It's hard, really hard, to come across someone who listens to neofolk/neoclassical music today. While most die-hard metalheads like to complain about how death and black, and even regular hard rock, are taking a beating these days, I haven't even met enough neofolk-lovers to share my rare sympathies with. This unique, unexplored, and mainstream-adulteration-free genre is perhaps as underground as you could go in the music industry.
Most uncared-for kinds of music today did have their chance in the limelight, at least at some point in time: thrash and/or death metal in the nineties, classic/bad ass brit rock in the 80s, reggae and disco (thank god that's over) in the 70s and 60s, the old school Chuck Berry records when rock was born in the 40s, and, of course, there was a hell lot of jazz before that; but really, never was neofolk or neoclassical even hinted at the whole while. A lot of people might say that the eastern European pagan songs that are the roots of this genre were popular' about one and a half or two thousand years ago (in what is now just a big DJ orgy), butcome on, seriously?
Now, eastern European folk is actually quite a large spectrum of musical moods. While neofolk is on the whole a very atmospheric, delicately balanced, and completely clich-free kind of music, it can be very flexibly adapted to different themes. The common feel of a neofolk song is its depth of age, of reliving a past world, and the quiet, reflective, and careful movements of a refined music. This is made stark in today's music scene mainly because of two elements: the kind of instruments (mostly acoustic classical) that are used there, as well as the moods they invoke as part of the nature of such instruments. A lot of neoclassical songs have a strong feeling of grandness, enormity and glory to them, with the theatrical flourishes that are characteristic of an orchestra performance. Darkware, another sub-genre, is similar to neoclassical but contains more experimental elements of contemporary music production, and is more subtle, dark, and much less instrument-centred in its sound; in fact, a lot of darkware bands only use music software and basic recording to compose their songs, even though the sound produced replicates that of classical instruments.
Neofolk songs can also be very, very mood-based and mood-inductive; what that means is that the fluidity of the music, the character of the instruments used, and the often unfamiliar song structure (unfamiliar to the layman that is), brings about a certain effect in the listener. For instance, I would never play an In The Nursery track at night; really, it's too spooky. Omnia has this peculiar way of inspiring a sense of strangeness that's at once bizarre and fresh probably a result of the multi-cultural instruments, tones, and the completely alien adaptations of different literature. Stoa on the other hand, makes very sober, minimalistic tracks, with powerful but well-contained feeling. And a lot of other bands like The Austrasian Goat, Zalvarinis, and God Is An Astronaut (not exactly neofolk, but somewhere there) compose overwhelmingly atmospheric songs, often used as soundtracks in a lot of movies because of their cinematic quality.
All in all, I think that neofolk music is a genre that should definitely be better acknowledged and respected today, especially in a world where it often becomes easy to dismiss or feel dissatisfied with music. The measure of good music, something we often fail to note as listeners, is its ability to reach out to, and even affect, our thoughts, our feelings, which are really the only way we can truly respond to music. And I feel that neofolk music is a great form of expression that can be used to communicate to listeners in this way, because of its power, depth, and most of all, the honesty with which such artists compose songs that, as I said before, really nobody seems to listen to. In the end, any art form that's made with genuine passion and vision deserves to be given its share of respect from those whom it caters to, and I think it's about time this particular kind of music got its due.