A solid mix of traditional European folk music, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper and Kiss has hit Northern Kentucky University’s campus. Folk-metal band Winterhymn is made up of four NKU students, one Xavier University student and a Cincinnati State graduate. And since the group’s formation in 2010, the band has made quite a name for itself.
“This is the first time I’ve ever felt like I was in a band that was going to do something,” said bass player and NKU senior Corey Willard. “You just get a certain vibe in this band where it’s like, something is going on here.”
In March the members of Winterhymn played their very first show at Cincinnati’s own battle of the bands: the Greater Cincinnati Band Challenge. What was supposed to be stage experience for their keyboardist Jenny Warner and violinist Kate Liebisch resulted in the band winning first prize in the challenge, walking away with $2,500 and three days of studio time.
“It was a stepping stone. We went into that blindly and came out on top,” drummer Ben Harris said.
Now, seven months after winning the challenge, Winterhymn has recorded their first album, “Songs for the Slain,” which is set to release Oct. 8.
Winterhymn has to overcome a bigger obstacle than most bands: Americans not knowing about folk metal.
“Going into this battle, my standpoint was people would either love us or hate us just because of how unique we are,” said Austin Wolfe on guitar and vocals.
Simply put, folk-metal is the mixture of traditional folk music and heavy metal that started in Europe during the 1990s. With an electric violin and keyboard that can portray various instruments, Winterhymn brings European flavor to their music.
Bands from countries like Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland are the pioneers of the genre, and have influenced the creation of the sub-genres of Celtic metal and medieval metal.
“Those bands are from Europe, so they are celebrating their history. For us it’s more of a love for fantasy,” guitarist Jared Compton said. “Folk-metal is the easiest identifier, without making up an obscure label for us.”
Though similar to the European bands they listen to, Winterhymn has crafted its own style, stemming from the collaborative way each song is composed.
Each member brings something different to the table. For instance, Liebisch was classically trained and was part of the NKU Philharmonic orchestra.
The band dresses in battle garb on stage, complete with war paint. The stage costumes and characters help round out the package that Winterhymn is creating to stand out in the Cincinnati music scene.
“We were singing about all this stuff, we better look like we belong playing this kind of music,” Willard said.
As students, the members face yet another challenge: school. They juggle classes, work schedules and the band. In Willard’s words, “It sucks pretty hard.” But dealing with so much is worth it, according to Willard and Harris. With band members’ tenacious aspiration to play music as a career, classes and work are a necessary evil for turning a dream into reality.
“Songs for the Slain” releases Oct. 8. Winterhymn is having an album release show at Radiodown in Covington, Ky. The doors open at 6 p.m. Ticket prices are $7 pre-sale and $10 at the door. The best way to get pre-sale tickets is to find a band member through NKU Find-it! or by asking a member on campus.