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Stylistic origins: Folk
Cultural origins: 1980s, Europe
Typical instruments: Folk instruments
Mainstream popularity: Minor
Derivative forms: Martial music

Neofolk is a form of folk 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 post-industrial genres such as neoclassical and martial music, or have links with Heathen circles and various other societies.



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 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 as far back as the 1960s were creating music similar to neofolk in terms of sounds and themes. 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.


Kim Larsen of :Of The Wand & The Moon:, a rune stone and an effigy of the algiz rune. Kim Larsen of :Of The Wand & The Moon:, a rune stone and an effigy of the algiz rune.

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 symbols of culture, myths and beliefs. Local traditions and indigenous beliefs tend to be portrayed heavily as well as esoteric and historical topics. Homages and tributes to figures some may consider controversial such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Evola, and Leni Riefenstahl as well as the usage of war themes, imagery and historical imagery by some musicians have drawn misguided criticisms and links between neofolk and right wing establishments from various sources.


Of particular mention is Heathenry or Germanic Neopaganism. This subject plays a large part in the thematic elements touched upon by many modern and original neofolk artists. Runes, pagan 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 lead to some forefathers of the genre and current artists within the genre attributing it to being part of a broader Heathen revival.

Related terms and styles

Apocalyptic folk

Apocalyptic folk is a term that predates neofolk and was used by David Tibet to describe the music of his band Current 93 (C93) during a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 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 psychedelia and psych folk. It is also sometimes used to describe the side-projects of Swans member Michael Gira.

Folk Noir

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 [1] (music label of Tony Wakeford) 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 but the usage of the term 'noir' hints at an overall dark subject matter relating to historical, often British, subjects.

Other vague terms sometimes used to describe artists of this genre include Dark Folk and Pagan Folk. These terms are large umbrella terms that could also describe various other forms of unrelated music.

Martial Music

For more details on this topic, see Martial music

Martial music 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 music acts or produce martial music.

Other related styles include dark ambient, neoclassical, dark cabaret, industrial and post-industrial music or a mixture of all these, such as music created that fits under the heading of martial music.


Blood Axis
Current 93
Death In June
Fire + Ice
Harvest Rain
In Gowan Ring
Neun Welten
:Of The Wand & The Moon:
Sol Invictus
Sonne Hagal
The Moon lay hidden beneath a Cloud


  • Diesel, Andreas und Dr. Gerten, Dieter: Looking for Europe - Neofolk und Hintergründe., Zeltingen-Rachtig 2005, ISBN 3936878-02-1

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Folk music
American folk music - Anti-folk - Celtic music - Counterfolk - Filk music - Folk metal - Folk punk
Folk-rock - Folktronica - Neofolk - Pop-folk - Psych folk - Roots revival - Urban Folk
Folk dance - Instrumentation - Protest song - Singer-songwriter - Traditions - World music

Home | Up | List of folk music traditions | Folk punk | Folktronica | Neofolk | Psych folk | Roots revival | Neofolk | Urban Folk

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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