Progression is a scary word for a lot of people who listen to metal, especially black metal. Fans want you to follow their rules, whatever it is they think will make you “true.” Whether that’s always sounding like you record your albums in a basement or only taking promo pictures in snow with corpsepaint on, black metal fans have their own rule books you must follow to even be considered. For New Hampshire band Vattnet Viskar, that rule book is just kindling to burn down everything that makes you feel safe and secure.
Everything about Vattnet Viskar’s new album, Settler, is about saying “fuck the rules” and doing what makes you happy. Take those challenges. Yes, they may end up in disaster, but being in a stagnant state is boring and teaches you nothing about yourself. Inspired by Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher who was selected to take part in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and eventually became a member of the space shuttle Challenger team. In 1986, 73 seconds after Challenger took off, the shuttle broke apart, killing everyone on board.
That feeling of hope and joy one second and complete despair the next is a perfect metaphor for Settler. From the blast off like onset of ‘Dawnbringer’ until the last, heart-wrenching solo of ‘Coldwar’, the album runs a gamut of emotions. ‘Dawnbringer’ almost makes you feel anxious like you’re sitting in that seat, waiting to take off. Between Chris Alfieri’s riffs and Seamus Menihane’s drums, coupled with Sanford Parker’s production, you can almost imagine yourself being propelled through space. There is a weightlessness to the riffs throughout the whole album, but especially here.
There is also a bigger sense of cohesiveness to Settler than on previous works. When listened to separately, ‘Impact’, a total pit starter that I imagine will be a live staple for a long time, ‘Yearn’, and ‘Glory’ might all sounds totally different. But when listened to in a row as intended (Yearn, Impact, Glory), they fit together perfectly.
Speaking of ‘Glory’, if you had told me even a year ago that my favorite song on any album in 2015 would contain a full on nu metal riff, I would have thought you were crazy. ‘Glory’ is easily the bravest song Vattnet Viskar has released in their career, and said nu metal riff is the highlight. It all goes back to the “do what makes you happy, fuck the rules” attitude of the album. The interplay between the rhythm section through ‘Glory’ is also incredible.
In fact, the rhythm section is one of the best things about the album. Seamus played on Sky Swallower, but Casey Aylward is new to the band on Settler, and his addition is a game changer. Neither Casey nor Seamus come from full fledged metal backgrounds, and you can hear it in their playing. They sync well together and at times add a nice bounciness underneath the tremolo picking and harsh vocals. It’s also nice to hear Seamus not having to blast beat his way throughout most of the album. His fills are a perfect touch to a lot of the moments throughout .It’s also incredibly satisfying to hear them play under some of the best riffs Chris Alfieri and Nick Thornbury have ever written. The middle section of ‘Heirs’ is a perfect example.
But for me, everything on the album leads to ‘Coldwar’. There is an emotional catharsis, for me at least, throughout the song. The onset is bouncy and poppy, leading into about a minute of blast beats and furious guitar work, back into bounciness. By the time you reach the last third of the song, it all slows down into some of Casey’s best work. His bass playing is top notch and full of heart playing under a minimum guitar part. Which all leads to a guitar solo that has made me cry almost every time I’ve heard it. It’s full of sadness that leads into an almost hopefulness that is beautiful and an absolute perfect way to end the album.
Settler will hopefully lead to bigger and better things for Vattnet Viskar.. They wrote an album that is brave, heartfelt, challenging, and beautiful. It’s the sound of a band that is at the top of their game. It may only be June, but I don’t think there will be much that comes out that will even come close to topping Settler.
You can order Settler HERE.
You can order Settler HERE.