Vattnet Viskar Discusses New Album "Sky Swallower" And Signing With Century Media
Atmospheric black metal outfit Vattnet Viskar never expected to get signed, and yet now the band has a full-length record officially out through Century Media.
"Sky Swallower" is a mix of underground black metal and acoustic ambiance, presenting a vision of Earth without humanity or technology, spurred on by the landscapes in the band's native New Hampshire.
Guitarist Chris Alfieri got in touch with Metalunderground.com to more fully explain the concepts and sounds presented on the album, as well to discuss the band's unexpected label signing and plans for upcoming heavy touring. Check out a transcription of the interview below, which also features music from the newly released album.
xFiruath: I’d be interested in hearing a bit about how the band originally formed and what Vattnet Viskar has done up to this new album.
Chris: We got together in 2010, Nic and I, he’s our singer. We knew each other from other bands and we had toured together in separate bands before. We’d been friends and he hit me up one day and asked if I wanted to be in his wedding. We realized in our absences our musical tastes had come together and we started emailing riffs and song ideas back and forth. We got a couple of guys to play shows and before we knew it we had put out a demo and an EP and people started paying attention. That was shocking to us, because we had tried for so long with other bands to breakthrough and get bigger, but this time it was just us doing something without big plans and it ended up working out.
xFiruath: Back in June you announced splitting with a few members. What happened with that and who did you bring in as replacements?
Chris: We parted ways with our original bassist and drummer, Matt St. Jean and Alan Sobodacha. Mainly just for a conflict of time they could dedicate to the band. Nic and I have kind of individual support systems from friends and family and we are in a different situation than those guys were. The constant touring lifestyle and stressing with how you are going to pay your bills wasn’t something they could do at that point in their lives, while Nic and I were happy to just go for it. We’re all still friends, it was just one of those things were a label comes and says they are interested, but with that comes certain responsibilities that they couldn’t do for life reasons. They are really fun and great to be in bands with but sometimes you’ve got to find guys that are down to go for it, so we found a new drummer in Seamus Menihane, this 20 year old kid who can play blast beats for a half hour straight. Our bass player Joey also came in and right off the bat they were down for touring. They are a better fit as far as what their goals in music are, but we were definitely sad to see Matt and Alan go.
xFiruath: How did you connect with Century Media, and how does life change for an underground black metal band when you get signed to a label of that stature?
Chris: It changes a ton and it changes not so much at the same time, it’s such a weird thing. We had put out a self-titled EP on a small indie label out of New York called Broken Lens. It caught the attention of the guys at Pitchfork, and from there it kind of started getting reviews, which was something we’d never really experienced. They noticed the press and one day I’m driving to work and I get a text message from Nic saying I need to check the email right now. So I pulled over and read the email and it was from Steve over at Century, and he really liked our band and wanted to know if we would consider working with them. I kind of laughed, because it should have been “would YOU consider working with US?” I mean he could have just said “so we’re going to sign you, and you should be happy about it.” We weren’t a band that submitted stuff to labels, that just wasn’t on our radar. From there we started talking and a few months later we were signed and now we’re putting out an album.
xFiruath: Were these tracks for the album recorded after the signing or did you already have these songs ready?
Chris: No, we didn’t have any tracks done. They emailed us I think within like three months of putting out that EP. We told them we just wrote these songs and it took a lot out of us, so we wanted to tour on that and build on it, so we didn’t want to put anything out for a year. They were totally down with our timeframe, and when they signed us we had no new music to give them. They just asked us what direction we thought we’d go in. I gave them an answer that didn’t even really end up matching the direction we went in anyways. They’ve been super cool about letting us do our own thing and give us the freedom an underground black metal band wants.
xFiruath: On the new album, what’s the overall theme going on?
Chris: General themes of the album are less of a lyrical content idea and more of a feel. The concept we were going for was that we always listen to music to get some emotion out of it. We went in with these songs and our engineer/producer Brett made them fit together better. It’s more of an atmospheric theme where you throw it on and sit down and you want to take it all in. There’s parts where we don’t go full blast because we’ll go full blast two songs later, that was our approach. Lyrically the songs tell stories about how badly we as people view humanity and what it does to our environment and other people. We’re not huge environmentalists, but we have a fascination with what the Earth would look like if we weren’t here and never built cars or industrialized. I think that comes from us being in New Hampshire, which has a beautiful landscape that’s both urban and with large areas untouched by man. We wanted to translate that to a music medium. To create a feel and visualize certain colors or movements of clouds, if that makes sense.
xFiruath: Sure I get that, I live in Montana and we have very large areas that are still wild and natural.
Chris: Oh, you guys blow us away for sure. We broke down in Montana once and that sucked.
xFiruath: Yeah, you’re usually looking at a few hours in between towns, so that’s never fun. On New Hampshire though, what’s happening in your local music scene?
Chris: Our local scene kind of sucks to be honest with you. New Hampshire used to have a couple of venues with a thriving north of Boston scene, but most of the venues adopted that whole pay-to-play thing, which we never got into. It kind of created this very young scene where a lot of the bands are 17-19 and it’s a rehash of The Devil Wears Prada type stuff. So for us to play shows around here, it’s sporadic and kind of weird some times. I think a lot of people didn’t know what to make of us when we started playing, because we’d be with six hardcore bands and a band that sounded like Emmure. It made us who we are as far as our willingness to let the quiet parts be quiet. If people are bored, they’re bored, and being OK with that is a huge step as a musician. New Hampshire as a state and a great to view great scenery is awesome, but for music it’s behind the times.
xFiruath: Where are you guys going to tour in support of the new album?
Chris: We’re going out for our first show on September 6th for the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, and it’s put on by Grayson Currin of Pitchfork. He had us play last year. This year he put us on a showcase with Gorguts and Pig Destroyer, which for us is a huge show, something we’ve been waiting for to play with bigger bands. After that we go down to Arizona to meet up with Intronaut tour on the 12th and that takes us back to Boston. After that we’re submitting to package tours and trying to get on something, but there’s nothing solidified yet. We want to tour 8 – 9 months out of the year, that’s what music is to us, getting in a van and playing for people who might not be expecting it.
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