Ahhh, the Norway pavilion. My favorite stop along the World Showcase Lagoon. Surely I’m not the only one who loves the rustic Stave church, or the idyllic fishing village motif. There are some (*cough*Disney Hipsters*cough*) who love the school bread and make that their rallying cry for Norway. Many others look to the wonders of Maelstrom to make their troubles – ahem – disappear, disappear. And I’ve heard that for a great many frazzled parents, Norway was the best place to wait in line for 5 hours to meet some face characters or something.
But for me, Norway holds a different appeal. One that has a very ancient history and a very modern interpretation. You see, I’m a very big fan of heavy metal, and the conquering Vikings of Norwegian and Scandinavian lore have firmly rooted themselves in the music and lyrics of many European metal bands. I mean, look at this statute outside the Stave church. Tell me this guy wouldn’t love to charge across a burning field listening to heavy metal!
Obviously, legendary warriors who traveled dangerous seas and icy European winters to conquer, plunder, and pillage villages have made great fodder for hard rock and heavy metal bands for a long time. But rather than being some mythical source of lyrical inspiration for young musicians who have no connection to Vikings, these legendary figures are part of the culture and history of many European and Scandinavian countries. This history, combined with the heavy metal renaissance that began in Finland and Sweden in the early 1990s, led to the explosion of bands from those areas featuring pagan/Viking imagery and lyrics and traditional folk-like melodies and instruments.
There is no hard and fast rule for figuring out what is and is not considered typical of “Viking metal.” You don’t necessarily need to wear a kilt and sing about Erik the Red, but it doesn’t hurt. Probably the most well-known band connected with Vikings is Amon Amarth, who have been releasing consistently epic albums since 1992, which have all focused on the Viking history and culture of their native Sweden. In fact, as you’ll see in the video below, they often perform on stage with a replica Viking ship. Their lyrics often deal with the powers of the mythical Viking gods like Oden, Loki, and, yes, Thor. “Once Sent From The Golden Hall,” “Fate of Norns,” and “With Oden On Our Side” are some of their best releases, and the track “Valhall Awaits Me” is one of their most aggressive songs. It is sung (to use the term loosely) from the perspective of a Viking warrior as he charges into battle and is subsequently cut down, and as he lays dying in the snow, he dreams of the wonders of Valhalla that he will experience when he dies.
Another excellent song that constantly runs through my head whenever I’m in the Norway pavilion is “Token of Time” by Finland’s Ensiferum. (Yes, I know they’re not from Norway either; most Norwegian metal bands prefer to play the scary and non-Viking style called black metal). The band, whose name means “sword-bearing” in Latin, came out of the gate with their self-titled debut in 2001 that is pretty much a masterwork of Viking/pagan metal. Focusing on historical and cultural depictions of Viking themes, rather than the gods, Ensiferum has never quite lived up to the potential they set with their debut album, due mostly to lineup changes and their effect on songwriting. Yet “Token of Time,” among the many gems on their self-titled debut, will always remain a shield-rattling depiction of Vikings.
Lastly, a trip through Viking metal would not be complete without mentioning “Hold the Heathen Hammer High” by Tyr. The opening track off their 2009 epic, “By the Light of the Northern Star,” this song is a rallying cry for all those who fought to hold on to their historical pagan beliefs in the face of encroachment by modern religion. Tyr, who named themselves after the Norse god of justice and law, hail from the Faroe Islands, an autonomous country within the Republic of Denmark situated between Iceland and Norway. The Faroe Islands are stunningly beautiful and easily conjure up images of Vikings and trolls and all other things that you may find inside the Norway pavilion.
So the next time you’re in the Norway pavilion, take a moment to think about Amon Amarth, Ensiferum, and Tyr, give the metal horns to the Viking statute, and – if you have long hair – do some serious headbanging.
This one is not necessarily Viking and Norway pavilion-related, but Switzerland’s Eluveitie play a very distinct style of music that incorporates traditional folk instruments into heavy metal, such as fiddle, hurry gurdy, violin, and bagpipes, and many of their songs are inspired by folk or pagan ideas. This particular song is about an old Celtic tribesman reminiscing about Inis Mona, an island north of Wales, where he attended an ancient Druid college in his youth. I’m including it because the folk instruments remind me of Epcot music, especially the Illuminations pre-show music! Very worldly heavy metal, indeed. Enjoy!