Although emotive, the dark harshness of Vattnet Viskar’s sound seemed a strange choice to accompany the heavier, more melodic Pallbearer on last winter’s US tour. Look deeper, however, into the very British blackness of Settler (Century Media), the New Hampshire quartet’s second album, and the melancholy shines through.
Brutal stickwork permeates the tremolo riffs of ‘Colony’ until a wholly unexpected mid-point breakdown of slow, deliberate Shoegaze, reappearing at the track’s coda, marks the band out as a different breed. ‘Yearn’ begins with a portentous yet evocative passage, building with delicate synth effects into vocalist Nicholas Thornbury’s colossal yet almost whispered, dry bark; a more Doom-laden pace seeing lead shimmerings emerge only in a Post-style underpin. It’s a savage track, yet pregnant with emotion: the layered, twisting chicanes sending the sound into the more inventive horror of Inter Arma’s Blackened spin-off Bastard Sapling, rather than that of the band’s core which is heavily influenced by Winterfylleth, Fen et al. ‘Impact’, for example, evokes images of rolling, furze-heavy hills in winter, as is expected from that UK Pagan contingent: yet a Viking element adds punch to this truly moving track.
This is an album giving true meaning to the ‘Atmospheric Black Metal’ tag: expertly blending the hostile, hissing tundra with chest-swelling passion and, in doing so, creating a living monster. Seamus Menihane’s pounding, resonant tubs return as the direction for the aptly named ‘Glory’, more sadness wrought from that lead guitar as an initial Trad metal rhythm gives way to dual Post wails, crushing riffs returning at the height of the ensuing explosion, an emphysemic roar coating the whole in a wonderful disease. The brutalised, throbbing heartbreak of both the title track and ‘Heirs’, meanwhile, where those expressions of angst remain constantly on the right side of Metalcore to emit sincere feeling, are supreme examples of the band’s organic versatility and heart of fire.
Closer ‘Coldwar’ melds elements of Black, Melancholia, Post-metal and Rock in a swelling, distraught yet euphoric finale. A refreshing, ambitious effort whilst remaining faithful to the dark core, Settler shows Vattnet Viskar to the stage of serious contenders.
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