Medieval metal

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Medieval metal is a subgenre of folk metal that blends heavy metal music with medieval folk music. Medieval metal is mostly restricted to Germany where it is known as Mittelalter-Metal or Mittelalter-Rock.[1][2] The genre emerged from the middle of the 1990s with contributions from Subway to Sally, In Extremo and Schandmaul; the style is characterised by the prominent use of a wide variety of traditional folk and medieval instruments.



The medieval folk band Corvus Corax, was formed in 1989 and released a debut album in the same year;[3] the group relies on period instruments that include the cister, hurdy-gurdy, biniou, buccina, davul, riq and cornetto curvo with the most prominent being the shawm and bagpipes. They are also known for their use of source material, adopting melodies from medieval literature written in an old system of notation called neumes but otherwise using their own interpretations for arrangements and the rhythm, they describe their approach as "louder, dirtier and more powerful than any interpretation of medieval music before."[4] The result has been associated more with medieval taverns and pubs rather than the royal courts or church.[3]

While medieval metal is a German phenomenon,[5] one of the inspirations for the genre is the English folk metal band Skyclad. Formed in 1990 as a thrash metal band, they added violins from session musician Mike Evans on several tracks from their debut album, The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, with the song "The Widdershins Jig" acclaimed as "particularly significant" and "a certain first in the realms of Metal";[6] the band added a full time violinist to their ranks[7] and has since been credited not only as the originators and pioneers of folk metal but also as a direct inspiration for medieval metal bands.[6][8]


Subway to Sally, seen here performing live at the 2005 Sundstock Openair, has been credited as setting off this genre of music.

The East German band Subway to Sally was formed in 1992 as a folk rock band, singing in English and incorporating Irish and Scottish influences in their music. With their second album MCMXCV released in 1995, the band adopted a "more traditional approach" and started singing in German. Taking Skyclad as an influence,[8] Subway to Sally performs a blend of hard rock and heavy metal music "enriched with medieval melodies enmeshed in the songs via bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, lute, mandoline, shalm [sic], fiddle and flute" and combined with "romantic-symbolic German-speaking poetry" in their lyrics.[9] With chart success in their native Germany, they have since been credited as the band "that set off the wave of what is known as medieval rock."[5]

In the year 1994, a concert was organised in Berlin that featured a collaboration between a rock band known as Noah and members of the aforementioned medieval group Corvus Corax;[10] the result of this mix of medieval and rock music saw the group Noah turning into In Extremo. They began with two acoustic medieval albums before releasing a metal album Weckt die Toten! in 1998.[11][12] They have since found chart success in Germany with their "medieval style stage garb and unashamed usage of such bizarre instruments as the Scottish bagpipes."[13]

Corvus Corax also joined in the fray with the release of an EP in 1996 that featured metal music with bagpipes;[3] the EP was titled Tanzwut and the group has since continued exploring medieval metal as a side project by that name. Their style blends not only medieval music and heavy metal but also industrial and electronic beats.

The year 1999 also saw the release of Schandmaul's debut album.[14] Describing themselves as the "minstrels of today,"[5] the Bavarian outfit employs a musical arsenal that includes the bagpipes, barrel organ, shawm, violin and mandolin.[15] Like Subway to Sally and In Extremo, Schandmaul has experienced chart success in their native Germany.[14][15] Other groups that also emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s included Letzte Instanz,[16] Morgenstern[17], Saltatio Mortis and Schattentantz.[18]

Musical characteristics[edit]

Tanzwut are seen here performing with bagpipes and other woodwind instruments.

Like its parent genre, medieval rock features the same typical instruments found in heavy metal music: guitars, bass, drums and vocalist. Bands in the genre are known to supplement their sound with a wide range of folk and traditional instruments. Woodwind instruments like the bagpipes, flutes and shawm can be found in the music of Corvus Corax, Tanzwut,[3] In Extremo,[13] Schandmaul,[15] Morgernstern,[17] Schattentantz[18] and Subway to Sally while string instruments like the violin, lute, hurdy-gurdy, cello, harp and mandolin are employed by Subway to Sally,[9] In Extremo,[13] Schandmaul,[15] Morgernstern,[17] and Schattentantz.[18]

List of bands[edit]

Band Country Formed Notes
Corvus Corax Germany 1989 [5]
Cultus Ferox Germany 2001 [19]
Feuerschwanz Germany 2004 [20]
Folkstone Italy 2004 [21]
In Extremo Germany 1996 [5]
Letzte Instanz Germany 1996 [16][22]
Morgenstern Germany 1998 [17]
Obsequiae United States 2007 [23]
Outlaws of Ravenhurst Canada 2005 [24][25]
Saltatio Mortis Germany 2000 [26]
Schandmaul Germany 1998 [5][14]
Schattentantz Germany 1999 [27]
Schelmish Germany 1999 [28]
Subway to Sally Germany 1992 [5][29]
Tanzwut Germany 1998 [30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duden - Das neue Wörterbuch der Szenesprachen [The new Dictionary of Scene Languages] (in German). Bibliographisches Institut AG. 2009. ISBN 978-3-411-71092-8.
  2. ^ "Mittelalter-Rock" (in German).
  3. ^ a b c d True, Chris. "Corvus Corax". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  4. ^ Beautevil. "Interview with Der Drescher of Corvus Corax". Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Matthias von Viereck (12 November 2007). "Modern Minstrels: Medieval Rock on the Rise". Goethe-Institut. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  6. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Skyclad". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
  7. ^ Bush, John. "Skyclad". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
  8. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Subway to Sally". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2009-09-24. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  9. ^ a b "Subway to Sally". Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  10. ^ Landers, Mikki. "In Extremo". Retrieved 2008-03-31.
  11. ^ Joe. "Interview with Micha of In Extremo". Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  12. ^ WindBlade. "Interview with Kay Lutter of In Extremo". Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  13. ^ a b c Sharpe-Young, Garry. "In Extremo". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  14. ^ a b c True, Chris. "Schandmaul". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  15. ^ a b c d Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Schandmaul". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  16. ^ a b True, Chris. "Letzte Instanz". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  17. ^ a b c d Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Morgenstern MusicMight Biography". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  18. ^ a b c Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Schattentantz". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  19. ^ "CULTUS FEROX". MusicMight. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  20. ^ "Feuerschwanz". Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  21. ^ "Folkstone Biography". Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  22. ^ Gerber, Tobias. "Interview with Holly D of Letzte Instanz". Metal Hammer (in German). Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  23. ^ Kelly, JKim. "Premiere: Journey Back In Time With Obsequiae's Medieval Metal Masterpiece, 'Aria Of Vernal Tombs'". Noisey Vice. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  24. ^ JP. "CD Review: "Book I"". Metal-Rules. Retrieved June 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  25. ^ "Ear Candy Mag Review: "Book I"". April 2012.
  26. ^ Jeffries, David. "Saltatio Mortis". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
  27. ^ "SCHATTENTANTZ". MusicMight. Archived from the original on 2012-09-27. Retrieved July 2010. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  28. ^ Heymann, Peter (2010). "Schelmish: Persona non grata". Sonic Seducer (in German). No. 7/8. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  29. ^ "SUBWAY TO SALLY To Release New Album In August". 2005-03-02. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  30. ^ "TANZWUT Confirmed For Germany's SUMMER BREEZE Festival". 2006-12-10. Archived from the original on 2007-03-18. Retrieved 2008-06-01.