Vattnet Viskar
Sky Swallower

In music, there are said to be innovators and consummators. Consummators perfect pre-existing forms; innovators pave the way for new movements. However, to draw the line that distinctly is misleading; innovators always build upon previous forms. They never innovate from scratch. Beethoven, one of the most important innovators in music, first went through an entirely classical period before experimenting and creating what would become the foundation of Romantic music.

The same is true of innovators within the world of popular music and metal. The Beatles began as a skiffle band, playing American folk music before moving on to rock and roll and eventually revolutionizing popular music as we know it. Black Sabbath began as a blues-rock band. Mayhem began by playing death metal. All of these groups took time to grow into their own creative power, first creating a firm foundation upon which to expand. This is why it’s so exciting to hear a band that exhibits a keen sense of creativity in early on, while also demonstrating a solid understanding of its roots.

Vattnet Viskar has all the earmarks of an innovating musical group. As a starting point, the band clearly falls into the category of Cascadian-style (post-?) black metal. Right at the opener, “New Alchemy,” the band blasts away at what seems to be an unremarkable, textbook example of it. But what appears unremarkable is, in fact, merely unassuming. Vattnet Viskar doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur; they know what they are.

Or do they? Only a minute into the song, the music slows down into a thick stomp that gives way to the subdued, clean chords and syncopated drumming characteristic of Isis. It ends with a regal climax reminiscent of the grey metal of Agalloch. Before you know it, the song is done, and you have experienced something far removed from what American black metal normally has to offer.

The rest of the album is similarly diverse, vacillating between the familiar new black metal to slower passages that call to mind Enslaved, with precise post-metal drumming that serves as an essential backbone to each song. The production is warm and full. The vocals growl with a depth and intensity that many black metallers either miss or bury underneath the instruments. Quiet interludes and ambient passages, some occurring as short instrumental tracks, create contrast to the intense, emotional music. The band is adept at creating and maintaining a dark, meditative atmosphere that lends coherence to its diverse elements.

But what makes this music hit so hard is its simplicity. By simple, I mean uncomplicated – unfettered by anything unnecessary. Vattnet Viskar’s every note occupies a definite place. Every drum hit has meaning. Sections are repeated only as long as they remain important; nothing drags out. There are a lot of creative ideas present, but the crucial thing is that they’re played so straightforwardly, with such clarity of vision that they’re as accessible as they are unique.

Sky Swallower is a brilliant new addition to the canon of American black metal. Does it represent true innovation? Does it cull too obviously from its forebears, Wolves in the Throne Room and Isis? Or will this album, appearing at the crux of black metal’s inexplicable growth in popularity, provide the cornerstone for a new movement?

In the incestuous and unpredictable world of underground metal, it’s hard to say. But regardless of its unforeseeable destiny in metal or in the context of any future output from the band, this record is something truly special. The lineage behind Vattnet Viskar is obvious, but they use their black and post-metal elements as stepping stones to a unique destination – something beautiful and vicious, and very powerful.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J. D. Anderson
October 30th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: longdeadgod

    jesus Christ, why do bands like this get all this good press, I mean come on, it’s competently played and all, but nothing special, unique, or original for fucks sake. bah, double bah.

    hipsters playing an imitation of what they think extreme metal is.

    I realize I only ever comment to rant on this site, im sorry, and have become a metal old man that doesn’t understand the new shit. i’ll go crawl back in my hole and listen to welkins some more.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    accurate review, comparing these guys to WITTR… both bands have an arresting sound but neither does a good job of holding my interest. every time I’ve put this on it quickly becomes background music… based on your enthusiasm though I guess I owe it one more shot.


  3. Commented by: Andrew Lodwick

    If you’re having a tough time getting through the album, skip to the final track, Apex. The fill choices the drummer makes in the opening; how the blasting section suddenly downshifts into a gorgeous, barren doom riff; how it builds and intensifies and then collapses into a single acoustic guitar that strums alone for a minute before the drummer quietly reappears… you can really get lost in all the details of this album, but they aren’t immediately apparent.


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