Written By: Grymm
Any band or artist worth their salt will marry their influences to create something new, whether said influences are musical, aesthetic, or simply a product of their environment. Vattnet Viskar (roughly translated from Swedish as “the water whispers”) are definitely a product of the state of New Hampshire. When one pictures New Hampshire, he or she thinks of rolling hills with lush greenery, picturesque winters, and rivers of clean, flowing water… all from the northern half of the state. Southern New Hampshire (especially VV’s hometown of Plaistow) is a panoply of industrial parks, gas stations every block or two, oppressively hot summers where you can see the heat rising from the asphalt while walking out of a heavily populated 7-11, and the occasional forest or lake being slowly (and sadly) converted into a housing project. Sky Swallower flawlessly combines the two images into one cohesive, impressive album. The fact that this is Vattnet Viskar‘s full-length debut is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
There’s a saying in New England, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” and Vattnet Viskar does this saying justice song after engaging song. “New Alchemy” kicks off with bellowing vocals from guitarist Nicholas Thornbury amidst the backdrop of blast-beats and tremolo-picked blackened riffing before dropping to a near-Isis feel at around the 1:45 mark, effectively going from cold black metal to a sometimes warm, sometimes scorchingly-hot shimmer with drummer Seamus Menihane guiding the way with his interesting choice of fills. “Fog of Apathy” features a single, sparsely strummed guitar before ripping you a new one at the two minute mark, and then switches gears so as to let the instruments breathe once again.
Elsewhere, “Breath of the Almighty” conjures up the ghost of The Pax Cecilia amidst the blackened rumble, with some interesting lyrics (“Take solace/and collapse under the weight/of the faintest whisper/cut deep/watch the signal rise/collapse under the weight of silence“). Closer “Apex” allows Menihane to shine once again, adding a droning percussive roar to the song’s final moments below that single strummed acoustic guitar.
The give-and-take of conventional black metal tropes and out-of-left-field post-rock curveballs keeps Sky Swallower interesting and engaging throughout its 38-minute time span. There are almost no wasted moments on this album, as the ebb and flow is near-flawless. Some of the instrumentals (which take up almost half the tracks) can drag on a little bit, but that’s truly nitpicking.
This early in their career, Vattnet Viskar has shown that they have the songwriting and atmospheric chops to lead the US black metal scene, and they are definitely the best black metal band to come out of New Hampshire since the highly missed December Wolves. If Sky Swallower is any indication, the future is bright for this promising young band.