An incisive, fiery achievement unerring in vision and execution!
Nothing if not consistent, Svalbard return steadfast with The Weight Of The Mask, exhibiting one of the most genuine, harrowing thematic modes in recent memory. There are a few notable comparisons, however, for me they remain eminently more accessible than projects in similar spheres such as Lingua Ignota or Made Out Of Babies (if we are to look even further back in the history of righteous feminine rage). This is not a remark on the comparative quality, but rather of the brilliant ease with which Svalbard is able to exude its particular brand of politics without being prohibitive to general enjoyment.
Svalbard, ostensibly named after a frosty Nordic archipelago, declares Woman to be an island, turning patriarchal culture on its head. Serena Cherry’s androgynously husky Hardcore screams, backed seamlessly by co-founder Liam Phelan, apply consistent pressure with its frenetic ferocity as with its dire portent. I find the vocals to be as well balanced between the hardcore screams and airy cleans as those of Courtney LaPlante’s (Spiritbox), and as emotionally decimating as Kris Esfandiari’s (King Woman), and about on par, technically, with Eva Spence’s (Rolo Tomassi). There is a certain measured balance to Svalbard’s range, which, as with Rolo Tomassi, transcends both genre and gender. Such equilibrium of meter and mood as evidenced on cuts like ”November” sustain a stunning level of energy across a reasonably wide range of appeal.
This is especially inviting if, like me, you are not particularly enamored with the niche peculiarities of the –Core suffix, but find it fairly impressive and capable in spite of that assertion. In large part it comes down to the rhythm section’s punky speed metal –leaning ferocity and the guitars’ post-metal wailing; the sporadic breaks into fair-voiced crooning and alt-metal repose, which all speaks to a level of confident modulation and variety I seek in most metal genres these days. For, while the touchstones of genre labels assist in the descriptive relativity of a sound, it is only in the transcendence of those aphorisms that creative brilliance may flourish.
The Weight Of The Mask is Svalbard’s most exiting work to date and I don’t see them slowing down. Extensive tourers, Svalbard are masters of their craft. Never failing to impress over the course of their three excellent albums, neither do they belabor their cause. The Weight Of The Mask is the high water mark. Nothing about this album is showy or overlong. It is simply deft and poignant and dialed-in. Like some of the aforementioned others in the scene, the energy, the politics, the technical tightness is beyond reproach. There is literally nothing to fault, nothing to add. The Weight Of The Mask is succeeds in brutal, confrontational and brooding intent, yet retains balance as beautiful, accessible, and exhilarating. An incisive, fiery achievement unerring in vision and execution!