Now, Korpiklaani has riffs? man, I don't hate the band or something, but the music is driven not by the riffs, but the accordion/violin, as well as Finntroll's most prominent instrument have been the accordion/keys. That syncopated beat that plagues Finntroll's catalogue is done by those instruments.
Bathory, on the contrary, was always riff driven and the music was clearly at first black metal and then Quorthon embraced more heavy/power metal elements - see Manowar for references, not euro power stuff - which combined with his already black metal songwriting to lead into the 'viking' stuff started with Hammerheart.
I never said anything about Korpiklaani's riffs
That's exactly what I meant, that at one end of spectrum is the folk metal more dominated by folk melodies, usually played on folk instruments, and at the other end is the more black metal sounding stuff, maybe with some folk music influences, but more fitting into genre because of lyrical themes.
My comment about Korpiklaani's metal elements mainly had to do with me being obsessed with Spirit of the Forest and the overwhelming dominance of the folk music sound on that album - the whole album is dominated by the violin, which sounds just like traditional Finnish pelimanni fiddling, whereas on later albums the violin is cleaner, more generic and kind of absorbed into the general sound of the band.
I happen to like the polka beat, but then again, I came to metal from straight up Scandinavian folk music and folk rock
I agree that the viking tag is pretty diverse and I usually prefer to dismiss the viking tag in favor of folk metal, pagan metal or black/folk, but I can't deny that there are a good share of bands that are easier recognized as viking cause their share some traits.
I don't use the viking tag much cause I don't feel it should be used for bands whose music is based in cultures other than Viking - so that would exclude most of the Finnish bands, cause ancient Finns weren't Vikings, and most of the continental bands like Eluveitie, Heidevolk and Arkona. I see what you're saying about using "viking metal" to refer to bands that use mainly or only the traditional metal instruments to play songs that sound folky, but I don't use the label that way. Maybe it's just a case of Finnish pride
Here in Chile there's a bunch of bad Korpi and Finntroll imitators and they always play together, but not with the black metal bands that have some folklore elements into their music.
Ah, I don't envy you that. Perhaps I should count myself glad that in the US we are safe from bad folk metal bands. I only know of one local folk metal band here, and even they come from several states away, and have a great heavy sound reminiscent of Wintersun and Amon Amarth (not folk metal, I know!)
Anyway, to bring this back to the discussion on why music genre labels are needed: I raised folk metal as an example to contrast with death metal, which has several (relatively) clearly defined subgenres, whereas folk metal doesn't, as much. "Folk/black", "pagan metal" and "viking metal" encompass some parts of it, parts, I guess that have their own following. I still feel that there are some distinctions that aren't made, though, which limits the ability to say "I like x type of folk metal," unless one says, "I like folk metal in the style of Eluveitie," or some other band. A demonstration of why subgenres are useful, I guess. But the poster above has a good point; "folk metal" is usually enough of an indication, to get me to listen to the music and see if I like it on its own merits.