As a metal sub-genre, Viking Metal originated in Scandinavia and exalts the pagan roots of the people there. A strong anti-Christian sentiment can often be found in the music. Viking Metal features non-stop riffage and a surprising lack of guitar solos. Atmosphere takes precedence over technical individual instrumental virtuosity (in terms of flashy solos), though guitar textures and time signatures can be complex, especially as the sub-genre began evolving in the late 1990s. The consensus is Bathory created the seminal albums that defined the genre, though in recent years Amon Amarth have become one of the sub-genre’s better known proponents.
Bathory – Hammerheart
I’ve read about Bathory for years but their albums are rare and hard to find. I finally managed to get my hands on one of their finer albums last week. Hammerheart is one of Bathory’s seminal viking metal albums and the music on this CD is every bit as great as rumoured, marred only but a really crappy recording. The songs boast of a fantastically grand atmosphere and possess an epic quality that was to become the trademark of “viking metal”. Highly recommended.
Amon Amarth – Versus The World
Obviously not half as influential as the seminal viking metal of Bathory, Amon Amarth’s best album is nonetheless a very satisfying listen – it offers pounding riffs, loads of viking imagery and even the sound quality is acceptable!! Sometimes considered a “melodic death metal” band, their music is perhaps easier to like than Bathory’s more caustic sound. The version I own contains a second disc of extras, including an excellent versions of The Arrival of Fimbul Winter. Highly recommended.