The Pagan World of Metallics is vast. You get all sorts of street performers with scant knowledge of the good ol’ times when Gaia’s forces were – supposedly – in charge. Often they wear strange rags, holler incomprehensive screechy monologues, and stomp weirdly around the stage.
In their defense, there’s little scientific wisdom available to back things up. And even that is often clouded by the mists of time to boot. Modern-day sages just don’t have enough data to go by, even if considerable progress has been made over the last few years. So, much is open to sometimes wild interpretations which make for colorful theatrics but not much more. At least, that’s great for artistic freedom or expression, right?
But then, you get the genuine actors, artists who actually live the ebb and flow of nature, and (try to) honor the old traditions as far as they understand them. And that gets us a different sort of tune. Pagan and Folk Metal for grownups, if you will. The Finnish one-woman band Vermilia is one of them.
The RMR crew really started to follow her more seriously once the remarkable EP Keskeneräisiä tarinoita1) hit our turntables in 2020. It was this strangely accomplished mix between harsh, menacing Black Metal and lightly tuned Pagan Folk that sold us. Her newest record Ruska2) kinda follows in the same vein. And then, it doesn’t.
The EP was awash with a delicious menace hiding just beneath its pitch-black surface. And it often reverberated off our walls the way a Myrkur 2.0 would sound. Whereas this here record is much more subtle and it takes its sweet time to unfold its wares. Ruska is twisting and turning through genuine Black and Post Black, Dark Folk, tribal sounds, and much more. And sometimes a tad too much, to the point of almost losing direction and focus.
Case in point, Alkusointu roots itself mainly in pagan folk, some drumming and arcane piping included. Whereas Marras increases its juice in best Vermilia fashion through sudden harsh progression. But the heat increases dramatically once Hautavajo hits the tracklist. This bass-heavy tremolofest truly gave our metal-starved darkened souls its much-awaited mana. This track blends the aforementioned Myrkur and the eerie sturdiness of Sidus Atrum into a tasty chunk of alloy. Harsh and melodic with enough atmosphere to keep your thoughts out of that burial pit it probably tries to describe. Kuun Tytär – the last part of that trilogy – finally throws meaty riffs into the fray that find solace in Death Metal more than the track wants to admit.
And as I said before, Ruska is full of varied styles, elements, and flavors – and these three tracks are proof of that particular pudding. Yet, all of the above sails forward on layered and often harmonic vocals that constantly find domination in Vermilia‘s throaty croak. And so it should be. Now, the record continues its typical ebb and flow along the tracklist with ever more pronounced references to Moonsorrow as it inexorably marches towards its end. And that – interestingly – includes the somewhat tribal title track.
Ultimately, the RMR crew did not find a hell of a lot to criticize on Ruska. True, we deplore a certain loss of that cheeky oomph and freshness prevalent on its predecessor. Yet again, it’s a thoughtful and carefully constructed record. Dark and folksy, harsh and truly metallic, and firmly rooted in nature and its cycles. A varied piece that will let you forget today’s often maddening world and offer an escape into an almost magical pagan world. After all, the leaves on the trees start to fall, the weather grows colder, and the autumnal equinox is almost upon us at the time of writing this review. Sounds of the season. There, enigma solved.
Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 9 September 2022