Vattnet Viskar – Sky Swallower (Century Media)

Sunday, 8th September 2013
Rating: 8/10

Odd name, unusual locale, and off the post-black metal beaten path, New Hampshire’s Vattnet Viskar on paper appear to be an unlikely source for quality American black metal, or whatever people are calling it. Perhaps it is indeed through unconventional means their Sky Swallower debut works so well. Rife with dynamics, spacious melodies, and the appropriate black hoarse cackle (that should be a band name), Sky Swallower has the edge on like-minded bands for those reasons, and its brisk 38-minute run-time, an unheard of proposition if there ever was one.

Sky Swallower operates with such persuasion is largely because of its ability to effortlessly transport between quiet/loud dynamics. It’s not a new happening in metal (see any number of post-metal bands), but the fact the band has placed it in the context of quasi-black metal is where the appeal lies. It’s the flag in the ground on opener “New Alchemy,” as well as its follow-up “Fog of Apathy,” so right off the bat, Vattnet Viskar has established leverage in this department. The ethereal “Monarch” lends some soft brushstrokes of delicate melody, the ramp-up on “Breath of the Almighty” is something akin to Isis-on-Wolves of the Throne Room, while “Mythos” emerges as the album’s extremity high-point.

Frankly, we’re not in need of more bands like Vattnet Viskar (which stands for “The water is whispering” in Swedish for you inquiring minds). However, we’re in need of more bands who understand the use of transitions, pacing, and overall feel, something this relatively fresh-faced bunch of New Englanders clearly grasp, thus making Sky Swallower a success, and a worthy entrant into the North American extreme metal derby.

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