Lineup changes are a difficult and practically unavoidable thing for any band. There are very few bands that can make it 7 plus years without some sort of shake up. Not everyone is cut out for spending 250 plus days a year on the road that it sometimes takes to stay relevant in a genre as finicky as metal. But what do you do when a founding member, especially the vocalist, jumps ship right after a breakthrough album? If you’re Vattnet, you push forward.
After Nicholas Thornbury quit following a tour with Taake and Young And In The Way, remaining members Chris Alfieri, Casey Aylward, and Seamus Menihane restructured and decided to push on, dropping the Viskar from their previous moniker. Casey moved from bass to Nick’s former spot as guitar and vocals, a decision couldn’t have been easy or made without careful deliberation, but it makes total sense (Casey was the singer of a band called Hetfield & Hetfield, which featured about a third of the band Astronoid).
Now, 2 years after the release of Settler, Vattnet has released their first single with the new lineup and the first taste of their new sound with Dark Black. And it fucking rules. Hard. Dark Black is made for driving around town with the windows down and the volume turned up as loud as possible. It’s no longer the bastardized version of black metal of Sky Swallower or Settler, it’s a whole new thing to be fully embraced and just sounds exciting. The simplest comparison would probably be a heavier version of Circa Survive, but that would be a disservice to Vattnet. It just sounds like rebirith. There is a renewed vigor within the bands sound that leads to some great moments.
Completely devoid of the blast beats or tremolo picking riffs of the past, Dark Black still has a through line from their previous incarnation, and that’s Chris Alfieri’s guitar work. Dark Black’s main riff sounds like the estranged sister of the riff from the Settler track, Glory, and there is even a nice atmospheric guitar part during the first verse that is very reminiscent of some of the interlude tracks from Sky Swallower. There is a clear progression going from Settler to their new sound and I feel like this is the direction Vattnet would have ended up two more records down the road if the lineup change had never happened. Alfieri sounds unrestrained and honestly has never sounded better. His playing works well with Aylward’s, creating one of the catchiest riffs I’ve heard in a long time. The main riff throughout Dark Black always sounds like it’s pushing you forward, a propulsion for the whole song.
Casey shines here as a vocalist and lyricist. His voice is absolute magic and I’m so glad they decided to use him instead of finding a new vocalist. And while I said comparing this new version of Vattnet to Circa Survive was a disservice, it is slightly applicable. While no one on Earth sounds like Anthony Green, I get the comparison. Casey’s lyrics are personal and work really well within the groove of the song. Dealing with being let down by a family member or friends drug use (“Waste your life anyway you like/Dark black is all I’m seeing/It’s nothing but contagious feelings/Drop some more pills down your throat until anywhere feels like home/Then wake up tomorrow and repeat it”), Casey sounds amazing and I can’t wait to hear him in a live setting.
But the biggest takeaway from Dark Black is how much Casey and Seamus bring to the table. I’ve always stated that they were the secret weapon behind Settler. Their interplay together as bassist and drummer created the backbone for that album and I feel was completely underappreciated. But they both shine bright on Dark Black (pun kind of intended). Seamus, now unhindered by blast beats, sounds incredible. He’s always been a drummer I loved, especially his work on My Fiction’s Stranger Songs, and he brings so much swing and drive to Dark Black that it’s hard not to air drum along/ I can not wait to hear what he does on the rest of their upcoming album.
While Dark Black is definitely a stylistic shift for Vattnet, it is a necessary one. They sound revitalized and ready to push forward. And if Dark Black is any indication, the upcoming full length will easily be an album of the year contender.
Dark Black is available now through New Damage Records and can be purchased from a variety of retailers here.