Folk Metal Psalms

Based on the Genevan Psalter setting of Psalm 130 by Claude Goudimel.

Listening to Brother Down’s album Old Paths, New Feet (2013) and such folk metal groups as Ensiferum, Tengger Cavalry, and Eluveitie has led me to believe that there is a place for folk metal metrical psalmody. In the French Renaissance, metrical psalmody was a significant literary force, not among the Protestants only but among the Romanists as well. People sang psalms not only at church but also in daily life. Today, for imprecatory and elegiac psalms, the folk metal genre seems to be a good way to express some of the Psalmist’s feeling and spirit; the word of God would also lend strength to the genre.

For metrical psalms, there is already plenty of good musical material, some from folk sources and some from classical. The names of Tallis and Goudimel are known well enough among those who listen to Renaissance music that I need not say more about the quality of their music, and likewise the folk tunes still used for unaccompanied metrical psalmody in the Free Church of Scotland are both vigorous and easy to find. The Gaelic psalmody in particular refracts familiar music in ways that could inspire new interpretations. He who seeks will not lack. That the music is not altogether unfamiliar would appeal to ordinary folk hearing it in a new form, and those who were unfamiliar with the traditional music would find it in these modern compositions; for both, more often neglected parts of the Psalter could become a part of common life, and (if musically well clothed) the word of God would dwell more richly in the commonwealth, giving the people a renewed sense of the life of the spirit.

Vocals could generally vary from churchly chanting to more folkish singing characteristic of lustier songs; some growling might be suitable for parts of Psalm 137 and suchlike, though I think a more elegant approach might be influenced by Thomas Campion’s ‘As by the Streams of Babylon’. Much of the heaviness or dark colour required would already come from the instrumentation, of course, giving writers and musicians greater latitude to find fitting vocals that were satisfying æsthetically and ædifying spiritually.


And graphically, need I say much more? For cover art the sixteenth century has no poverty of invention.

Will anyone do this?


One response to “Folk Metal Psalms

  1. Pingback: Cool Lingnan Regional Æsthetics to Develop | Cogito, Credo, Petam

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