If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can find emergency support & counselling at the following resources: Lifeline, Reach Out, & 1800 Respect.
Titled ‘When I Die, Will I Get Better?‘, probably one of the more unsettling album titles I’ve heard in 2020, and apparently borrowed from the title of a stumbled-upon book by this Scottish band, Svalbard’s next record looks to be another powerful release loaded with rage, sentiment, pain, and hope. Another intersection of the quartet’s heavy, hardcore roots, and their burning sense of melody and atmosphere, with all of their social commentary and feminist heart intact; an anticipated great follow-on from 2018’s fantastically solid and deftly important 2018 sophomore LP, ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope.’
A highly emotional five-minute epic, first single ‘Open Wound‘ has it’s stylistic influences and comparisons situated towards that of artists like Japan’s Envy, France’s Alcest, the mighty Oathbreaker and even their Holy Roar peers in Rolo Tomassi (just less mathcore and progressive-rock sounding). More than that, ‘Open Wound‘ exists at this awesome crossroads sound between post-rock, shoegaze, black metal, and melodic hardcore, and is simply put, fucking beautiful. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my favourite songs of 2020 so far! With some seriously improved production standards, it all culminates into an attention-grabbing, utterly arresting track that is nigh on impossible to ignore; one that has so much to share.
Mark Lilley’s propulsive drum patterns – whether it’s big cymbal crescendo’s, snare rolls, surging double-time punk parts, half-time grooves, supportive tom fills – all push this new powerhouse Svalbard cut forward, driving them alongside the songs’ subtle synths as well as Alex Heffernan’s kinetic basswork and Liam Phelan’s wondrous melodic guitar leads that feel like they’re scraping the heavens. Serena Cherry’s voice traverses pained and intense blackened screams as well as soft, ethereal clean singing alike to equally and perfectly communicate the hurt and sorrow found entrenched in this harrowing single; about the fear, manipulation, gaslighting and physical abuse experienced at the hands of an abuser who twists the reality of their victim.
At every step of the way, ‘Open Wound‘ retains Svalbard’s powerful message: “the personal is the political.” Serena recently commented on this very idea and the track’s emotional turmoil surrounding domestic violence, sharing:
“As Carol Hanisch said “the personal is the political” and that’s a phrase I draw inspiration from, in the sense that inner turmoil and societal struggles are inextricably linked. When I’m talking about my hurt in the song, it’s a pain that isn’t just mine – but one felt by many who have also been exposed to domestic abuse. With both this song, and the entire new album, it would have been impossible for me to write anything that wasn’t bleak; as I was suffering with an overwhelming bout of depression – the kind that completely obscures your perspective until you eat, sleep and breathe despair. In 2019, I wasn’t just haunted by the black cloud – I became the black cloud; and that permeated everything I did. Every lyric. Every note.“
Perhaps the greatest thing about Svalbard is how overwhelmingly blunt their lyrics are. There is no hiding from the ugly reality that their music frequently discusses, which goes doubly here. Direct lines like “Climb on top and push your weight down. Place your hand over my mouth. And stop the words from coming out” or “Leave me in a cage. My foot on a tether. And only return to pluck out all my feathers” are never used for shock factor, but instead to show the real trauma and impact that these events have on survivors and their self-worth. That these are cruel tactics employed by abusers and their “beating wings” in order to keep their victims isolated, fearful, and dependent. Serena is clearly saying with ‘Open Wound‘ that: this happened to me, it continues to happen to so many others, this is real, and it needs to be addressed and stopped once and for all. Svalbard’s latest is another part of that larger conversation, another step towards better raised awareness of an issue that affects men and women alike.
‘When I Die, Will I Get Better?‘ arrives on September 25th, 2020 And remember: there’s no room with for abusers in hardcore or any alternative or heavy music scene. No matter how sick the riffs or breakdowns are.
‘When I Die, Will It Get Better?’ track-listing and artwork:
1. Open Wound (05:36)
2. Click Bait (05:47)
3. Throw Your Heart Away (04:05)
4. Listen To Someone (05:11)
5. Silent Restraint (04:09)
6. What Was She Wearing (04:44)
7. The Currency of Beauty (05:47)
8. Pearlescent (03:28)