If you go to a lot of shows — say, at least 50 a year — there are certain trends that you’ll begin to notice. They’re not stereotypes, and they’re not necessarily bad, they just are what they are. The first time I was ever directly called out for being the odd one out was at an Overkill show, during which a man came up to me and said something along the lines of “Wow, they’re aren’t too many of you guys here!” Dumbstruck, I asked him what he meant — turned out he was referring to women. Relieved that he wasn’t a massive racist like I immediately assumed, I took a look around myself and saw that he was right. The venue was pretty large, and I counted about ten women out of about 75 people in the immediate vicinity. Perhaps you and I might agree that old school thrash rules. What about the rest of the sisterhood? Where the hell are they?
Answer: folk metal shows.
Here’s what I mean. In case you haven’t noticed, Turisas recently announced a headlining tour. Turisas is a great band that I’ve seen a bunch of times, so why is it that my only friends reacting to the news happen to be ladies?
I’ve been to doom shows, power metal shows, NWOBHM, thrash, death, symphonic, prog, and everything in-between, and folk metal shows are the only shows at which the ratio of dudes to chicks even approaches 1:1. As an equal-opportunity metal lover, I’m baffled by the gender divide. It’d be easy to say something handwavey like “Well, folk metal is softer, so it’s easier on our tender lady-eardrums,” but then how do you explain Eluveitie? Finntroll? Arkona?
Okay, I’ll concede the possible presence of an eye candy factor in the case of Finntroll and Turisas. Matthias “Vreth” Lillmåns in particular is extremely popular among my folk metal-loving friends, and Mathias “Warlord” Nygård made #5 on my list of hottest metal guys ever. That said, hot guys are ubiquitous across subgenres, and if you’re paying good money to go to shows just to see hot guys, you’d be better off going to sausage-festy death/thrash shows — at least there, you’ll have more options.
As for Arkona, it’s a common misconception that women are predisposed to liking bands with lady vocals (see: Nightwish, Epica, etc.). Even if it were true (and don’t think for a second that it’s not preposterous), how many folk metal acts can you name with a female lead vocalist, keeping in mind that symphonic ones don’t count? Aside from Arkona, Cruachan and Battlelore come to mind for me most easily, and while my lips are sealed about my OWN opinion of the latter two, I can’t say I’ve ever met a die-hard fan of either.
The truth is, I don’t really know why we’re so wild about folk metal, other than the empirical fact that folk metal owns. Even though my first exposure to metal was thrash, folk ended up being my true gateway into the metal scene. I liked it because it was something different, and the only metal I’d heard back then was radio stuff, Cannibal Corpse (bleh), and Iron Maiden (I prefer Priest, wanna fight about it?). People of all genders like exciting new things though! What is it about folk metal that latches onto the female brain and worms its way in?