Vattnet Viskar – Settler (Century Media)Tuesday, 2nd June 2015
There was a definite sense of “huh?” when viewing the artwork of Settler for the first time. Such a bright and happy image just didn’t seem in line with the music coming through the speakers. However, after some research, the image is based on a photo of Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who was aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which tragically exploded just after launch. So given that context, it’s actually a thought out and intriguing choice, which can also be said of the music of Settler itself.
Admittedly a bit late to the party with not much background on their 2013 debut, Sky Swallower, but a recent performance of the band pressed the urgency to see what they were all about. Settler is the real deal in terms of USBM. Utilizing just about as much “post” metal as it does black, the strongest feature of Vattnet Viskar is how heavy they keep things. Throaty roars emanate power and emotion, frequent blasting provides most of the black metal backbone, the melodies (see “Colony”) are soaring, but the riffs often feel massive and flattening. One of the most devastating riffs appears towards the 4-minute mark of “Glory” (having a rather modern and snarling vibe), with the sprawling and sinister riffs of “Yeam” coming in a very close second. Vattnet Viskar successfully blends the beautiful melodies of the post-black movement with a visceral edge. Check out the appropriately named “Impact” to see just how well the band accomplishes this, with a full-speed black metal assault gently coming to a close with a more deliberate and melodic end.
Sure to push the band to the forefront of the post/black scene, Settler walks a fine line between melody and aggression. Emphasizing emotions from sorrow, gloom, and anger to near-euphoria (see the opening of “Coldwar”), Vattnet Viskar walks a delicate balance and ultimately ends up on top. It’s great to see a band in line with the ever-sprouting Deafheaven-wannabes that can carry such a metallic approach without spoiling their melodic side.