As a lifelong, perpetually suffering fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the idea of prospects or young players who are supposed to be world beaters and save us all is a little bit of a tired theory. Heard it all before. Almost always disappointed. Yes, things are going along pretty damn well now, but that doesn’t erase the years of hearing about how so-and-so would be the next great star. You lose faith quickly.
Applying that to the metal world, there are situations when I think sometimes bands get into situations they are not ready to tackle or are not suited for. I heavily questioned Mastodon’s move to Warner Bros. because I assumed the label would have no clue how to handle the band or get them over to a larger audience. Who knew the band would morph into something more palatable and do just fine. I also wondered about Watain jumping to Century Media, not because they couldn’t do just fine there but because of the reaction their underground heathens would have to them jumping to a large major. So far, that has come to pass, even though it’s ridiculous.
I had the same reservations when I learned Vattnet Viskar, the relatively new New Hampshire-based band that really had a very small, albeit wildly impressive resume, signed with Century Media. Their incredible self-titled debut EP was brought into the world by Broken Limbs Recordings, which seemed like the perfect place for the band to cultivate their sound and approach for a smaller label that would let them have the time they need to expand without unneeded pressure. They would get love and nurturing there. It seemed really early in their career for such a huge jump, especially since it was like a jump from Class AA (and I mean that as lovingly as possible) to the big leagues, and I wondered if the band would be able to respond to such a huge platform or if they’d try to cater their sound too much to appeal to a larger audience. Now that their debut record “Sky Swallower” is in hand, let me offer up a huge … “Um. Never mind.” This record is a fucking steamroller, and you know it from the opening strains of the album, from that mammoth growl to the walls crashing down musically, and this example probably proves why I’d need a lot more brushing up before pursuing a career in A&R. These guys were ready for the platform Century Media provided, and this record delivers in every way possible. It’s a total triumph, one that every person who helped this band get to this point should gush with pride to hear and one that should establish this band for a long, productive run.
The band is made up of vocalist/guitarist Nicholas Thornbury, guitarist Chris Alfieri, bassist Joey Perron, and drummer Seamus Menihane, and they sound like they’ve been playing together far longer than the three years they’ve been a unit. Yeah, the band might still be in its formative stages, which is scary considering how good they already are, and might have been a reach of a signing for Century Media because of their lack of experience. Instead the label was ahead of the game and signed up a budding force that could be one of the stronger bands in metal going forward, totally able to live up to every ounce of the hype behind them. Good for them.
“New Alchemy” bursts moments after you hit play, with the band already in a chaotic lather and Thornbury’s vocals opening like a storm cloud looking to drench you and pulverize you with its thunder. Eventually it slips into an ISIS-like dreamy sequence and nicely transitions back into bumpier terrain. This track instantly pays off all the high hopes I had for this album right off the bat. “Fog of Apathy” is properly named and takes a little while to get off the ground while it sets a mood. “Sew your eyes shut!” Thornbury howls as the song hits its violent high gear, and gazey soloing and blistering blasts place the track between atmospheric post-metal and black metal. “Monarch” is the first of a series of reflective interludes that not only give you a breather but start to dig a path toward what’s next, which is “Breath of the Almighty” in this case. The song opens with brighter, more colorful melodies, but that doesn’t last long when the track takes a turn for the dark and pulverizing. The growls are vicious, the playing is channeled and passionate, and the madness is only tempered once acoustic guitars come in and wash away the ashes.
“Ascend” is another interlude piece, and it leads into “Mythos,” that completely ignites from the start and threatens to become the record’s most explosive track. While the music is ferocious, it’s also poetic, as the guys blend beauty and texture into their punishment, and the monstrous vocals that bleed forth mix nicely with the fluidly played composition. “As I Stared Into the Sky” is your final, quiet mini section, and it’s the lead in to the titanic closer “Apex” that spits and pours sparks down on you while you listen. The song is chaotic, yet emotive, and it’s a final chance for the band to blow your walls down with their sheer power, before giving way to a long, contemplative acoustic section that drones and flows, lets a drum beat drop here and there, and alows the record dissolve into a mysterious mist.
I never doubted Vattnet Viskar for a second, but perhaps I underestimated just how fast they would grow as a band and be prepared for a stage such as this. “Sky Swallower” is a phenomenal, breath-taking record that should tear your eyelids open due to the sheer intensity and quaking devastation, and while the band explores sonic areas traveled many times over by other musicians, they ravage it, reseed the land, and grow something entirely new and re-invigorating. Vattnet Viskar is a band you need to know right now, and “Sky Swallower” is their powerful opening statement.
For more on the band, go here: http://vattnetviskar.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/index.aspx
For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com