January 28, 1986 saw the destruction of the long-time American dream of space travel. The bright future ripped apart in front of millions of people as the Challenger erupted into a plume of smoke and fire just below the heavens. All seven crewmembers aboard the shuttle were killed in the disaster.
Among the crew was Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire schoolteacher, who won the honor to become the first civilian and educator to fly into space. In an iconic image from the pre-flight training McAuliffe is seen floating in zero gravity, smiling in awe of the weightlessness. The image at the time embodied the wanderlust of America, yearning to be amongst the stars. Seeing it now in retrospect, the image has an inevitable despair that accompanies tragedy.
Vattnet Viskar use a semblance of this memorable image for the album cover to their newest offering, Settler. Also natives of New Hampshire, the gentlemen in the band have been constantly growing and adapting to the changing scape of United States black metal. Their malleability has seen them rise to prominence with the release of their last full-length album, Sky Swallower, and now the delivery of Settler. Ultimately bringing Vattnet Viskar into the highest echelon of USBM.
Settler brilliantly captures the contrasting emotions the image evokes. The album features elements of atmospheric/post metal that are masterfully blended into a black metal solvent. Chris Alfieri’s soaring guitar work combined with the burgeoning bass and drums Casey Aylward and Seamus Menihane manufacture a feeling of perpetual ascent into the atmosphere. This hopeful sound is layered with the anguish forged by Nick Thornbury’s harsh vocals. This blending of contradictory emotions and elements allows the album to not feel compressed in its 40-minute run time, in fact it creates quite the opposite feeling. Settler has a very expansive aura that allows the listener to become enveloped in the vastness of its space. The album is an exhilarating success and is sure to be on numerous lists for the best albums of 2015.