VATTNET — Vattnet (review)

VATTNET — Vattnet album cover Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
When US post-black metal act Vattnet Viskar parted ways with their frontman Nicholas Thornbury in 2016 after two full-length albums, it spelled more change in the band that any of their fans could have expected. Rather than seek a replacement the band recruited their new voice in house with bassist Casey Aylward stepping up to the centre stage. The Viskar was struck from their name, which appears to have been a symbolic statement now that Vattnet (2017), the self-titled debut of this new incarnation of the group and third album overall, has been released. That's because this record, simply put, has very little in common with either of its predecessors released as Vattnet Viskar, Sky Swallower (2013) and Settler (2015).

It's a well established fact that metalheads in general don't embrace changes in direction too well. This is especially true of artists who start out playing extreme metal and then stop, which is what the case is on Vattnet. The name change even though its a minor one is a decent way of them saying 'this is still us, but a fresh start' but that doesn't mean it's easy to not listen to Vattnet as a follow-up to Settler. The previous album was, by the accounts of many reviewers including myself, a really excellent work that I described in my review as something that combined absorbing atmospheric black metal with crushing sludge metal. Well with this change of direction you can forget about all that. The black metal is gone. The sludge metal is gone. The vocal style has switched to clean singing with Aylward's promotion to frontman. In fact the only thing Vattnet has really in common with Settler is the term 'post'.

Specifically this album's style can be best described as a post rock infused take on progressive metal. It's still somewhat atmospheric but done in a completely different way. The clean vocals of Casey Aylward play no small part in that of course, but the music also displays a more technical approach, especially in tracks like Sugar, which has to be singled out as an album highlight. Other standout tracks for me include Dark Black and Chains. Musically at least it's actually very good and once you've got used to the drastic shifts in style it isn't hard to hear how the band reached this point. But vocally, even though Aylward does have a good voice, with times where he sounds excellent, I do have to consider his style the weak link here. It just seems out of place against the post-progressive metal backdrop, reminding me more of the kind of vocalist you hear in modern emo or post-hardcore bands. He comes across as lacking a commanding presence and being out of his depth.

Listening to Vattnet as the debut of a new group sees it come across as a promising release, but the record doesn't allow the group to stand out in the crowd as much as Settler did. The crowd of course is a different one, meaning there's no fair way to judge the two albums against each other, but even though I do enjoy Vattnet as an album there's always this nagging feeling that the band threw something really special away when they dumped the sound of Settler for this. This album simply feels much more familiar going into it, as if I'd heard this kind of thing all before. I'm a firm believe that artists should play what they want to and not what others think they should play, but I'll reverse the right as a listener to judge it a mistake. Of course, this album may turn out be all about them re-finding their feet after their reinvention and their craft could be honed considerably by the time they follow it up, so I'm keeping an open mind at this point. For now, Vattnet is a decent release on its own merits, if a bit unremarkable.
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1 year ago
While I wasn't too impressed by their debut, I loved Settler. This one though...yawn.
666sharon666 wrote:
1 year ago
I was really disappointed in this, not so that they did change direction but the execution of it. They went from interesting post-black metal to generic modern prog. I was thoroughly bored right through it.
adg211288 wrote:
1 year ago
Their last album Settler (released as Vattnet Viskar) was quite popular around here when it came out and made 15th in the collabs best of year.

1 year ago
My brother loves this. First time I've heard any other human mention them.

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