Neofolk is a form of folk music-inspired experimental music that emerged from 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 genres such as neoclassical and martial industrial.
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 had 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 such as Vulcan's Hammer, Changes and Comus had created music with similar sounds and themes to Neofolk as far back as the 1960s. 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.
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, cultural and literary references. Local traditions and indigenous beliefs tend to be portrayed heavily as well as esoteric and historical topics.
Of particular mention is Heathenry. This subject plays a large part in the thematic elements touched upon by many modern and original Neofolk artists. Runes, heathen 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 led to some forefathers of the genre and current artists within the genre attributing it to being an aspect of a broader Heathen revival. .