Everybody’s favorite kvltboi jackwagons – Aaron Dexter Bray from Black Metal Daily and IMV Senior Editor Clayton T. Michaels – are back again with their first column of 2019. Before moving on to 2019’s releases, our dickheaded duo decided to take one last look back at 2018 and discuss an album that didn’t get much attention from the metal blogosphere: Vermiia‘s debut full-length Kätkyt. If you haven’t yet, give it a listen below while you check out what Dex and Clayton had to say…
CTM: So…happy 2019, my infernal brother ov kvltness. 2018 ended up being one hell of a year for the blackened musical arts we both love so fucking much, and I have very high expectations for this year as well. Before we completely shut the door on last year, though, I want to talk about an album that I feel like damn near everyone except Drew at Metal Injection seems to have slept on last year: Vermilia’s debut Kätkyt.
ADB: Indeed it did, eternal brethren of Satan’s anus – as I type this I’m still putting my end of year list together, there was just that much black gold. So I’m totally down to keep that door open ever so slightly, especially to talk about this incredible album in particular. The floor is yours, my friend.
CTM: For those unfamiliar or who may have missed out on Kätkyt when it came out back in June – which I’m guessing will be almost everyone reading this, since it didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved – Vermilia is a one-woman pagan black metal project from Finland that combines epic, Scandinavian folk-inspired melodies and gorgeous clean vocals with more traditional black metal elements.
And yes…I absolutely realize that if you swapped out ‘Finland’ for ‘Denmark’ in that above description, it would sound like I was talking about she-who-must-not-be-named – the band that provokes so much kvltboi rage that if we were to utter either her name or the name of her band too many times throughout the course of this piece, the ghosts of Euronymous and Dead would come flying out of our mirrors a la Candyman and forcibly take our kvlt cards and all of our tapes. So that seems as good a place to start here as any – what makes Kätkyt succeed where others who have tried to make music in a similar style have (according to the kvltbois, anyway – I actually like the Danish band whose name must not be spoken) failed?
ADB: That’s an excellent question. I think it’s a complex answer, of which I’m sure you’ll disagree with at least part: while the nameless one showed promise in the beginning (and I do like some of the stuff on her first EP and really wanted to like her albums), she failed to match the ridiculous amount of hype she generated or had orchestrated for her, depending on who you talk to. Her music turned out to be largely quite…“ehh.” Lacking a touch in overall coherence, perhaps even a little ham-fisted in some elements, and definitely not feeling one hundred percent “authentic” – which as you said earlier, makes many black-and-white painted ball-sacks shrivel up like the frozen winds of the North. In comparison, Kätkyt is almost the anti-M. There’s been shit-all hype around this and the minute you push play on this strange album you’ve stumbled across or were recommended by a much cooler acquaintance with better taste…the opening guitar/vocal layers of ‘Äiti Maa’ caress your eardrums, you do a mental double-take and find yourself checking the album info less than a minute in and thinking “what the fuck is this??”
CTM: You just haaaaad to use that fucking ‘a’ word, didn’t you? Facepalm emoji.
ADB: I’m not proud of myself.
CTM: That aside, you do make an excellent point here. The two artists I’ve seen mentioned most often in the few articles I’ve seen about her are the Danish band (and now I can’t stop thinking of her as a kind of black metal Macbeth…erm, I mean the Scottish play) and Sylvaine, and those two have some fairly significant label backing behind them – Relapse and Season of Mist, respectively. Vermilia really did come out of nowhere with this self-released album that had seemingly no real promotion beyond her own social media, and she’s sold out of two pressings on CD and is nearly sold out of a fresh run of tapes. It’s not very often that you see a band’s audience grow organically at such a rapid pace.
ADB: Spot on, that’s a part of it. She’s come out of nowhere and that’s what her audience loves – discovering something underground and ‘a’ word (sorry). The support she is getting is astounding. Also, what do you see when you check the production notes? Look at the last album by M..m…muh…yeah, you-know-who – and check how many people were involved in the musical side of it. Ten. Yep, nine other people helped/guested. Her previous album had eight. How many people (that we know of, anyway) took part in Kätkyt? Just one. With no help or publicly-perceived piggy-backing from celebrity guests, Vermilia has crafted an album of the utmost quality from start to finish and that speaks to something primal, deep down in our cores. What’s more, it’s only her debut. It’s almost unbelievable.
CTM: I’m not sure I’m as down on her for the collaborators thing when they’ve included folks like Teloch and Garm. Sylvaine had Niege play drums on her album as well, but I digress…
ADB: Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not either. If I could sell a leg to work with any of those three you’d be calling me Lieutenant Dan in no time…
CTM: From what I’ve been able to glean, she co-wrote Kätkyt with her producer Somnia, but performed all the instruments and vocals herself. That is all kinds of impressive, especially considering everything happening here on a musical level.
ADB: Whoops, I forgot to mention her producer. But yep, it’s off-the-chain impressive!
CTM: Particularly considering the incredible amount of variety on display in the music. I was listening to it for the umpteenth time as I was having my morning coffee, and there are so many different moods, textures, tempos, etc. from one song to the next here, and she arrives at them all so organically – I really wonder how in the hell this is her first album? Where the fuck has she been all these years? If it comes out at some point that she has some sort of classical background or has played with neofolk bands prior to Kätkyt, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
ADB: That’s exactly what I was thinking. I even did some cursory investigation in an attempt to discover any prior projects… Came up with zip.
CTM: Okay…let’s get a little more focused with our gushing over this record. What are the highlights for you?
ADB: Highlights for me are not so much specific tracks or moments, moreso things like the interplay between her fantastic clean vocal melodies and the tremolo riffs (“Haudoille” for example), or when her singing is layered clean-over-harsh in general (‘Vedestä Vieraantunut’). It’s like the whole Lacuna Coil-esque light/dark vocal thing has been perfected, the secret unlocked – just perform both parts yourself! Easy.
Which is still unfocused gushing, I know. Favourite tracks are “Haudoille” for the aforementioned reason, “Poissa” because of how seamlessly it moves between blistering black fury, stunning folk melodies and that glorious recurring thrashy part… “Maisema” because there’s always been something about the Finnish style of folk melody that hits me right in the sweet spot, and this is almost perfection… aaand I’m listening to the album as I type this and coming to realise just about every track is my favourite. Well, I tried. I’m gonna hand back over to you, and probably go get a mop.
CTM: In hindsight, it is kind of ironic that I said ‘focused,’ because I’m actually right there with you. It’s nearly impossible to pick out a favorite song on Kätkyt because the whole thing is just so fucking consistent, and all of the various parts so thoroughly complement each other that I can’t even be like ‘dude, that riff on song X…’ because I’m having a difficult time even teasing apart the separate elements in each song. It’s like something out of a myth, wherein the ground split open and the album emerged fully formed and essentially perfect.
Which I realize is a total cop-out of an answer. So…I completely agree with you about her stunning vocals, and for some reason my favorite moment on the album is the opening section of “Mustan taivaan morsia.” There’s something about the old phonograph style effect on it that gives it this wonderfully sentimental feel. Not a very kvlt statement at all, but whatever – kvltbois can have feels, too!
Are we ready for final grades? It’s an easy A for me, no question.
ADB: Yep, definitely an A. She’s appeared out of nowhere with one of the lowkey sleeper-hit albums of the year. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Beautiful.