Album Review

Review: Vattnet Viskar – Settler (2015)


Back when I was writing on the old(ish) blogspot version of this blog, I remember being sent the self-titled EP from Vatnett Viskar. It’s weird to think that that band is now getting so much hype (good or bad) – since a very few select bands who play black metal ever really touch mainstream consciousness in any sort of way. Deafheaven did it – and from the stuff I’ve been hearing and reading, people are all making this record from VV out to be this years version of Deafheaven’s Sunbather. Is it?

To be honest, I was never fully sold on that Deafheaven record. I enjoyed everything they had put out up until that point, but Sunbather just didn’t do anything for me (feel free to call me a hater). By comparison, I’ve liked VV’s previous material, and I still like this new album. In fact, I like it a lot! I’m just gonna come out and say it early on here – I think this is one of the best records I’ve heard this year. It’s really, really good.

VV often get put into that whole post-black metal genre, but that tag is only true to a certain extent. While the band certainly embrace the rise-and-fall structures that come from post-rock, they channel those influences a lot less blatantly than many of their peers. In addition to that, if we’re talking about post-rock, the post-rock bands that come to mind when I listen to this record are more along the lines of Tortoise or Slint with the metal comparisons closer to Isis or Cult of Luna. There weren’t a whole lot of the cliched clean guitar lines that climaxed into blast-beats or general black metal tremolo riffs. Even then, one could argue that the band is taking more from post-hardcore bands than post-rock. I mean, there were some clean guitar work done on here, but nothing so derivative that it made me take immediate notice of it.

In fact, if I’m being more analytical about this, genre wise, this is closer to sludge than traditional black metal (at least on this record). Listening back to the group’s previous two releases, they definitely started off with more of a melody-driven atmospheric black metal sound. On this record, the melody aspect remains in tact, but the black metal parts are nowhere near as “dark” or “foreboding” as they once were. They’re much more uplifting sounding, triumphant in some instances. The general pacing is a lot less furious as well. There are just as many mid-paced and groovy parts as traditional blast-fests.

There’s also an aspect to this record which I feel has been overlooked by people – the song lengths. The only song on here to cross the six minute length is the closer, “Coldwar.” If you look back at 2013’s Sky Swallower, almost every actual song was between the six and eight minute range. Most tracks on here are in the four minute range. Now, I’m no stranger to long songs and I quite enjoy them, but condensing things down to the bare essentials makes these songs feel extremely punchy. There’s no filler here, no fat.

I also can’t fail to mention Sanford Parker’s production on here. As one should come to expect, when seeing his name on a record, it’s bound to sound fantastic. The drums sound huge. I’ve heard some claim foul in that they sound super mechanical, which I don’t get at all. The guitars just soar, the melodies on tracks like “Yearn” and “Glory” are just amazing. I could listen to the climaxes on those songs all day. Anyone who I’ve had any lengthy discussion about music with knows that I love to hear bass on records, and while it isn’t huge on here, at times the kick does overpower it a bit in my opinion, there are moments in nearly every song where a bass line stands out to me. And finally there’s just all the little things Parker adds to the album. The subtle samples and noises and synths that just bring that extra depth to these tracks.

Just to wrap up, I really dig this record (obviously) and it’s one of the albums I’ve probably spun the most recently. I don’t know if this will be another crossover hit like Sunbather was, but I think the band are definitely deserving enough of any and all praise that comes their way. The songs are triumphantly awesome (and not in that cheesy way we often say black metal is). It’s a great record and I hope that those who haven’t heard it yet check it out. Also, I have no problem with the artwork.

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