Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Folk Briefs, Part 2

Now with 33% More Metal Bands!

I continue to explore the world of dark folk/neofolk music, and although it's been somewhat hit-and-miss, the hits have been worth every single miss. Hopefully, I can help you look into it without suffering any of the misses.

Dornenreich: In Luft geritzt (2008)

The connection between folk and metal doesn't require any elaboration. It's there, plain as day to anyone who looks for it. That said, it's interesting to see how different Dornenreich's take on folk music is from the rest I've heard out of the genre. Whether it's because they're a metal band performing the music, or because they're simply drawing on a different folk tradition (Austrian over American), In Luft geritzt is simply more intense. Although the music is mostly acoustic guitar and violin, it's played with such speed and energy that it still almost sounds metal, and the whispered vocals are barely holding themselves in check. It's profoundly engaging. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Smoke Fairies: Through Low Light and Trees (2010)

Smoke Fairies is a female duo who play a style of folk that would probably be a lot more at home in some indie rock fan's library than my own, but there are still a few things that grabbed me about Through Low Light and Trees. Theirs is an understated style, for the most part, soft and high, with beautiful singing at the center. Sometimes, they switch from folk to blues, which is interesting. Besides acoustic guitar, they incorporate many other sounds, like electric organ, violin, piano, and electric guitar. But best of all is the reverb-y bass on "Erie Lackawanna." I really don't like a few of the songs on here, but that one and "Storm Song" are quite excellent. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars. I probably wouldn't look any further into their discography.

16 Horsepower: Sackcloth 'n' Ashes (1996)

The debut album of 16 Horsepower precisely defines what I'm looking for when I talk about dark Americana and dark folk music. Sackcloth 'n ' Ashes has a distinctive voice that draws threads from Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Acid Bath, Type O Negative, and many other influences into a kind of American folk music gone awry. It's what happens when the pioneers trade in hopeful traveling songs and odes to the spirit of man for stories about digging a shallow grave and a recognition that "Every man is evil, yes, every man is a liar." This folk music is twisted by dissonance, accordian-laced doom metal, and Calvinist despair. This is already one of my favorite albums of all time, after owning it for a little more than a month. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Remember when I mentioned that metalheads instinctively grasp the Christian belief that something is terribly wrong with the world, even better than most Christians? This is that belief from the Christian perspective, and even the most staunchly anti-Christian among you will embrace the bleak picture 16HP paint with guitar, banjo, bass, drums, and the Bible.

Buy In Luft Geritzt
Buy Through Low Light & Trees
Buy Sackcloth 'N' Ashes


  1. YES. I found that 16HP album on cassette for a dollar in the bargain bin just a couple weeks ago! Great stuff, good to see them get a little attention.

  2. Have been a big fan of the album for decades. WOVENHAND is his amazing follow up band...much quirkier and more experimental, but I am a big, big fan of this whole scene.

    This existential despair is one reason I am not a Christian. Gnosticism answers the "Problem of Evil" far better than orthodox Christianity...the Creator Yahweh (if He exists) is a right bastard, a monumentally evil entity. I think the Calvinists might even agree with that while hiding this sneaking belief behind the abject fear they call "worship" and "awe"

    If you ever get a chance to see David live (Wovenhand) do it!

  3. Wovenhand was actually my first experience with this whole "dark Americana" thing, not counting bands that are related to metal bands (e.g. Steve Von Till, Man's Gin).

    Do you have any other recommendations in the genre? I've got a few on my list, but I'm guessing a metalhead who's into it is a better source.

    As far as the problem of evil, I recommend The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. He explains it pretty well, and it all hinges on free will in the end. Which is why Calvinism is so bleak, because it rejects free will (at least under a traditional understanding). I don't know how Calvinism solves that. I'm a member of a Presbyterian church, but predestination is something I can't buy into, because the universe doesn't make sense under that view. God as sick puppeteer? No thanks.