The rapid emergence of Vattnet Viskar has been impressive to the point of unprecedented. Ever since their debut EP in 2012 — which they toured the living hell out of — it was immediately apparent that these post-black metallers out of New Hampshire knew what they wanted to create and how they wanted to deliver it. Blending elements from black metal, doom metal, and everything in between, the band’s developed a uniquely defining sound that is instantly captivating. With their latest full-length, Settler, Vattnet Viskar takes everything we understand about their energy and pushes it to new limits, in turn generating a sonically defining album in their still-young careers.
As one whose roots grow deep in the heart of New Hampshire, I’ve been following these guys since they first started touring that EP, three years ago. After endlessly busting their asses, they deservedly signed on with Century Media and released their first full-length, Sky Swallower. The album generated plenty of buzz through its sludge-filled doom elements and deliberate, yet atmospheric quality. With Settler, they take a bit of departure from those more burdensome elements and instead return to a more traditional black metal approach. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of certain stylistic qualities found on the EP. This time, however, it’s produced and delivered with far more quality and emotional aggression.
Thematically, Vattnet Viskar have been recently consistent — focusing on the grandiosity of space and our insignificance as a being. Yet, where Sky Swallower was perhaps more conceptual both artistically and lyrically, Settler is far more of a reality check. Space is still the overriding idea…but instead of a galactic image initiating the experience, we’re instead presented a photograph of a blissful woman floating, completely free from the constraints of gravity. When you explore the lyrics, you understand how perfectly this record is introduced through this imagery. Easily relatable back to the Challenger disaster, we become aware that when everything appears to be in perfect harmony, there can still be chaos. When our ambitions push us higher, there is no promise of success. Everything can go wrong, there may be no escape, and everything we know can be left behind in the wake. Life holds so much mystery, and where there is mystery there can be failure. This is the dose of the reality we can’t avoid. It’s relatable. And it’s appropriate.
Musically, these themes are paralleled. The epicenter of Settler is still one characterized by a barrage of punishing rhythms, relentless tremolo leads, and ferociously howled vocals. This is the crux of the Vattnet sound as we know it. But, as mentioned, the sound seems more familiar through an incorporation of more melodic black metal influences, evidenced immediately on “Dawnlands.” There is instantly cleaner production, crisper tones, and more, dare I say it, delicate leads. Looking into specifics, we see much of the same song architecture that defines Vattnet Viskar. The cadence shows incredible diversity, displayed in the transitions from the furiously unwavering “Colony” into the deliberate and melodic “Yearn” before returning, just as quickly as we departed, to the feel we opened with on the following track, “Impact.” Nick Thornbury’s voice is one of the most recognizably passionate styles in metal, and he delivers this track’s opening line, “I stood upon the ground with legs of fire and I leapt into the sky,” with enough weight to feel it in your soul. These are Vattnet Viskar songs, but they find a way to evolve into something previously undiscovered.
But Settler never lets up. Moving into the second half of the album, “Glory” and “Heirs” throw us in new directions still, using previously unprecedented solos and exceptionally definitive interludes. They maintain the sharp, piercing leads constructed around the unrelenting rhythms and percussion that form the backbone of this album, but they do it with more variety and intrigue. They transition fluidly from aggressive to melodic, reminding us how effortlessly they’ve evolved their sound over the past three years. It can be difficult to pick a song that defines this album, but with the way these two tracks work with one another, this would be a good place to start. Moving forward, we eventually depart with the title track and “Coldwar” which concludes this album as impressively as it began. Start to finish, Settler listens the way Vattnet Viskar intended it to, with all the inspiring mystery of our universe metaphorically presented in a way we all recognize.
Needless to say, Settler will end up being one of the quintessential albums of 2015. With this release, Vattnet Viskar makes two things unmistakably clear: first, they know what sound defines them; and second, they know how to advance and develop that sound. As a result, there is no doubt that this will go down as one of the more important albums the band will ever write. Just taking into consideration how their sound has developed on Settler, it’s easy to immediately look ahead and anxiously await whatever may come next… future success seems predestined. But for now, the proper action would be to step back, focus on the present, and admire all the importance and impressiveness that this album is.
Settler is available now on Century Media Records. For more information on Vattnet Viskar, visit their official website.