Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Vattnet Viskar - 'Settler' (Album Review)

‘This record is DENSE! With a massively thick tone, these songs sonically envelop you in billowing oppressive textures’

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 29/06/2015
Label: Century Media Records

‘Settler’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. Dawnlands
02. Colony
03. Yearn
04. Impact
05. Glory
06. Heirs
07. Settler
08. Coldwar

Vattnet Viskar is:

Christopher Alfieri | Guitars
Casey Aylward | Bass
Seamus Menihane | Drums
Nicholas Thornbury | Vocals, Guitars


The second full-length from murky New Hampshire quartet Vattnet Viskar has a soft side, but you will have to endure the trampling to get there. Follow up to last years ‘Sky Swallower’, this 8 track ritual is pretty fucking bleak even compared to earlier work. This record is DENSE! With a massively thick tone, these songs sonically envelop you in billowing oppressive textures without getting anywhere near being too airy or too light.  

The first track takes off with a relentless blast beating. Frontman Nicholas Thornbury proclaims that "a vulgar future is coming" as ‘Dawnlands’ downshifts into an intriguing mix of poignant single-note nuance and triumphant mid-paced mosher. Great production keeps the thickness from turning muddy in the more aggressive parts, without being so slick that it loses the raw black metal edge that pushes them up out of the possible doom label. ‘Colony’, next on the list, again starts at high speeds. A jazzed out but very metal intro that leads into drums bursting at the seams in near-Liturgy fashion sets up the shock of quarter-speed breakdown conjoined with lyrics sung in binary code(!) before break necking back into the classic blur of true black metal blasting. The tune rolls out to a highly melodic riff that exposes something this band does exceptionally well, sonic expressions of upward motion, rising up, dare I say uplifting? All this without losing contact with the most blackened components of their style. This album is very black metal with very little fluff. Even their softer spectral sides give the impression of exhaustion rather than rest.

‘Yearn’ sets foot in sludge territory, slowing the riffing down before a sudden right turn off a cliff into some incredibly grimy, tightly mechanical pulsing. The middle section is the only part of the album that could be described as 'sparse' though it doesn't last long before tuning back down to sludge. The detour into slow abruptly ends with the prototypical USBM crusher and my highlight of the record, ‘Impact’. A melancholy burner from start to finish, it only lets off the gas to trick you into thinking it was letting off the gas before jerkily coming to an awkward stop 4 minutes in. I mentioned it before, but I can't get over how black and aggressive this is while still maintaining incredible moving melody and even occasionally soaring out into truly unique yet understated leads. No melodic vocals to be found, but the growls match, they interlock with the music perfectly. While the lyrics range from the bizarre (binary code!) to prototype metal odes to self-destruction and self loathing, the vocals on the other hand show single-mindedness for the rasping. 

‘It's hard to see 
What you've become
But you'll always be so beautiful to me’


A juxtaposition of beatdown-simple riffs with progressive-doom flourishes provide a backdrop for one of my favourite moments of ‘Settler’, the lead at around 2 and a half minutes. Piercing, almost-psychedelic, howling into screeching into wobbling before crashing back into the tune proper, it never descends into shredding or wankery, floating above the mess. Heirs calls to mind the best of the depressive bm bands, lush almost wet riffing with beautiful haunting melody woven into the tremolo picked acceleration. Perfect action for fans of the french scene pre-Lantlos becoming jazz. The title track is another great example of the light meets dark routine, a pummelling, heavy-handed drumming approach leading into a spiking, nearly jubilant series of riffs, speeding upward, ever upward, while constantly reflecting back on the melancholy strangely woven into even the most uplifting motions. A low-end guttural riff grabs ahold a minute or so before the end and unfortunately drags a fantastic song into a repetitive muck.

While the rest of this record keep one foot in the grave no matter how bright and shiny things get, the closer ‘Coldwar’ seems to reverse this perspective into a stirring emotionally charged blackened race through the dismal, in an attempt to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, although he lyrics betray their scepticism about finding any, before the track collapses into a thoroughly exhausted one-last-shot.  ‘Coldwar’ is the one place where you'll find a full scale solo, flashing, exultant near-shred that shows how much restraint these guys held while crafting this impressive, huge, beautiful black metal record.

Words by: James Harris

‘Settler’ is available now

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