Hails From the Thousand Lakes: Vermilia

For anyone trying to keep track of what’s going on with black metal, Black Metal Promotion is a great channel that serves up new releases along with the occasional classic. For anyone who’d like to know about a specific band to watch, I’d like to point you to one artist in particular who was recently featured on the channel: Vermilia.

From what I can glean from Facebook and Bandcamp (as of this writing, she’s yet to have a Metal Archives page), Vermilia is the pseudonym for a female artist from Finland, specializing in what she calls “Epic Scandinavian Pagan Metal.” Easy now, don’t let the pagan adjective scare you away, this is nothing like the campy pagan metal that saturated the market in the late-aughts. Vermilia’s music combines the use of clean AND harsh vocals, sung in Finnish, with pure and exhilarating black metal in the style of Under the Sign of Hell-era Gorgoroth, Bergtatt-era Ulver, and an amalgamation of sounds from her homeland (the “epic” quality reminds me most of Alghazanth, though some of the meatier riffs have a faint echo of North From Here-era Sentenced).

She’s put out a few tracks so far, all apparently being recorded for an as-yet unnamed album, to be released on an as-yet unknown record label later this year. “Vedestä Vieraantunut” is the more atmospheric of the two, with clear callbacks to Ulver’s “I Troldskog faren vild” and “Soelen gaaer bag Aase need”:

Now. Let’s get one obvious thing out of the way: the inevitable Myrkur comparison. In a way, you could think of Vermilia as Finland’s answer to Myrkur. Although this is an oversimplification, it gets to the heart of what divides the two acts. Myrkur uses folk instrumentation and clean vocals as the foundation of the music, and then injects screaming and black metal riffs to supplement this aesthetic and move it to darker pastures. Vermilia does things the other way around. Yes there’s soaring vocals, lyrics about nature, and plenty of Ulver-worship to go around. But that’s where the overlap ends.

Finnish metal, especially Finnish black metal, has always had a penchant for raw, unrelenting ferocity. Although Vermilia’s style is not as hellish as Beherit, Horna or Sargeist, she is capable of carrying straightforward black metal while still using clean vocals, as you can hear from “Haudoille” (which translates roughly into “the graves”):

To me, this perfectly fits the model for the healthy evolution of a musical style. The essential elements of second-wave black metal are left intact and executed brilliantly, and yet there is a fresh spirit that longs to move them into the future. This musical spirit is analogous to her reverence for her country’s pagan history. She’s in debt to the tales and myths of the past, but is ready to use modern means of expression to keep that heritage alive. I have high hopes for Vermilia’s full length, which will hopefully come out soon, as she’s already created some of the most exciting black metal of 2018.