New band battles for success

It’s like preparing for war: Metal music plays in the background as the soldiers suit up. They smear war paint on their faces as they take on a Viking mindset. After pep talks from around the camp, they are ready. They take the stage and the crowd nervously approaches. As the music radiates from their instruments, their opponents begin to realize what they’re in for.

For local folk-metal band Winterhymn, these war-like pre-show rituals are reality as the spots in the Greater Cincinnati Band Challenge dwindle and they remain on top.

“It’s been amazing,” said Corey Willard, Northern Kentucky University senior and bass and vocals player. “I had no idea it was gonna go over the way it did … It seemed like a landslide victory,” he said about the first round of battle.

Winterhymn is fairly new to the live music scene, only coming together in June 2010. NKU sophomore and violinist Kate Liebisch said most first-time listeners don’t believe the band is so new and so young.

Sophomores Austin Wolfe and Jared Compton, both on guitar and vocals, formed the idea of Winterhymn during their freshman year of college. The two were in a class together, where they realized they shared a passion for metal music and Viking culture.

Wolfe and Compton filled out the rest of the band through mutual friends, adding Liebisch,  Xavier student Jenny Warner on keyboard and Ben Harris on drums.

“And thus began the saga of Winterhymn,” Willard said.

The ride as a band has been great for Winterhymn, especially after the Battle of the Bands began. Because they were so new, the first round was Winterhymn’s first live show. Still, fans are drawn to them.

“We really take on a character when we’re on the stage,” Wolfe said.

Compton agreed that it’s important for Winterhymn to “look the part,” and that’s why even non-metal-heads are interested, at the very least.

Looking the part of a folk-metal band can be tough, but for Winterhymn it’s just part of the show. The war paint and stage names, such as Ulfr, Draug, Sieben, Exura, Umbriel and Warg, give each member a different persona.

According to Compton the theatrics help give the audience the “full experience” of the war-like folk-metal show Winterhymn wants to display.

The characters are not the only thing that sets Winterhymn apart from the other bands—their genre also helps. Folk metal, which is a blend of heavy metal and traditional European folk music, isn’t big in the United States.

“As far we know, we’re the only one in America,” Compton said. Most folk-metal bands come from either the United Kingdom or Scandavia, according to Wolfe.

Winterhymn is influenced by other folk-metal bands, traditional folk music from Europe and heavy metal bands from the 80s, such as Iron Maiden and Dio. Folk metal gained popularity in the 1990s in Europe as a fusion of hard rock and traditional folk music.

Folk metal doesn’t receive a lot of publicity in the United States, but Winterhymn seems to be taking the right steps to promote it.

“It’s not for everybody, but the metal-heads that we let listen to it over here who haven’t heard it before, they’re instantly like, ‘Wow that’s awesome!’” Compton said.

Winterhymn plays in the finals of the Greater Cincinnati Band Challenge on March 5 at Mad Hatter in Covington, Ky. Tickets for the show are $10. One of six competing bands will come out on top and receive $2,500 cash, three days of studio time from Moonlight Studios and a clothing sponsorship from Zip Zoo, according to the band challenge website.

For more information on Winterhymn, find them on Facebook or Myspace. To purchase tickets for the final show or to learn more about the challenge, visit

Story by Claire Higgins