Tuesday 8 December 2020

Svalbard - When I Die, Will I Get Better?

Labels: Church Road Records/Translation Loss Records

Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital

Release Date: 25 Sep 2020


1.  Open Wound

2. Click Bait

3. Throw Your Heart Away

4. Listen To Someone

5. Silent Restraint

6. What Was She Wearing?

7. The Currency Of Beauty

8. Pearlescent

I remember seeing Svalbard (if I remember correctly) playing a show at The Royal Park Cellars (Leeds) in 2013 with local band DSDNT (RIP) and French headliners Direwolves. I can't believe it's been that long. I picked up a copy of the band's 10" release Gone Tomorrow at the time and then due to my own erratic listening habits, lost touch with them somewhat, aside from the Cover Buzz split they did that same year. Anyway, Svalbard released their most recent album in September via Church Road Records and Translation Loss Records on both cd and vinyl, and I could no longer go without listening to it.

I’m very out of touch when it comes to Svalbard’s progression over recent years, which is my own stupid fault. What I get from this album’s first song ‘Open Wound’ is epic post-hardcore with anthemic guitar melody, vibrant percussion and vocals that are both harsh and clean, delivering music that’s uplifting and incredibly life-affirming. Svalbard is cleary a band that is very much socially aware on ’Click Bait’. Whether or not it’s describing those desperate for attention or those who attracting it unwittingly, it’s a sobering song and the anger that you sense within Serena’s voice is real.

The same level of emotion that filled ‘Click Bait’ is also present right from the off on ‘Throw Your Heart Away’. The vocals/lyrics are delivered in such a thoughtful way and the instrumentation continues to build on the album’s melodic/post-hardcore blueprint. It’s huge in every way sound-wise and it’s catchiness is plain to hear, though it’s over too quickly. ’Listen To Someone’ borrows from shoegaze and indie in places, helping it to become another fantastic example of anthemic music that’ll have you shouting from the top of your lungs. It’s actually quite emotional, given the backdrop of our current existence. 

The second half of When I Die, Will I Get Better? begins with ‘Silent Restraint’, which reminds me a lot of Funeral For A Friend and certainly fills me with the same affection. Svalbard’s music is brought to life by the excellent production/mastering and it’s hard to ignore just how good it sounds. In a similar vein to the likes of A.A. Williams, the vocal performance on ‘What Was She Wearing?’ Is calming and organic, lending itself to the song perfectly before Svalbard’s full band attack takes over once more during it’s second half. The ending talks about feeling comfortable in your own skin (at least, that’s how I interpreted it) and it’s such a positive message to convey. 

Penultimate song ‘The Currency Of Beauty’ easily follows on and it reminds you of how hard it can be within a male-orientated genre of music such as metal/hardcore. Diversity and equality are things that we keep striving for yet both seem a long way away. Svalbard recognises this and Serena’s commentary is startlingly honest, unsurprisingly. This album has moved from being upbeat and catchy to being a social commentary of everything that’s wrong with society, and more importantly how we view and treat each other. Closer ‘Pearlescent’ is the perfect musical climax to When I Die, Will I Get Better?, both musically and thoughtfully.

In a year where we’ve had to deal with so much, felt so helpless at times and lost perspective, Svalbard has felt that way too and has delivered an album that cleanses us of those demons, while reminding us of the part we play in today’s society. It took me a little while to realise that while writing this, but it’s plain to see now. Such a heartfelt record and nothing else this year comes close. 

You can stream When I Die, Will I Get Better? and purchase it digitally/ on vinyl below:-

Svalbard - https://www.facebook.com/svalbarduk/

Physical copies can also be purchased via the below links:-

Church Road Records - https://churchroadrecords.limitedrun.com

Translation Loss Records - https://translationloss.com/

Church Road Records - https://www.facebook.com/churchroadrecords/

Translation Loss Records - https://www.facebook.com/TranslationLossRecords/

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