Svalbard Does Svalbard or On The Virtues of Retrospection

Looking back over the things I’ve written here at Heavy Blog, it’s pretty damn cringe worthy. If only I had the capacity to go back, polish those pieces

6 years ago

Looking back over the things I’ve written here at Heavy Blog, it’s pretty damn cringe worthy. If only I had the capacity to go back, polish those pieces up and bring them to life again, maybe the world would look at them in a whole new light. Well, I can’t, so that’s fucked. There are those that have the ability, have the ingenuity and grace to go back and turn something old into something fresh and exciting though, granted a healthy approach, a willingness to grow and a desire for true change. Svalbard have gotten the unique chance to make this happen with their remastered Discography 2012-2014, fresh off them presses today.

We were lucky enough to have Liam and Serena of the band speak to us about some of these new old tracks, dishing up a few tasty tidbits about the music and lyrics behind these morose face melters. Insider information at its very best, you must agree, especially as it gives us a glimpse into what it feels like to be able to revisit your own work and consider it in a new light. Far from just an aural polish, this re-release is also about a new approach and there’s no better way to learn that than from the words of the band themselves.

“Leave It”

Liam: “Leave It” came about as an exercise in trying out the features of my delay pedal. I was trying out the tap tempo function and the slow verse riff just fell out. I always find that’s when my favourite riffs of ours are born, when there’s no thinking or expectation involved.

Serena: “Leave It” is a song of yearning. It’s about keeping someone you love at a distance so as to not ruin them with your own overbearing, destructive hands. When you don’t trust yourself not to smear the painting – so you look at it from really far away and can only ever wonder what it would be like to witness up close.

“For What It’s Worth”

L: This is probably the song that was toughest to write. Usually there’s a collective feeling of finality when a song is finished but that wasn’t the case with this one. We had several versions of this track before we ended up with what you hear now and I don’t think we all felt completely happy with it. Listening back to it now, I like it a lot more, especially the ending. Sometimes you just need a bit of time away from the music you write!

S: There was a time, even as recent as the 90’s when pop music was a hugely influential factor on social mobility. The Gallagher brothers could literally sing themselves from rags to riches; if you had a song in your heart– the ladder was there for you to climb. That time has gone. Now buried under Pay To Play, Brit School, highly priced management rosters and development agencies. Buried under a free magazine you paid to feature in. Now I’m no fool to the fact that the word which has always followed “music” is “business” – but it’s starting to feel as though doors of musical opportunity no longer open for the poor because they are now completely sewn up by the rich. That’s what this song is about. The endless creative battle against those who can afford to be in a power position – from which they simultaneously dictate and demolish the arts.

“Ripped Apart”

L: For me this song is a statement: “We found our sound!”
All the songs on this release feel like Svalbard to me. I feel as though we struck the right balance between all our various influences here and gained a new found confidence in our song writing.

S: The lyrics of “Ripped Apart” are an attack on the prevalence of homophobia in religion. It’s incredulous that in this day and age many branches of Christianity claim to preach love and tolerance yet they still show no tolerance for love between same sex couples. The fact that many religious parents will disown their children when they come out, that’s what the lyric I have never taken so much hate as I have from your love concerns – how the concept of love in religion is often riddled with petty, vindictive conditions.

“The Damage Done”

L: I think we’ve played this song at every show we’ve done. We re-recorded it for the album as we felt it would be nice to have a version with Serena and I doing the vocals since we couldn’t bear to drop this number from our set. There was also a section in the original song that we were unhappy with so we thought it would be a good opportunity to update it. It’s really interesting to listen to both versions back to back.

S: This song is about the regret that so often accompanies primal urges. The battle for control within a body that splits between thoughtless action and paralysing thoughts. Nervously toeing the behavioral line of eggshells, terrified of not living life to the full – whilst also being terrified of making a mistake.

The remastering done by Audiosiege gives each of these tracks (there’s a whole eleven more on this release too!) extra warmth where the music swells up in your heart and extra bite when it needs to tear sinew from bone. Hands down one of the best remasters I’ve heard. The originals have their own charm but these new takes just hit so much harder in the crotch and the feels. The remastering does the unthinkable and actually puts the band in the room with you. A fine thing considering these young guns are one of the most pleasing on the ear in a live setting.

Svalbard are one of the hottest UK bands playing their own sound and playing it loud. Anyone hating on them having released a “best of” some four years into their existence can suck a greasy one as far as I’m concerned. This release shines light on some of the most honest, crushing hardcore that many will have missed the first time around. As “For What It’s Worth” winds down with the piercing guitar trills and tortured declarations, just try and not feel something stirring deep within your broken, misfiring soul.

Thanks to be given to Liam and Serena of Svalbard, Audiosiege for the fantastic job and everyone at Holy Roar for continuing to push the best music into our faces and ears.

Matt MacLennan

Published 6 years ago