Many have demanded to do so as of late, but seriously, let’s talk about the Bristol based Svalbard. The love child of post-hardcore, post-metal and atmospheric black metal is no longer the new kid on the block, but with their emotive take on such a hybridisation, they’ve long stood as one the biggest names on the streets. With their previous long plays One Day All This Will End and It's Hard To Have Hope, the group utilised their ethereally punishing art to narrate a range of cultural and societal issues afflicting those wrongfully underfoot. Such releases rightfully grabbed the attention of many passing peers and followers of the genres they amalgamate, but with their third release When I Die, Will I Get Better?, they’re set to arrest and captivate everyone and anyone who experiences them. Armed to their clenched teeth with surplus reserves of reverb, impassioned rage and elegance, the absolute majesty of this record becomes breathtakingly paramount with opener ‘Open Wound’. The records’ respective lead single, the track swiftly showcases the beautiful metamorphosis Svalbard have undertaken in the years since their last record. Their established blackened shoegazing remains, but has been effortlessly enhanced with embossed elements of spectral dream-pop and tenderness that provides not only spectral juxtaposition, but majestic amplification of the lyrical themes and lived-in experiences that underpin this record.
Whereas the group have always used their platform to speak out against societal injustices and narrate their own harrowing experiences, the way in which this record documents such themes is simply unparalleled. This record see’s the group peel back the healed scabs of past personal injuries in order to authentically detail the horrors that caused such traumas, the very wounds that forged them. It’s undertaken in a way that just feels palpably intimate to an uncomfortable degree, with the misogyny focused ‘Click Bait’ and the galloping ‘Silent Restraint’ just emitting inner turmoil in a fashion that can only be expressed by surviving such experiences. But yet, throughout these tales of survival, therapeutic catharsis is prevalent. As vocalists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan trade roars and bellows, one can just feel the band exorcising their haunting poltergeists, channeling their anguish and purging their woe to make way for hope and future joy. Truly, it’s a deep dive into the psyche of artists openly blighting the darkness that plagues them.
The emotional intensity this record provides only further highlights the melancholic bittersweet melody it accompanies. Almost with a sense of focused determination and courage, Svalbard have taken the time to sand their rougher edges and sharpen their metallic edge, ensuring every riff lacerates and every ethereal melody whisks the imagination away. Truly what transpires is a sound that’s simultaneously crushing and dreamy to a disarming degree, much akin to the celestial spatiality of Rolo Tomassi’s most recent work.
As proven with the harrowing tale of ‘What Was She Wearing’ and the glistening incandescent fury of The Currency Of Beauty’, an air of post-metal grandiosity on par with the likes of Alcest swirls and bonds with the blackened post-hardcore quality associated with acts such as Envy, Birds In Row and Amenra. The group’s crust roots are also evident, albeit in a more groomed subtle fashion, and serve as the foundation of the all ravening ‘Throw Your Heart Away’, a track of contrast and mournful contemplation. With it’s bountiful textures that intertwine flawlessly, the contrasting musical punishment and ethereal splendour entwine into a tapestry of splendour born from suffering. Like the most raging of flash floods, this record shimmers with overpowering liquid grace, one that invites you to bathe and drown in – and given the awe-inspiring climax of the aptly titled ‘Pearlescent’ it’s hard to turn down such an offer.
Simply, this record is to Svalbard to what Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It was to Rolo Tomassi and to what Rheia was to Oathbreaker. It’s not just going to just overhaul and gild Svalbard’s career, it’s going to inspire and empower thousands whilst changing the face of the scene for the better. It’s simply magnificent and unmissable. Yes, there may be a plethora of new releases being offered by time tested legendary artists currently, but truly, if you only have the time to listen to a few new records, make this one of them – this is without a doubt career defining, album of the year material.
When I Die, Will I Get Better? is released September 25th via Church Road Records. Purchase the album here.