|Cultural origins||1980s, Europe|
|Typical instruments||Folk instruments|
|Mainstream popularity||Minor, mainly Europe|
|Derivative forms||Martial industrial|
Neofolk is a form of folk music-inspired experimental music that emerged from European ideals and post-industrial music circles. Neofolk can either be solely acoustic folk music or a blend of acoustic folk instrumentation aided by varieties of accompanying sounds such as pianos, strings and elements of industrial music and experimental music. The genre encompasses a wide assortment of themes including traditional music, heathenry, romanticism and occultism. Neofolk musicians often have ties to other genres such as neoclassical and martial industrial, or have links with Heathen circles or other countercultural elements.
The name and themes have certain similarities with the völkisch movement.
The term "neofolk" originates from esoteric music circles who started using the term in the late 20th century to describe music influenced by musicians such as Douglas Pearce (Death In June), Tony Wakeford (Sol Invictus) and David Tibet (Current 93) who had collaborated heavily for a period of time. These musicians were part of a post-industrial music circle who later on incorporated folk music based upon traditional and European elements into their sound. Folk musicians such as Vulcan's Hammer, Changes and Comus had created music with similar sounds and themes to neofolk as far back as the 1960s. These musicians could be considered harbingers of the sound that later influenced the neofolk artists. However, the distinction must be made that it was the aforementioned artists who were involved in the dark music scene throughout the 1980s and 1990s that contributed specifically to the emergence of neofolk. Neofolk is seen by many as an extension of post-industrial music into the folk music genre which did not occur until the late 20th century.
The spirit of neofolk contains parallels to the ideals of American and British folk movements of the 1960s. The basis of this music is built upon principles against commercialization and popular culture. However the themes of neofolk and folk music are drastically different. A majority of artists within the neofolk genre focus on archaic, cultural and literary references. Local traditions and indigenous beliefs tend to be portrayed heavily as well as esoteric and historical topics.
Of particular mention is Heathenry. This subject plays a large part in the thematic elements touched upon by many modern and original neofolk artists. Runes, heathen European sites and other means of expressing an interest in the ancient and ancestral occurs often in neofolk music. Aesthetically, references to this subject occur within band names, album artwork, clothing and various other means of artistic expression. This has led to some forefathers of the genre and current artists within the genre attributing it to being an aspect of a broader Heathen revival.
Related terms and styles
As a descriptor, apocalyptic folk predates neofolk and was used by David Tibet to describe the music of his band Current 93 during a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Initially, Tibet did not intend to imply connection with the folk music genre; rather, that Current 93 was "apocalyptic folk music" or music made by apocalyptic people.
The term was applied to most artists on the now-defunct World Serpent Distribution company and music influenced directly by C93's Thunder Perfect Mind era. Gnostic and Thelemic themes are often featured in the works of these artists, as well as influences from 1960s psychedelic rock and psych folk. It is also sometimes used to describe those of similar musical distinction but not directly influenced or associated, such as Michael Gira.
Folk Noir was a term originally coined by photographer David Mearns to describe the music of mid-period Sol Invictus. It is generally related to Tursa Records-related bands. It is sometimes found on webzines as a more neutral term, without the specific connotations of "neofolk", but the meaning is largely the same though the usage of the term 'noir' hints at an overall dark subject matter relating to historical, often British, subjects.
Martial Industrial or military pop is a genre that shares a lot in common with neofolk and developed very close to it. A number of artists that could be classified as neofolk also regularly work with and play shows with martial industrial acts or produce martial industrial.
Other related styles include dark ambient, neoclassical, dark cabaret, folk metal, industrial and post-industrial music or a mixture of all these, such as music created that fits under the heading of martial industrial.
- "I'm very happy about that because I see Death In June as part of a European cultural revival. I'm pleased that the Old Gods are being resurrected, for want of a better word. Old symbols. I feel very pleased that I am a part of that process and that I have had influence. At this stage in the game, so to speak, it's not false modesty to say that I am content with my influence." Powell, Erin. Interview with Douglas Pearce, 2005.
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- Powell, Erin (April 9, 2005). Interview with Douglas Pearce. Death in June.
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- Interview: Ähren im Sturm (German). Ikonen-Magazin.
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- Diesel, Andreas (2005). Looking for Europe - Neofolk und Hintergründe. Zeltingen-Rachtig. ISBN 3-936878-02-1.