By Kane Power (@ElHeavio)
I saw Svalbard live a few months ago doing an admirable job opening for Holy Roar label mates Rolo Tomassi. They are back on my radar with a new release One Day All This Will End, out this week on the 25th of September.
I initially thought of Svalbard as a post-hardcore/post-rock crossover band, and I’m not entirely wrong, but with the clarity of recording, their music displays a much more melodic basis. Chord changes and song structures allude to a prominent pop/punk (read: not pop-punk) influence in their song writing, in fact, remove the vocals and you would be forgiven for mistaking Svalbard for a melodic punk band.
For me, this just adds to their allure. The almost black metal vocal style contrasts with much of the music, creating an element of uncertainty and danger about the songs that keep the listener slightly uncomfortable but endeared all the same. It’s only in the more obvious instrumental post-rock sections that Svalbard fit a post-hardcore mould.
ODATWE is a constant interchange between frenetic aggression and romantic reflection, capturing your attention with stabs of fast and heavy, and inviting emotion with waves of slow and soft. In addition to these qualities, Svalbard show an aura of immediacy, of being present and totally involved in their art; prioritising atmosphere and strong groove over big riffs.
Stand out track ‘Disparity’ is a well-crafted, intelligent and intentional display of all their best qualities. The drumming on this track (as well as throughout the whole album) takes centre stage with a subtle intricacy and groove that lifts Svalbard out of the amateur scene to the next level. It’s the relationship between the drums and bass throughout ODATWE that holds the album together and provides the conviction that lesser bands often lack.
The only aspect where ODATWE is lacking is in the mix. The essence of the band has been captured, but I know from experience that Svalbard are more effective live than is represented here. The low-mixed vocal often gets buried and can sound thin as a result, when their song writing demands a more powerful lead. Speaking of leads, the constant lead guitar through all the songs, obviously offering the melodic voice and playing to their post-rock element, could easily be sacrificed at times to give the vocal more prominence.
One Day All This Will End is a very strong debut album from an exciting new band. It’s the kind of album you know is good immediately, nailing a unique sound in an often stale genre.