Vattnet Viskar – Vattnet Viskar (15 March 2012, Broken Limbs Recordings)
So I decided it was time to reach into my great big pile o’ stuff waiting to be reviewed, to find something to write about today, when the name Vattnet Viskar jumped out at me. Since they released their self-titled EP through Broken Limbs back in March, I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz surrounding this band, culminating in the announcement last week that they had been signed to Century Media Records.
Prior to this recent EP, the band had self-released a demo tape in 2011 in extremely limited quantities (only 30 copies were made, according to my research). But, before you go scouring eBay, don’t dispair: since that time they’ve made that recording available for free download; I’ll hook you up with the details at the end of this post.
Anyway, then the EP came out on 10″ vinyl and CD and within about two months this relatively obscure band from New Hampshire was inking a deal with one of the biggest labels in the metal world. So what’s up with all the hype surrounding this American band with a Swedish name (it translates to “Whispering Water”)? You’re about to find out. And pay close attention, because these guys are about to get huge. No, astronomical. Trust me.
What this quartet manages to achieve over the course of three tracks (or possibly four — on some versions of the EP there is an instrumental track called “Intro” which is less than a minute long, and then the song “Weakness” is four-and-a-half minutes long, while on other editions both of these are combined into a single track; don’t worry, either way you have the exact same music) is nothing short of astonishing.
My first time through, it quickly transitioned from attention-grabbing to enthralling to entrancing (or the other way around — whichever of those implies the strongest degree of captivation). By the time the echoes of the final notes of “Barren Earth” were finally fading away, the sensation was similar to the moment when the end credits start rolling after a spectacularly epic movie. Like I had to catch my breath and take a moment to reflect on what had just happened. If I worked for Century Media, I’d have somebody getting this band on the phone right away, too.
Their demo recording (which I had to download and listen to right away) is also a great piece of work — nicely atmospheric black metal with lots of depressive, doomy overtones. But the Vattnet Viskar EP is really something else. The introduction sets the tone with some rather dark-sounding bells and chimes, then right away the drums and guitars are off to the races with reverby, tremoloey black metal riffs. The vocals are typically raspy and shadowy, but not hollow: there’s definitely some meat left on those bones.
After about two minutes, though, the drums switch the rhythm around a bit, pulsating and plodding forward like some sort of macabre marching band — and I feel myself being inescabably drawn in. The second full track, “Intention Oblivion” has a similar effect, where each time the song shifts to a new section, the drums and the overall pulse of the music keep moving up a notch in intensity — just when it seems like they’ve hit a climax and there’s nowhere else to go, everything rises to an even higher level.
That is, until about three minutes from the end, when the bottom suddenly drops out and all is silent — except for a single repeated guitar chord that rings out, mimicking the chimes from the beginning. Gradually the drums and other guitar parts re-enter, and it feels like shifting from first directly to fifth, and then to whatever gear is above that, until the end of the song.
“Barren Earth” takes its time starting out — built on a slowly rolling acoustic guitar pattern with periodic electric chords (again, ringing like the bells of a clock tower), along with a drum part that feels almost tribal or primordial.
Eventually things do work their way back up to a frantic pace, but even then the band doesn’t just hit you over the head with a nonstop barrage of noise: throughout this final track (which is almost as long as the others combined), there are little sections of gloomy darkness interspersed, lending a brooding and depressing atmosphere that tends to suck the listener down just as ineluctably as earlier when the marching tempo was pressing onward and upward.
The most remarkable part of this piece, though, lies in its final five minutes. An analytical ear, stripping the music to its barest essentials, might discover that this entire block of time consists of nearly the same sequence of guitar chords repeated over and over, with a drum pattern similarly repeated throughout. However, the amount of atmosphere imbued in the recording — and the intensity of the hold the band have achieved over the listener by this time — practically guarantee that you will never notice, nor certainly ever complain. Subtle variations in the drumming and strumming are enough to give an illusion of an ever-increasing tempo; so mesmerizing is the sound, that I imagine the song could be extended almost indefinitely, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t mind…
In all, this EP comes as close to perfection as I’ve heard in quite some time. If you have any degree of interest in black metal — however fleeting — I’d highly recommend you buy a copy today. If you’ve never had much experience with the genre but are at all curious, at the very least I’d urge you to give this a listen.
The 10″ record is currently sold out, but you can still buy the CD here, and you can also listen to the stream (and buy a download copy) via this Bandcamp widget:
And as I mentioned earlier, the two-track 2011 Demo is also available to download for free; you can grab it here:
The only thing that concerns me is, now that the bar has been raised so high, will it be possible to record a follow-up that will live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves?