In 2019, I wasn’t just haunted by a black cloud – I became the black cloud; and that permeated everything I did. Every lyric. Every note.
Serena Cherry’s words sting. They sting right down to the fucking bone. When you’re done reading and rereading them the mark left behind is ashen, pitch black like tar, and just as potent. And this is before you sink your teeth into the maelstrom that is new album When I Die, Will I Get Better‘s opener ‘Open Wound’; more to the point, this is before the six-minute leviathan drowns you in its deluge of melancholia, the currents of which toss your body about like a doll, ripping through you just like it would anything else unfortunate enough to be caught in its destructive path. The pain wrenched out of every lyric, thrust into the storm of every shimmering note, hits a little too close to home, opening up a Lament Configuration of memories long thought abandoned in the annals of history. You feel that pain as it batters and beats every way it can. And it isn’t just the pummeling battery driving ‘Open Woud’ that leaves you bruised, shattered, and broken: it’s every swell, every sweeping rush and, like it or not, every blissful moment the eye of this harrowing storm falsely promises; it’s in every moment you thought it safe to re-emerge from the dark and realising before it was too late that, no, it was not safe.
This is testimony to the maturity and growth Svalbard has gone through in the short space since their previous effort It’s Hard To Have Hope. That they can leave you this vulnerable, so fucking fragile, in just six minutes is nothing but a stroke of genius. But from torment, from unbearable pain, sprouts something beautiful – and ‘Open Wound’ sure is a thing of beauty. For all its clawing, tearing, and unquenchable ravishing at flesh and soul, it is impossible to not close your eyes and sink deeper into this achingly gorgeous hymn, set to be one of the highlights of 2020. Impossible it is also to be not be swept away by the crashing waters of its visualiser, courtesy of Chariots of Black Moth; a black-and-white tapestry of grief as mesmerising as it is haunting, it is the perfect accompaniment to Cherry’s vocals, to Liam Phelan’s sweeping craftsmanship, and Alex Heffernan and Mark Lilley’s captivating if not bone-breaking rhythms.
The storm passes, leaving you drifting in open waters waiting for the end to swallow you whole or for When I Die, Will I Get Better? to drop via Holy Roar Records on September 25. The storm will pass, trust in that. And even though its indelible mark, its legacy, may remain etched into your skin for time immemorial, calmer seas and skies will be waiting for you.
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