consumes an obscene amount of vodka live), they really seemed to miss the wave. But oh how the beer gods shined upon them in 2007. The Varangian Way was easily my favorite album of the year. It combines an odd mix of folk and prog (that word bears a horrible connotation in my mind, but Turisas do it right) with a ten track concept album telling the journey of Finnish viking mercenaries to Constantinople. I can’t call the whole album ‘beer metal’, though it’s a masterpiece, but the party atmosphere is a lot more apparent live. I present you with “In the Court of Jarisleif”, in which these viking travelers reach Kiev and well, get really wasted:
I could go on to tell of how Lordi won the 2006 Eurovision competition, an interesting testament to the odd ability of Finnish bands to be heavy, ridiculous, and yet still oddly appealing to the masses, but this topic does not require I stick to one country necessarily. I think I will conclude this chronology of heavy metal drinking music then with a short sail over to Scotland. Alestorm did not form until 2004, and released their first album in 2008. Upon doing so, pirate metal was no longer just a quirky side of Finntroll. (Interestingly, Trollhammaren and Nattfödd were released the same year Alestorm formed. A coincidence? I don’t know. The two bands have toured together.) I never liked rum personally, but I’ll take a shot for these guys. Enjoy “Keelhauled”, off of 2009’s Black Sails at Midnight. Yes, someone just said “yo-ho-ho” in a song and you didn’t roll your eyes:
And there our short journey ends. Folk metal emerged in the 90s, and due credit should be given to the likes of Skyclad and Cruachan, but the 21st century, and specifically Finland, marked its explosion from a small niche genre into one comparable in scale to big guns like death, black, and power metal. More to the point of this post though, always remember that folk is a celebration of the past, and that our forefathers were all alcoholics.
Thankfully, Finntroll, Korpiklaani, and the like incorporated humppa into metal and not the reverse. I leave you with a terrifying alternative: