An Interview With Vattnet Viskar's Chris Alfieri

Chris Alfieri is the guitarist of New Hampshire's Vattnet Viskar, a Blackened Doom Metal band whose momentum is unprecedented for such a young group.

Vattnet Viskar signed to Century Media on the strength of their debut EP, issued by indie label Broken Limbs Recordings and dubbed the "future of American black metal" by Pitchfork.

In 2013, The band racked up further critical acclaim upon the release of Sky Swallower, their first full-length (even though Alfieri describes it as "largely rushed"), and toured extensively with the likes of Pallbearer and Skeletonwitch.

As of now, Vattnet Viskar is preparing to head into the studio to record their sophomore album and have announced a series of headlining shows (dates below).

Alfieri talked to Empty Lighthouse via e-mail about the writing process for that album, Black Metal purists, and police violence. Read the full exchange below.

Q: Vattnet Viskar just completed a (largely sold-out) tour with Pallbearer and Tombs, how did that tour compare to previous ones?

A: The Pallbearer/Tombs run was incredible. The three bands really bonded on that tour, and we all left that run with many new lifelong friends.

We're all huge fans of Pallbearer and when we got the offer for their headline run for Foundations of Burden we were beyond excited.

2014 was a great year where we toured with some amazing bands(King Parrot, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Silver Snakes to name a few) but the Pallbearer/Tombs tour was the first time we felt like we were playing to an audience that would truly embrace us, and they did.

It was a great experience and hopefully we get to run around some more countries with all of those guys.

Q: In January, you'll be heading into the studio with Sanford Parker and you worked with Josh Graham of Neurosis on the video for "Breath of the Almighty", how'd you end up working with some of "post metal's" most-decorated veterans?

A: As with most things, it just came together that way through the label, mutual friends, and playing shows. We finally met Sanford in Denmark at Roskilde Fest where both us and one of his bands, Corrections House, were playing back to back. We had been running in the same circles as him, but just hadn't met yet.

He immediately showed interest in working with us on our next full length and had really dug what we did with Sky Swallower.

It came together pretty easily after that.

We love Sanford's past works specifically Nachtmystium and Twilight a lot and feel that he could bring something to the table that would definitely add to the beast of a second album we have written.

Working with Josh Graham for me personally, and I'm sure the rest of the guys, is an honor. Century Media had approached him to the do the video but we didn't know him personally or anything. A month later his stunning piece of work was in our inbox. One of the first shows I ever went to was Neurosis in Clinton, Massachusetts, and it was the first time I had seen Josh's visuals.

Ever since then, I've followed that band, and Josh very intently. He has an knack for adding emotional depth through imagery that i respect so we knew he could excel with a video that has no performance or band members in it.

The best part about Josh is we always know he's going to give us something that we're blown away by. We definitely will be working with him in the future...

Q: I've read in interviews that Sky Swallower was written in just two weeks; can you tell me a little bit about how the writing process for the upcoming album differed? Did you write on the road?

A: Sky Swallower was written at a time when we had just lost two members and were definitely trying to find our own identity. We had a few of those songs somewhat mapped out before we hunkered down, but it was largely rushed. We're all very proud of that album, but as an artist you always want to be pushing yourself to do more. We didn't have a lot more time to write for this album due to constant touring, but we're definitely more relaxed and comfortable with where we're at. Writing is not something we take lightly, and personally i've probably deleted more songs than have shown to the other guys (Nick and I write on laptops), but with that comes a bar that we have set as far as songs go that is much higher than it used to be.

With this album, we're much more confident with what we have going on and are really embracing music that we love. The addition of Casey Aylward on bass is huge as well.

He's adding in a lot of ideas and influences that we hadn't brought in before. That means more diversity and some new concepts we haven't tried yet.

We generally don't write on the road. Personally I need a lot to of focus to write, and the ability to play it back over and over and over again. Loud areas generally don't afford me that privilege.

Q: Vattnet Viskar is from New Hampshire, but the name is Swedish. How did this happen?

A: We love Swedish Death Metal and In Flames was already taken.

