On a cold Monday night in Glasgow, Svalbard attract a very sizeable and appreciative audience which is a testament to the respect in which this band is held in the metal community.
Svalbard are touring the UK following two standout festival appearances, at Bloodstock during the summer, and at Damnation earlier this month. At Damnation, they played the whole of 2020’s When I Die, Will I Get Better? at the ‘A Night of Salvation’ pre-show, and then stepped in at the last minute for one of the bands who couldn’t play, to deliver an amazing set at the festival itself the following day.
That same level of commitment to their music and audience are in evidence in Glasgow, as the band brave numerous vehicle breakdowns and some technical problems on the night, to deliver an incendiary and well received set. A mention is also very much required for the excellent support bands, CLT DRP and HERIOT.
Svalbard come onto the stage to a very dramatic intro tape that feels like lightening erupting and sets the scene for the band exploding into opening song Open Wound. It’s also the opening song on the When I Die, Will I Get Better? album, and live the guitar and harmony vocals of the introductory section literally soar from the stage out across the audience, following which the band slam into a punk driven metal onslaught. On stage the electrifying combination of black metal and post metal on this song take the music at some points into progressive rock territory, with the guitars sounding like a bank of mellotrons. It is of course testament to this great bands ability to successfully bring together different musical influences and genres and create a very original sound.
This is all underlined by the performance of Throw Your Heart Away, where the astonishing cacophony of sound takes in swingeing rhythms and death growl vocals, a gentle spoken vocal accompanied only by guitar, a barrage of shimmering ascending guitar melodies, and some beautiful final chiming guitar chords. All of this contained within one song! The closing lyrics have a heart-rending impact:
“The pieces will never come back together
And your heart will never truly mend
Trapped in a computer game
I just keep dying and continuing again”
Guitarist and vocalist Serena Cherry tells the audience touchingly that “It’s lovely to be back in Glasgow and the best Monday night I have had in years”. What really strikes you about a Svalbard show, is that sense of the band and audience as a complete united entity, both in the music, and also in solidarity with the bands passionate articulation of the need to oppose oppression and inequality.
The final numbers in the set, Click Bait and Grayscale, are absolute set highlights. Click Bait’s powerful message about the oppressive and misogynistic use of the internet is powerfully conveyed through both the lyrics and the music. The tender opening vocal and guitar are followed by an onslaught of sound, with a towering post punk riff. There is a heart stopping moment where solo melodic guitar reverberates around the room, and then the blast beats and the central riff come thundering in again.
Grayscale is introduced by Serena with the story of seeing The Phantom of the Opera and thinking “….that’s the riff in our song”. It is a song that live has a very gothic vibe, and in its use of pealed melody and rhythm to build a song, is quite wonderfully resonant of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The intensity of the music is dialed up to wall of sound proportions and sends the audience out into a chilly Glasgow evening knowing they have witnessed a very special band.
Check out a few pictures from the show below. Photography by Lewis Allen