Since their debut EP back in 2012, New Hampshire natives Vattnet Viskar have absolutely exploded in popularity, fronted by two very well-received albums in 2013’s Sky Swallower and this year’s Settler.Sure, developing a “Nine Circles ov” list for a band that has released a total of 19 tracks — I don’t count the introduction to the EP — seems a bit curious, but they’ve done enough with their take on metal to give us plenty to work with. The last few years have been highlighted by an impressive sonic evolution and numerous runs of successful tours, the latter being the reason we are here today.
After an extremely successful showing at Maryland Deathfest (a performance we’ve discussed many times), Vattnet is back on the road with The Atlas Moth, with an NYC date tonight and a Boston date coming up tomorrow. Dan’s going tonight, I’m going tomorrow, and you should be too. But with that in mind, what better time to handpick some of my personal favorites?
“Barren Earth” (from Vattnet Viskar, 2012)
Let’s start from the very beginning. Well…the end of the very beginning. The epic, 13-plus-minute closer to the EP is the track that fully capped my initial intrigue in Vattnet Viskar the first time I saw them at the Palladium back in 2012. It’s a track that slowly builds into an eruption of power and emotion, and certainly leaves a memorable impression.
“New Alchemy” (from Sky Swallower, 2013)
As great an ending as the EP gave us, the opener to the first full-length was equally as impressive. Sky Swallower wasted no time showcasing the sludgy cadence that would form the backbone of the rest of the album. A softer, echoing production gives “New Alchemy” a bit of a melancholic touch, despite its pronounced weight both musically and vocally.
“Heirs” (from Settler, 2015)
Let’s now jump to the latter stages of the most recent album. Where some of Vattnet’s past work was rather conceptual, Settler was far more of a reality check. “Heirs”, which features sharp, piercing leads over incredibly intricate rhythms, creates an atmosphere of brutal honesty in abject failure. Something which, whether we like it or not, stays with us.
“Apex” (from Sky Swallower, 2013)
Sky Swallower leaves us with a massively atmospheric sound, tying together all the elements of the preceding seven tracks and delivering them with utmost perfection. The sound is as full and echoing as it was on “New Alchemy,” but here it tends to sway in a slightly more melodic fashion. It’s encompassing, it’s cynical, and it proves that Vattnet Viskar certainly know how to bookend an album.
“Dawnlands” (from Settler, 2015)
I had to include the opener to Settler somewhere, and right in the middle of this list will do nicely. We’ve already talked about how “New Alchemy” introduced Sky Swallower’s sludgy structure. Well here, “Dawnlands” lets us know immediately that Settler is a step into more traditional black metal elements. And it works wonderfully. The sharper sound, diverse leads, and ambitious structure all make for a painfully encompassing sound.
“Intention Oblivion” (from Vattnet Viskar, 2012)
There’s just something about the track nestled in the middle of the debut EP that keeps me revisiting it time and again. To me, this is the song that kick-started the Vattnet Viskar take on black metal. It immediately dives into a barrage of deep, burdensome rhythms that signify much of the structures that define the band’s style. Yet, somehow, it stays enchantingly dark throughout. Really impressive work from their earlier days.
“Colony” (from Settler, 2015)
One of things that really stood out to me on Settler was how much more of an impact Nick Thornbury’s vocals had on the overall sound. And the second track is where they really emerge. While the instrumentals build off “Dawnlands” brilliantly, it’s the vocals that really take things further. Sharp and echoing passion resonate throughout.
“Fog of Apathy” (from Sky Swallower, 2013)
Remember the impressive buildup to “Barren Earth”? Same idea here. Sky Swallower‘s second track opens with an atmospheric guitar section before emerging rapidly in a whirlwind of sound. The pace is far more deliberate, though, forcing the listener to focus on each note and phrase, and giving “Fog of Apathy” a personal quality. Furthermore, when the song retreats back to the more delicate themes of the opener midway through, the band adds another level of introspection.
“Impact” (from Settler, 2015)
“I stood upon the ground with legs of fire, and I leapt into the sky.” It’s an opening line that, even if you choose to ignore the remaining four minutes of the song, will resonate with you for quite some time. Wave after wave of ferocity hits you from start to finish as a message of ambition-led disaster surrounds us. Unrelenting throughout, “Impact” simply feels like a sort of pinnacle in the Vattnet Viskar library. There’s no other way I could have concluded this list.
The Nine Circles ov Vattnet Viskar on Spotify
I’ll admit, I was curious how the construction of this list was going to work. I’ve been proudly following Vattnet Visker from the very beginning and fully understand the numeric limitations of their catalogue. But the fact is, when all is said and done, I look back and realize there are still plenty or tracks I would have liked to include here that I simply had to filter out. One, for example, is “Breath of the Almighty,” whose exclusion I’m sure Dan won’t approve of. [Editor’s Note: You’re goddamn right he doesn’t.]
Either way, while their career is still very young, Vattnet Viskar have already left their mark on the black metal world and we can only be excited about the years ahead.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”