I approached this review not really sure if I liked Svalbard or not. I knew of them from the RE:MIND compilation I reviewed this March and from the Holy Roar roster (to whom they are signed). I was (and continue to be) a big fan of both of these releases, with their emphasis on metallic, emo–edged hardcore, but I didn’t think that Svalbard were one of the best on the RE:MIND compilation, despite Ripped Apart having a few great riffs. Presented with a copy of their newly–released debut full–length, One Day All This Will End, I was keen to see what I got out of it; I knew I wanted something out of it, maybe some kind of answer. After all, this is very much cathartic, heart–on–sleeve music, explicit in originating from and centring upon strife.
This is the confessional side of hardcore, as frail as it is heavy through its 33 minutes. What life sometimes reduces us to – alone, bereaving, forgotten – is what writes this music. Avoiding the vagueness oft found in polemic heavy music, on Expect Equal Respect Svalbard hone in on the particular social ill of sexism in media coverage of bands; its specificity, with lines like
Is 50% a minority?
Is my credibility an anomaly?
suggest it’s a personal subject for Svalbard. The lyrics are intelligent throughout the album, encompassing false associations between integrity and misery, the gap between reality and social media presentation, and the difficulty of keeping a band going and seeing enthusiasm ebb in shortly–departing band members.
The vocals, half intelligible and half not, are a hoarse, throaty scream, which sound like they hurt. Tremolo picking features heavily, as does d–beat drumming in verses and choruses of hooks, Disparity being an excellent example. Svalbard don’t overcook their use of dissonance, and use good songwriting to provide just the right amount of resolution. Variations in pace keep each of the eight songs propulsive, and a variation between heaviness and space gives each song its own character, particularly in Perspective. Closing track Lily veers towards post–rock, and before you groan, this really adds to the strength of the album. The harmonised, clean–tone intro, backed up by a half–time to regular–time push by the bass turns into an expansive instrumental, at times veering towards happiness, taking the time to build up.
It’s unusual for anything creative to walk the middle ground and succeed in any lasting capacity, yet in One Day All This Will End Svalbard succeed. The album title itself is ambiguous, it draws equally from hardcore and metal, it is pessimistic yet not nihilistic, emotionally heavy yet intelligent in dealing with the issue at hand, and the voice of loneliness yet invested with comradeship. I think I got an answer out of One Day All This Will End, and that’s pretty good when you can’t even articulate the question. I depart this review assured that I do like Svalbard.