Black metal quartet Vattnet Viskar (A Swedish phrase translated as "The Water Is Whispering") formed in Plaistow, New Hampshire in 2010. They released a couple of EP's before introducing their first full-length album in 2013 titled "Sky Swallower." After being signed to Century Media Records (Watain, Insomnium, Swallow The Sun), their sophomore full-length "Settler" would be released in 2015.

When one thinks of black metal, what often comes up in their mind is probably less than pleasant and gentle. The tortured vocals, rough mixing and atmosphere, dark and aggressive musicianship, and nihilistic lyrics brimming with hatred are more-or-less the norm for the genre. Every once in a while, however, there is a band within said genre that does diverge away from this bleak mold; When I heard of a black metal band that almost has an uplifting vibe to their sound, I was immediately intrigued. Perhaps this sort of phenomena is more common than I make it out to be, but regardless, their newest effort "Settler" is a very compelling album that doesn't deserve to be merely glanced over.

As a start, the instrumentation this band demonstrates in this album is great. The screamed vocals, mostly consisting of the higher pitches that are common in black metal, are fierce and raw as they should be, and the drums are tight and relatively simple while still having a commendable amount of complexity behind them. Of all things, however, the guitar-work is the definite highlight of the musicianship. They dish out emit lots of emotion and atmosphere through their sonic melodies and dark riffs, and their performance is impressively carried-out. With that, the instrumentation is beyond solid.

On top of the potent musicianship, the sound production is just as strong. This album was produced, recorded, and mixed by Sanford Parker, who did similar work for lots of other bands such as Pelican, Wolvhammer, Avichi, and Indian. As usual, his engineering here is nothing short of great; The mixing is certainly raw, which makes way for a rough yet somewhat ethereal atmosphere also made by the melodic guitar-play. Simultaneously, however, it's also crisp enough to let every instrument stand out and the music have a lot of boldness. This balance is a very fitting for this type of music and holds up very well.

Speaking of balance, what also works is the album's sense of dynamic. There's a nice range between the more fast-paced songs such as "Colony" and the title track and the generally slower ones like "Yearn," keeping the record consistently entertaining throughout. Along with that, the tracks themselves have a lot of speed dynamic as well. The best example would probably be the release's last song "Coldwar," fluctuating between the steady and fast passages, making for a powerful way to close off the record. Overall, the structuring and writing in "Settler" is yet another strong aspect the album holds. 

Not only are the tracks written well, however, but they are also quite emotionally powerful. As stated earlier, Vattnet Viskar appears to be a band that attempts to embrace a more uplifting tone within the black metal genre, and they did so very well. The melodies in a lot of the tracks in this record, including such highlights as "Colony," "Dawnlands," and "Heirs," are very invigorating and somewhat positive-sounding, and the way they're performed lends to plenty of beautiful atmosphere. Even the songs that aren't as bright in tone hold up just as strongly, the prime example being the slow-paced and almost sludge-like "Yearn;" it, too, immerses the listener into a somewhat cosmic ambiance in how it's built and how the musicianship is executed. Bottom line, "Settler" is impressive from both a technical and entertainment standpoint.

As if the music itself wasn't already great on its own, the lyrics are very interesting, but somewhat unexpected in the way they're written. What I mean by this is their tone; As established in previous paragraphs of this review, the music has a generally light and positive tone to it. The lyrics, however, are actually rather negative and dark. Examples include lines from songs such as the title track ("When you think your wounds have healed, here I am to make them fresh"), "Colony" ("In our ignorant bliss, we have been surpassed") and "Dawnlands" ("The heat boils the pavement and pick clean the bones... Leave the bodies on the wayside"). It's rather bizarre how much the music and lyrics contrast against one in regards to their mood. This does add to the 

While on the topic of lyrics, one song that strikes me with its lyrics in particular is "Colony." In the middle of it, there is a passage where robotic singing recites the numbers "01010111 01000101" in a marching pace. This line is the binary code for the word "We," and then the track continues on with the line "... are the new lords, the ancient ones born again." This is a really clever way of inserting the lyrics in a way that actually contributes to the music's structure and emotion. This is a very minor point, mind you, but this moment definitely deserves mentioning. I'm unsure if this sort of lyricism has been done before, but whatever the case, it's incorporated very smartly. That aside, the lyrics, touching upon themes of apocalypse ("Dawnlands") and human aspirations ("Settler"), are just as investing as the music.

BOTTOM LINE: "Settler" is a stellar album that, as stated earlier, shouldn't be glazed over. It boasts great production values, lyrics, and musicianship, especially the guitar-work, as well as engaging writing that holds a lot of dynamic both within and between the songs. Perhaps the record does lose a little bit of steam towards the last third, but that pales before all the positive things to say about it. It's quite the emotional roller-coaster, treading the line between the gloom you'd anticipate from almost any black metal release and the more inspiriting moments very successfully. Those in search of a raw, energetic, emotional powerhouse of a metal album may not have to look that much further than this.
"Settler" was released on June 29, 2015 on Century Media.