Now You Know: Vattnet ViskarThursday, 3rd October 2013
Location: New Hampshire
Style: Post-black metal. However, it’s pending approval from the black metal scene.
Personnel: Nick Thornbury (guitars, vocals); Chris Alfieri (guitars); Seamus Menihane (drums)
Latest Release: Sky Swallower (Century Media Records)
“Whatever people take from our music, we’re okay with it,” begins Vattnet Viskar guitarist Chris Alfieri when asked about the band’s standing (or lack thereof) in the black metal scene. “We’re not really definitive [on] what our lyrical themes are or what our influences [are] or what we’re going for. As much as people try to categorize us, we don’t have much clue ourselves, so we’ll take any constructive criticism or references we can get. It’s weird to be thrown into this little scene with these cool, great American black metal bands, because we didn’t see ourselves on that level.”
With the recent release of their Sky Swallower debut, Vattnet Viskar figures to find themselves right in the thick of North American black metal debate, one that rages even harder as more bands wearing wire-rimmed glasses, tight jeans, and donning an “everyman” look infiltrate the masses. It’s a rather hard-charged debate of late: Does the lack of one’s true black metal gear make a band less black metal? Watain’s Erik Danielsson certainly feels that way…Alfieri and his cohorts are somewhere in the middle.
“That’s cool if people want to call us black metal or not. I personally, if someone asked me ‘Hey, what does your band sound like?’ I don’t say ‘black metal’ just because of the connotations. Watain is a huge influence on us whether or not people can hear it or see it. For us, we take the music really seriously and the approach to it and how it’s displayed, as people, our image, it’s not something we take serious.
“For me, as a music fan growing up and playing guitar, I always wanted artists I could relate to,” he continues. “I never could relate to a guy who’s 6 foot 5 wearing a crazy get-up and is dead. It wasn’t an aesthetic I was fascinated with. I was more fascinated with people who you could look at and say, ‘Who’s this guy?’ Then you talk to them and they blow your mind. That’s what always fascinated me. People look at us and make their judgments, then we jump onstage and it all goes away instantly. It’s a sense of pride.”
As for Sky Swallower, it’s a tight, 40-minute journey to center of atmospheric, post-black metal. While the scathing and frothing portions touch upon the core elements of extreme metal (both in the U.S. and abroad), it’s the band’s excellent use of dynamic quiet bits that carry the album all the way home.
“We all grew up on Metallica and Megadeth who were the kings of that weird soft part in the middle of the song that brought two pieces together,” relays Alfieri. “Nick and I write drastically different music, but somehow it comes together. He writes most of the violent and angry stuff, and then I have to come in and pretty it up and convince him that it’s okay to do this part really quiet. We work together well and it’s probably going to get more dynamic with more records and it’s a style we want to embrace. It’s cool to see people react to the quiet parts when it gets really quiet, then when it gets loud, they have to react.”
In contrast to many of their contemporaries, the brevity and direct nature of Sky Swallower should pay dividends for VV down the road. The album is next to impossible to tire of, and the band seems to be barely scratching the surface on further sonic exploitation down the road. “We wanted something you could take from start to finish was just consistent,” admits Alfieri. “There are parts on some songs where we didn’t go balls-out, so we’d reserve those parts for another song. For me, I always wanted to delve into an album, ever since I was a little kid putting on headphones and fall asleep to something. That’s what we were going for me. I was more like we have these collections of riffs on iPhones and voice mail forever, so it was more about piecing together riffs and create some sort of movement. We wanted to make something where if you listened to one song, you felt kind of unfulfilled where you wanted to hear the rest of it.”
Presently, the band is prepping to hit the road with Century Media labelmates Intronaut, a North American trek that will introduce them to an entirely new audience. But even with the tour booked and the album properly released, Alfieri has a difficult time grasping the band’s rather quick ascension from quasi-serious band to being on one of metal’s top labels.
“We put an EP out on a small label called Broken Limbs, out of Brooklyn,” he concludes. “We played there 11 or 12 times, we got a Pitchfork review and some really good reviews, then I got an email from Steve [Joh, head of A&R] from Century Media while I was on my way to work – I was bartending at the time. I pulled over and started emailing him back and it was more shocking than anything. From there, he said he was on some blog site, saw the artwork, downloaded it, said he liked it and got in touch. I think at the time, we had like 600 likes on Facebook, so really nobody knew who we were. They were willing to take a chance. I never thought I’d be in one of those bands who just got signed.”