Yes, that’s the cover art for Vattnet Viskar’s upcoming sophomore LP, Settler, and if you saw it and suspected the New Hampshire band were trying to outdo Deafheaven’s chillwave-y, un-metal Sunbather artwork, I wouldn’t blame you. That was my first thought! But that’s not it. The image was created by the visual artist Josh Graham (best known for his work with Neurosis), based on an old photograph of Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who was chosen by NASA to travel into outer space on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 — and who died when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch. Explans Vattnet guitarist Chris Alfieri:
[Vattnet frontman Nick Thornbury] found this Christa McAuliffe photo that ended up being the basis for the entire album musically and visually. I literally stared at that photo for months playing guitar. It’s a photo of her in a zero-gravity chamber and she looks so alive and glowing. It’s one of the most conflicted things I’ve ever seen: to be so happy, at the peak of life, only to have it all gone right after. The cover is an interpretation of that photo. I take from it that being meant to do something meaningful in your life isn’t always going to go the way it’s planned. Being on a path that you cannot stray from, even though you know that the end of the path is your destruction and the destruction of everything you know, you must do it, and you would choose no other way to live. Christa was from Concord, New Hampshire, the town that I live in. One of my first memories is the Challenger mission’s demise, so it’s a personal thing for me. But the album isn’t about the explosion, it’s about everything else. Pushing to become something else, something better, a transformation and touching the divine.
Settler follows Vattnet Viskar’s humongous 2012 LP, Sky Swallower, but the band are going for something even bigger here. They worked with the excellent producer Sanford Parker (Yob, Leviathan) and expanded their approach: I used to consider them a post-black metal band, now I think they’re more accurately described as post-metal, period. There’s greater vastness here, greater momentum, greater weight. The new album’s title track comes in at just under four minutes, but there’s an ocean of sound in that brief span: churning, violent, spacious, dark, and deep. We’ve got it for you to spin today, and I enthusiastically suggest you do just that.
Settler is out 6/16 via Century Media. Pre-order it here.