It's no wonder heavy metal music and themes of Norse mythology and the Vikings go hand in hand for many bands. Obviously, region and cultural heritage is a huge factor, among European and Scandinavian countries, for sure. But something about the raw power, spiritualism, warfare tactics, mysticism, culture and way of life that the Vikings still resonates with modern heavy metal fans. Both can be rabid for their tribes, both are warriors at heart, and both celebrate musical rituals that connect them with the spirits. If the Vikings were around today, in their ancient form, they would be head banging and moshing along with passionate fans at metal shows. We now present our list of the 10 Best Viking Metal Bands.
Swedish death metal doesn't get much better than Unleashed, a band that came to fruition in 1989. Choosing to go against the grain within the extreme metal scene at the time, Unleashed focused many of its songs about early, pre-Christian Norse history and the Vikings. Unleashed has proven to be brutal death metal force over the years, a monstrous musical attack machine that is hellacious, and harmonious at the same time. Brutal, crushing riffs, harsh, deep demonic vocals and blast beats with wild guitar solos all come together for a sound that fits in perfect with Entombed, Bolt Thrower, Deicide and Dismember. Be sure to check out Warrior (1997), Hell's Unleashed (2002) Sworn Allegiance (2004) Midvinterblot (2006), and Oldalheim (2012)
This band is from the Faroe Islands, which lie in the North Atlantic West of Scotland between Iceland and Norway. The band began in 1998, and the name comes from the Norse God of Law and Justice. The music and songs are heavily based in Norwegian or Faroese lore and mythology as well as ancient Nordic ideals of Spirituality, and War. Images and tales of heroic Viking Gods are painted throughout the music, and the band has achieved a multitude of success, especially at home in the Faroe Islands and the surrounding region.
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Another Swedish death metal band, this one formed in 1995. Thyrfing takes its name of an epic, renowned mystical sword in Norse Mythology. The band's sound blends elements of darker melodic death metal with clean instrumental passages, slower drums, medieval sounding melodies and more experimental vocals on various songs. The band has toured throughout Europe and has continued making albums throughout its nearly 20-year career. Check out the band's self titled album Thyrfing (1998) for an interesting contrast to its latest release, De Ödeslösa (2013).
Taking a name from a battle cry that means Odin, Norway's Kampfar mixes folk metal and Viking mythology into a dark, desolate blend of mystifying and electrifying black metal with an emphasis on ancient Viking Culture. Most of the band's material is written and sung in Norwegian, but the eerie vibe and historic importance of the Viking Spirit and heritage shine through.With six full albums, including Djevelmakt (2014), the band shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.
This one-man band (led by Vratyas Vakyas) originates from Germany, and has been creating an epic, brand of Viking metal since 1989. Early on, the band had a more necro raw black metal style but as is the case with many bands on this list, the music progressed to more of a folk metal sound, while keeping the motifs of Viking Warriors and Nordic history. The band has released six full length albums, including the most recent offerings: Asa (2013) and Tiurida (2011)
Perhaps more Pagan, or Folk Metal thank Viking Metal; the lines are blurred when it comes to Moonsorrow, who were born in Finland in 1995. Merging all these musical elements, along with melodic black metal, Moonsorrow's music encompassed Finnish Mythology and some ancient Norse legends, and the lyrics are almost exclusively all in Finnish.
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Perhaps one of the most mysterious of all metal bands, Bathory is definitely a cult status band, among fans of extreme metal and punk. Led by the multi musician, songwriter lyricist and madman known as Quothron, the Swedish extreme metal band was first spawn into this world in 1983. Bathory's first four albums laid the blueprint for Satanic Scandinavian black metal, along with Venom, but the albums Blood Fire Death (1988) and Hammerheart (1990) are recognized by many as the first 'Viking Metal' albums. The sound took black metal's aggression and fury but added depth of perception with acoustic passages, cleaner vocals and more harmonies hidden within the darker aura of extreme metal. Bathory never performed live after 1985, but Quthron continued to make music, until his tragic and untimely death in 2004.
We couldn't have a list of Viking themed metal bands without including the one and only, Manowar, a band who, although based in the United States, have only gained a cult following in countries around the world. The self described Kings of Metal have been raising their swords in battle for heavy metal music based on tales from Norse Gods and Mythology with a sound that is thunderous, epic, majestic, symphonic, and full on in your face power metal. Manowar's career spans over an impressive three decade piece of history, and the band has broken several world records, including the Guinness book of World Records for the Loudest performance in both 1984 and 1994, and the longest performance, in terms of time; in 2007 the band played in Bulgaria at the Kaliakra Rock Festival for over three hours, and again in 2008 where the band played an astonishing five hours and one minutes.
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Formed in 1991 in Norway, and were part of the early black metal movement. With a primitive, raw, darker sound at first, over time the band moved musically, beyond just blast beats and guttural vocals. Crossing the boundaries of what the old school black metal sound was, Enslaved still brought out dark, tortured songs, but the music was more progressive, and even psychedelic sounding, with clean, slower parts, and ethereal passages and instrumentals. But, the lyrics and songs were devoted mostly to subjects like Viking Mythology, the Ancient Norse culture based on nature and deities. Some of the bands early work, is written and sung in Norwegian Much like Emperor, and even Opeth, Enslaved was a band that brought black metal to other levels and took it to depths beyond anyone's perception while keeping the haunting, mysterious vibe of the music's early sound. With a career spanning over two decades, Enslaved has a notable and impressive diverse, collection genre bending metal albums like Frost (1994), Blodhemn (1998), Below the Lights (2001), Isa (2004), Vertebrae (2008) and RIITIIR(2012)
This band of Viking metalheads hails from Sweden and formed in 1992. The band takes a very melodic approach to brutal death metal with hints of thrash, and offers listeners with an epic, violent, hammer smashing sound that comes through loud and clear both on record and live. Lead singer Johan Hegg is the perfect image of a typical Viking: a long blonde haired muscular bearded dude, who screams with a brutal growl, and drinks out of a long horn, each show. Not to mention the recent enormous stage shows, which have included giant smoke breathing dragons and Viking Ships. The band has risen from the undergrounds of the extreme metal scene in Sweden to share the stage all over the world, with everyone from Six Feet Under and Mastodon to Slayer and Morbid Angel. For some truly magical, head banging albums about the Viking Age, and Gods like Thor and Odin, be sure to check out the albums Versus the World (2002), With Odin on Our Side (2006) and Twilight of the Thunder God (2008).
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Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.