Q: Implicitly or not, it seems Vattnet Viskar has embraced a sort-of social consciousness - Sky Swallower was environmentally themed, you've helped raise funds for the Salem Animal Rescue League in New Hampshire, and you encouraged your fans to "demand change" on Twitter after the events in Ferguson - what can we expect, lyrically and thematically, from the next album?

A: Nick writes all the lyrics so it generally comes from what he's feeling. We all take issue with the idea of financial security and what it does to people and how it molds society.

We're a society built solely on the idea that you must accumulate some mass of wealth to prove your significance to the world or be taken seriously.

I would never speak for Nick, but my take on our lyrics is less environmental consciousness and more of a "look how awful we all are, what the hell are we doing?".

Lyrically, it appears the next album will be a much more introspective take on life.

The Ferguson situation, and I speak solely for myself here and not for the band, was something that hit me hard. I respect human life above everything else and seeing any person, of any color or creed have their life taken away, or be mistreated will always affect me. It's who I am and it definitely gets in the way sometimes. It worries me that we've been led into this Us vs.

Them mentality(on all sides). We're being pitted against each other, and against police officers to divide and weaken us as a society. that saddens and scares me greatly.

Q: You were quoted in a Pitchfork interview with the following: "We're too metal for the hip kids, and I guess too hip for the metal kids." Do you come across this attitude a lot, or have things changed now that you have a bigger label behind you to put you on tours with metal audiences that can, you know, tolerate quiet parts?

A: That attitude is still there but it doesn't rear its ugly head as much as it used to, and we definitely give no fucks about it. There was this odd "movement" of black metal purists that attacked what a lot of us were doing when this new wave of USBM started gaining traction. They attacked us musically, but especially how we look. Unfortunately we can't really change our facial structure or how we feel comfortable dressing. To these purists, short hair and a Grateful Dead shirt is sacrilege, yet that's what I'm currently wearing.

I do understand where they're coming from in some ways. I've loved/been protective over bands or genres of music just the same.

When people start messing with strong staples in black metal, of course those with strong identifications with it are going to speak up.

But you gotta let artists be artists. If you don't like what we or our contemporaries are doing, then start your own band and don't listen to ours.

Q: This is from an interview with the blog, Barametal: "We don't want to regurgitate the usual American black metal staples. We always want to push the limits more and more." Two questions on this one:

-How has this ethos effected the writing of your upcoming album?

A: We push ourselves to not become predictable or stagnant. More so, we push ourselves to play music we're proud of and that we feel hasn't been made before.

We have no desire to prescribe to one scene or idea that holds us back, if in 5 albums we still sound the same as we do today, then i won't feel like we did the best we could as people or artists.

-Do you ever find yourself writing music that you feel is not appropriate for Vattnet Viskar?

A: All the time. Every day. We all have very varied tastes in music, and I'd be lying if I said I listen to Black Metal a lot. But we've come to embrace it and make it work for us.

When I present an idea to the other guys it takes on a new life. Same with songs Nick brings in.

Seamus (drums) brings a lot to the table as far as transitions and usually changes the feel of the song almost immediately. Eventually it becomes a Vattnet song because it's us playing it. Nothing is musically off limits for us.

Q: What albums have you guys been listening to on tour? Would you like to take this opportunity to plug any bands you think we should all be listening to?

A: We all really loved the latest Mastodon album. Those dudes really nailed it on that one. Other stuff we played in the van this year: Balance and Composure, Killer Be Killed, and that new Code Orange.

You should all listen to Yellow Eyes from Brooklyn.

Q: Thanks so much for your replies! Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: New album in 2015 and much touring.

VATTNET VISKAR live 2015:

Jan. 21, 2015 - Lee's Palace - Toronto, ON
Jan. 22, 2015 - The Avenue - Lansing, MI
Jan.

23, 2015 - Livewire Lounge - Chicago, IL
Jan. 31, 2015 - Ottawa Tavern - Toledo, OH
Feb. 1, 2015 - Stamps - Tonawanda, NY
Feb. 2, 2015 - Just Be Cause - Ithaca, NY
May 21, 2015 - Maryland Deathfest - Baltimore, MD