Ever since arising on the fringes of the black metal scene in 2010, Vattnet Viskar has done just about everything in their power to fuck with scene conventions and expectations. First, the idea of a band from cold and frosty New Hampshire using lingo from cold and frosty Sweden as its band name is one thing, not sporting the accepted look and image is quite another, and the result has been a quartet on the receiving end of a variety of epithets that polite, politically correct and LGBQT-sensitive sectors of society would take to Facebook in a flash to condemn and frown upon.
Of course, there’s the cover of the band’s newest and second album, Settler, which pays tribute to accomplishment and exploration via a recreation of school teacher-turned-astronaut Christa Mcauliffe in happier times, before she and six other astronauts perished in the 1986 Challenger disaster; not exactly your garden variety field of lyrical focus. Then, there’s the music. Rooted in black metal they are, but you can also hear the indie and alt-rock, shoegaze, punk, ambient, thrash/death and straight ahead rock coming through. Personally, I’m the furthest thing from a purist you could imagine or hope to talk shit about on the deepest recesses of the internet’s metal-centric message boards, so the fact that Settler possesses irreverence and offers four very import key factors (melody, memorable songs, passion and intensity) doesn’t make it matter if the band is standing outside of what’s considered cool; come to think of it, Settler is all the better because of it.
The tropes do exist: tremolo picking, harsh vocals, machine-gunning drums blasting out of the Seventh Hemorrhoidal Circle of Hades or wherever. And they’re done well, as evidenced in the layered texture of lead-off track “Dawnlands.” The song also employs moody tempo changes, a reverb-y melody that has “post-” something-or-other written all over it and not only an audible bass tone, but some walking lines added into the mix. It’s a muscular and melodic slice of black metal advanced into different dimensions which means equal numbers of people will hate and pillory as much love and appreciate it.
“Colony” injects an amazing staccato riff and an alt/indie rock feel to the opening sequence and a little vocoder weirdness amidst waterfalls of Norse influence to create something infinitely listenable and engaging. “Glory” is a massive slab of energetic Neur-Isis-tinged facewash complete with soaring guitar parts and a meaty, lurching chord progression while the closer, “Coldwar” possesses one of black metal’s most whistle-able moments during its wrap up. It’s like Vattnet Viskar is challenging its place of origin to despise them and take their best shots though after Settler’s eight songs, chances are you won’t be knocking these dudes down.
There’s a old saying that gets thrown around feminist circles (and what better context to use this comparison as I can already hear the derogatory comparisons and insults) that reads “well-behaved women seldom make history.” Of course, it can be expanded upon and applied to anyone or anything (extrapolate enough and you can make connections to the slogan on New Hampshire’s license plates), but Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote broadly refers to how people become another cog in the machine once they fall in line with expectation. Vattnet Viskar has taken a huge step outside the box of typical black metal and while there may (nay, will) be detractors, we’re backing their move and claiming that sub-genre history has been made with Settler.