Vampillia: in Praise of a Truly Unique Band
I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite bands, signed to one of my favorite record labels, if you’ll let me.
They’re a group from Japan by the name of Vampillia. They first came to my attention years ago when I saw on Facebook that they were supporting Alcest on their Shelter tour in Japan. I looked up the band and came across this music video:
It starts out with a sort of children’s song about the seasons and then develops into a hard to categorize but beautiful composition mixing and juxtaposing genres and influences that at best get a skeptical eyebrow raise when I try and describe the band to my friends who are also into metal. In their work there’s black metal and noise, there’s post rock and metal, shoegaze, café pop, classical, EDM, hip hop, progressive, folk, contemporary and modern academic music, and ambient, and more than likely even more that I’m just missing. But, in their own words from their bandcamp: “The next alternative music from Osaka where BOREDOMS had rised . . . it’s difficult what’s kind of music this is. Only we can say ‘a beautiful chaos.'”
The metal aspects of their composition are backed up by collaboration and tours with some heavy hitters, including black metal vocalist for hire Attila Csihar, Inswarm, and Chip King from The Body, not to mention some respected non-metal musicians like Pete Swanson of Yellow Swans fame, Merzbow, Jarboe, and the numerous collaborations they do with their Virgin-Babylon Records label mates like World’s End Girlfriend and Have a Nice Day!.
I ordered their album The Divine Move and put the entire CD on heavy rotation for over a month when driving around, hoping to have something new from them soon, but content with what I did have. The band then seemed to take a path leaning more heavily into their black metal and noise influences first with the release of “Blackest Ever Black Metal” on YouTube:
The next release, My Beautiful Twisted Nightmares in Aurora Rainbow Darkness (released as Some Nightmares Take You Aurora Rainbow Darkness on Candlelight Records, with the song titles also being different. Don’t ask me why.), took a small step back into the classical- and pop-heavy writing The Divine Move had, though the black metal influences were more out in the open, as you can hear on the single from that album, Ice Fist.
The song is a perfect showcase of what I find so damn appealing. The layering of instruments and motives, starting out with some muted electric piano, then metal ensemble, choir, acoustic piano, strings. There are tons of false climaxes; the string ensemble, going beyond adding melody, adds texture effects with cascading harmonics about three minutes in. Going further than what I love about just this track, every Vampillia release is more than just a collection of songs. Every release is something where the songs are strong on their own, but when everything is taken as a whole it becomes so much more powerful. They’re bittersweet stories wanting to be told.
After “Beautiful Twisted Nightmares,” Vampillia collaborated with The Body to release xoroAHbin.
These collaborations brought Vampillia’s music to a darker place, as soon afterward they put out an EP called My Heart Will Go On, and they also began working with Chip King and Pete Swanson on another project called Violent Magic Orchestra, VMO for short.
This stuff is HEAVY, especially for Vampillia. They still have all their old hallmarks, but they’ve wrenched the metal and noise influences way up, and Mongoloid (that’s the stage name of their vocalist, I promise I’m not being racist) is really expanding his growling repertoire, including screeching similar to Kyo’s (Dir En Grey) whistling howls in Dum Spiro Spero.
VMO is a different beast altogether. It has guest vocals from Chip King and Attila Csihar, but the majority of the music is written by Pete Swanson, and it’s really meant to be a live performance experience, with visuals by Kezzardrix coinciding with the music to tell a story, that is . . . interesting to say the least if you can parse the gist from the project trailer.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t check out the album, but if you’re rolling through Japan and get a chance to see VMO live, I’d definitely take it.
Currently it seems Vampillia is tied up with collaboration albums with fellow Virgin-Babylon label mates (all of which are fantastic, by the way. The day they collaborate with about tess I can die happy) and VMO. As far as I know there isn’t any word of when the next full-length Vampillia album will be.
I hope you give these guys a chance. They’re a little avant garde, a little pop, a little classical, a little black metal, and all interesting and well-made. Few bands stick with me as much as this group, and I hope they stick with you as well.