Written by: Izzy
Svalbard are a relatively new face in the world of metal and punk, their first release having been unleashed upon the world in 2014. Since then, they’ve been a consistent talking point for both their gorgeous melodies and blend of neocrust, post-rock, screamo, and blackgaze, as well and their political stances, frequently angering basement-dwelling neckbeard metalheads who proceed to furiously write a tweet about how women are ruining metal--Oops, was gonna try and not get too political on this one. My bad.
When I Die, Will I Get Better? is in many ways a logical trajectory for the band. Elements of post-rock and blackgaze have always been present in their music, starting at their debut One Day This All Will End, becoming more pronounced on their amazing 2018 release It’s Hard to Have Hope, and finally reaching its climax here on their latest. Those influences have become pushed so far to the forefront to the point where I think calling them a neocrust/blackgaze band wouldn’t be too far off, but that descriptor would still be missing something.
In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. First up in this series of guest reviews is the prolific Espi Kvlt of Apricitas, Yngve, Seas of Winter, Phryne, Guan Yin, and Exsanguinated Shade. Read on!
Written by: Espi Kvlt
Is it blissful?
It’s like a dream.
I want to dream.
These words, from the first track off Deafheaven’s sophomore album, cut through me like a knife the first time I held the lyrics booklet up to my face to digest its contents. Impossible to decipher by simply listening to the album, I wanted to absorb every bit of it, as it had caressed me in the darkness of that filthy basement apartment where I lived with the man that would soon become my ex-boyfriend. The screeching vocals off Sunbather called out to me like a friend each time I was left in that bed in the corner of our room to ponder what I did to deserve the abuse from the man I thought I loved.
It cannot be overstated how much the lyrics alone have left a permanent impact on my
psyche, so much so that I branded those lyrics from “Dream House” permanently onto my flesh beside a ram skull. During those tumultuous times in that apartment, they were a source of comfort. They were my therapy. Accustomed to bands like Darkthrone and Cradle of Filth, it was the first time I had encountered such poetic language in black metal. Later in my life, this extended to my own lyrics. Deafheaven’s Sunbather still informs each decision I make when I put that pen to the paper. Lines like “Lost in the patterns of youth / And the ghost of your aches comes back to haunt you / And the forging of change makes no difference” make me both overjoyed at the experience of being able to read them and saddened to know I didn’t come up with them myself.
Written by: Continuous Thunder
I first got into heavy music in my mid-teens, and by “got into heavy music” I mean found music that not only appealed to me, but also bothered my parents. (What’s the point of heavy music if it doesn’t cause your parents genuine concern?) Anyway, way back in the mid-’00s, when I was just a distant rumble, the heavy music of choice for the youths of the day was screamo and metalcore. CD players and primitive iPods were full of the sounds of bands like Underoath, The Used, From First To Last, and The Devil Wears Prada. Jeans were tight, lips were pierced, and hair was long and dyed black. These genres and styles fell out of favor right around the end of the decade, but screamo has had a bit of an underground resurgence in recent years. Infant Island, in particular, are a relatively new band that may prove that the genre isn’t entirely dead.
Written by: Loveloth
In an ocean of similar sounding post-everything bands, Astronoid clearly stand out. Each time I listen to them, I go to places, places that are far above all our tellurian and insignificant issues. While this feeling of elation isn't something new to me, Astronoid awaken something very specific in me. Despite existing for seven years now, Astronoid grabbed a lot of people's attention back in 2016 when they burst on to the scene with their debut Air, which brimmed with energy and creativity. It was a really good record so I wondered how their follow-up will sound, and I got my answer recently in the shape of Astronoid. I was a bit confused why they opted for such a simple title but after acquainting myself well with the record I realized what they were going for. But more on that later.
For the uninitiated, Astronoid revel in reverb, delay-heavy guitar work which, when combined with Brett Boland's falsetto's and Matt St. Jean's energetic and fast drumming, creates an ethereal and otherwordly atmosphere, but it's still intense and vivacious. I'll admit that this doesn't sound very original but make no mistake, as soon as you hear them, you'll realize they're something special. And while I didn't agree with them being labeled as "dream thrash" before, it definitely makes more sense now. You see, unlike Air, Astronoid doesn't rely as much on blastbeats or aggression. Instead, the band opted for a more varied and even punky (regarding the drums) approach.What we get is something that isn't that much different from Air, but it needs not be because of the quality the band possesses.
The record sets off with "A New Color" which is standard Astronoid business. It's fast, uplifting, has wonderful guitar harmonies, and Boland's characteristic vocals that you'll either love or hate due to his higher register and often usage of falsetto that is akin to Agent Fresco, Arcane Roots and most importantly Mew, who are a big inspiration to the band. Funnily enough "A New Color" is actually one of the weaker tracks but serves as a nice segway into the more interesting stuff that is down the line.
"Lost" is one of those tracks. Be it the gorgeous build-up, breathtaking breakdown or that nasty riff, this track is Astronoid at their best. Their sense of crafting sprawling and richly ambient compositions is superb and that sense of wonder I mentioned never left me, even when on repeated listens. Beauty and elusiveness hides all over Astronoid and I am certain that everyone will be reminded of different things when listening to it.
However, there is fair deal of repetition on this record but Astronoid use it as another tool for immersion and it works most of the time. "I Wish I Was There While The Sun Set" is a solid example of this but I need to mention that break near the fourth minute mark which caught me off guard because it reminds me of Motorhead that played post-rock. That bass tone is too good to ignore.
Speaking of which, the production. Magnus Lindberg (of Cult Of Luna) did an excellent job with the mastering but it would be pointless if the mix wasn't as good as it is. Drums are punchy but not overpowering (that snare sounds amazing), the bass is rich and chunky but is in that sweet spot between the guitars and the drums, you know, the place where it should be. The vocals are above everything but don't suffocate the instrumentation. What I am trying to say is that I really like how this record sounds.
Now, back to the introductory paragraph. I think the band chose the name Astronoid because it perfectly represents them as a band and the journey that led them to this point where they are at. It's obvious, but you can hear that youthful passion, energy and drive in the songs and I do love hearing genuine art because it's not as common nowadays. There is one issue that is holding this record back a bit though, and it has to do with Boland and his one-note approach to vocals. I sincerely hope he changes things up, or that the band adds more of them on their next release.
Overall, Astronoid may not possess that shock value Air had, but it's still a worthy successor to one of the most exciting debuts in recent memory. "Water", "Fault", "Ideal World" or "Breathe" all show a band that is confident and love what they do. I just hope they exit their comfort zone a bit. In any case, I am excited for their future, just as I was almost three years ago. History repeats itself.
Astronoid - Astronoid was released Feb 1st. from Blood Music
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!