Vattnet Viskar doesn’t fuck around. In the half-decade or so since their formation, the New Hampshire natives have built their following through a relentless touring schedule, an absolutely vicious stage show, and—as shown by their terrific self-titled EP and debut full-length, Sky Swallower—a steady stream of quality studio output. The band’s forthcoming sophomore album, Settler, should only enhance their reputation. Without spoiling too much—after all, we will be running a full review next week—it’s a tremendous, immersive listen that ranks among the year’s biggest highlights so far.
Ahead of Settler‘s release on Century Media next week, we took to Gmail for a quick interview with Vattnet Viskar guitarist Chris Alfieri. Dan, Corey and I each put forth some questions, covering everything from Settler‘s space-oriented theme, to life in New Hampshire, to ice hockey. Here’s what he had to say:
Manny-O-War: So, Chris, it seems like you’re the band’s official spokesperson. You’re always the go-to for band stuff. How did that happen and why don’t your bandmates ever pick up some of the slack? Do they also force you to do all the songwriting and force you to do all the load-ins by yourself?
It’s all a front. Nick runs most of the important stuff. If I was the president, he would be the illuminati. I actually don’t do anything important in the band except run the Twitter and write my guitar parts. We split up daily responsibilities and all take a share in the songwriting process, especially on Settler.
Manny-O-War: This is a two-part question so, get ready. Are you ready? Seriously? OK. Sky Swallower was an awesome album from top to bottom. Did you guys feel a lot of pressure for a follow-up based on the acclaim that it received? And, secondly, what did you learn from Sky Swallower that helped you with the writing and recording process for Settler (where the production is exceptional)?
We really feel no pressure minus the weight we put on ourselves, which varies daily. We really wanted to make a record we were proud of and wanted to hear, and we accomplished that. Anything after that is out of our hands and out of our minds for the most part. We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals in the two years since Sky Swallower, and all went through personal hardships. Our individual experiences and personalities come through on Settler much more than any other previous work.
Dan: Space exploration seems to be the driving concept throughout Settler—we see it in the cover art, the videos you’ve released so far, even in the sound of the album, which has a kind of lighter, airier tone to its aggression than we heard on Sky Swallower. What inspired this thematic choice? Was the vision fully-formed from the get-go, or did it develop as you went along?
We’ve always been fascinated by the vastness and unimaginable aspects of space and the universe. There are massive amounts of energies that permeate through all life on earth and the celestial scape that fascinate me. It’s something that we wanted to have come across on the album through imagery and the music. Space is beautiful, devastating, and largely unknown in relation to what the true nature of what our existence is. From the start, we knew what the visual theme and cover would be, so musically it was more of a jumping off point for us. Lyrically the album covers much ground outside of space exploration, and metaphorically ties into the large amounts of unknowns in life.
Dan: Returning to the sound for a second, it’s really impressive how seamlessly you guys transitioned from the thicker, weightier sound on Sky Swallower into the nimbler, more vibrant style we see here. How did this evolution come about? Were there any particular artists or producers that influenced your writing process this time out?
We knew we were recording with Sanford Parker back in July of 2014, and knew we wanted a much more raw and spastic tone on the album. We just let him take the reins on the production side, and went in with an open mind and no boundaries.
Dan: You guys have been total road warriors — you had the tour you did with Early Graves, a terrific set at the Rams Head during Maryland Deathfest, and now the tour with 1349 and Necrophagia, which wraps up just a few days after Settler drops. Any other plans in the work for later this year? (That you can share, at least?)
We’ll be back on the road in August. It will be announced shortly.
Corey: New Hampshire is undoubtedly the greatest 9,350 square miles in the world. Are there any regional influences—be it in the local music scene, our incredibly epic landscapes, or otherwise—that have had an impact on your music, which is equally as awesome as its home? Would I be correct to assume our metal-as-hell motto, “Live Free or Die,” was a source of inspiration?
New Hampshire is a weird dichotomy between wilderness, gentrification, and long-defunct mills. I take a lot from my physical surroundings when crafting songs; it is my only reference and influence when I get the creative urge. While we all prescribe to the “Live Free or Die” motto, it’s not something we hang our hats on, and doesn’t really have an impact on our creative process.
Corey: You guys kicked approximately all the asses at Maryland Deathfest this year. I’ve seen you perform at a variety of festivals over the years–Winter is Coming, MDF, etc.—what have your experiences been like playing these festivals and where do you see the metal festival scene in the U.S. going in the coming years, as events like MDF continue to grow in popularity?
We love playing festivals, it’s always fun to share the stage with a wide variety of artists. The music scene is strong in many ways, and festivals like MDF and even Warped Tour show that it can be a successful endeavor. Hopefully in the future, more American promoters will take cues from Europe and we can return to the days of great festivals like Day on the Green, etc.
Corey: Being from the northeast, I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that you’re hockey fans. That out of the way, we’re obviously all aware that the Manchester Monarchs just swept the Hartford Wolfpack to reach the Calder Cup finals. On a scale of Slava Voynov to Dustin Brown, how confident are you that they will take the cup back to the 603?
Nick and Seamus are big hockey buffs, I unfortunately am not a sports enthusiast. Having said that, the team from my state will forever be better than any other state’s team.
Many thanks to Chris for his time.