Closely related to the Pagan Metal is Folk Metal. Where they differ is that while Pagan Black Metal still kinda has the cool factor of Black Metal, Folk Metal has little to no coolness at all, and this shows in the logos. They often take their inspiration from Black Metal aesthetics, with logos made of lowercase blackletters or some Celtic type, with only some degree of symmetry on both opposite ends of the logo, if at all, and even then usually through decorative curls rather than through cool letter design.
Don’t bother reading the following updates unless (1) you got too much time on your hands or (2) enjoy reading polemics.
Some Folk bands take things to the next level by incorporating viking helmets and drinking-horns in their logos to signal to people, “When you come to our show, you’re free to live out your viking fantasy vicariously. By all means, bring your plastic drinking-horn!” And why wouldn’t you, if you’re a fan of Folk Metal. You’ve already ostracized yourself from typical metalheads anyway, you may as well commit to the LARP thing.
Although a logo like this may give the impression that you’re actually dealing with a Viking Metal band, this doesn’t necessarily have to be so because it can still be a Folk Metal band. Now this is where things can get confusing …
Folk Metal is an offshoot of Black Metal in which traditional folk instruments and melodies are dominant, often to the point where there’s no trace left of the old Black Metal spirit. Now think of Black Metal and Folk Metal as two opposite ends of a single continuum on which Pagan (Black) Metal bands fall, leaning more on the Black Metal side of the continuum than the other.
When a Pagan (Black) Metal band’s content deals with Norse or Viking mythology instead of Neo-Pagan mythology and way of life – that’s when we’re dealing with a Viking metal band. After all, what is a Pagan but a Viking without a ship?
True enough, the German “Asa” (i.e. Germanic neo-Pagan) Metal band Falkenbach, a band that pioneered the Folk Metal genre, have quite often been labeled as a Viking Metal band by media outlets and scholars (see Update 2 above).
But wait! What if a Folk Metal band’s lyrics are a loveletter to Scandinavian national romanticism? Well, then that band, too, is a Viking Metal band. (Unless the band is called Ensiferum. They don’t call themselves Viking Metal, instead preferring the label of “Melodic Folk Metal.”)
Indeed, depending on a given band’s content, Viking Metal can be anything from Black(ish) Metal (Enslaved, Naglfar) to Folk(ish) Metal (Einherjer, Windir), to even Death(ish) Metal (Amon Amarth, Unleashed); and this because it’s a superficial crossgenre label that encompasses just about every band dealing with viking-age Scandinavia on whatever level.
This isn’t really helping, is it? I thought as much, which is why I already prepared something in advance to help you understand it more clearly. If you want to know if you’re dealing with a Black, Pagan, Folk, or Viking Metal band, you just have to ask yourself one question or two actually: If I am a non-drinker, will I enjoy this? Or should I start drinking?
Show me the bigger picture.11
Take me back to the sample overview.