Svalbard
The Weight of the Mask


4.5
superb

Review

by Mitch Worden EMERITUS
October 12th, 2023 | 98 replies


Release Date: 10/06/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Gazing inward, yet venturing further beyond.

For the first time in a long time, Svalbard’s mirror is pointing inward. That was a phenomenon that used to be caught only sparingly in their work--the likes of “Throw Your Heart Away” and "Try Not to Die Until You’re Dead” took aim at unseen wounds, not glaring structural issues--but its angle has since shifted; The Weight of the Mask, true to its title, endeavors to excavate what lies under the facade of apparent contentment. The group’s trademark urgency, almost always intertwined with current-day politics, straps down the individual for examination, not a system. Everything’s gotta go: personal demons, depression, trauma, broken heart shards and decayed dreams--it’s all getting exposed, splattered across pages that formerly housed scathing societal critiques. Against the backdrop of Svalbard’s beautiful melodic leads and blackgaze-esque ambiance, this introspective approach expands the band’s sound and allows their powerful, yet simultaneously graceful post-metalcore to flourish in an achingly relatable manner.

By constructing this more emotional environment, the U.K. collective have emphasized their potent atmosphere--something emblemized by tracks like “How To Swim Down” and “Pillar In The Sand,” both of which primarily focus on restrained crescendos, graceful strumming, and soft textures that seem to cascade like a gentle mist. As a consequence, backing electronics and sampling take a more prominent role in the mix, often converging with the group’s endless supply of melodic riffs in order to both strengthen them and add further depth to arrangements a la Time Will Die…-era Rolo Tomassi. It contributes to an overarching ethereal aura akin to modern blackgaze acts like Mol, accentuating prose that revolves around personal dramas rather than extrinsic tales, and placing more of a focus upon a complete sonic force--the gorgeous guitar melodies, keys, pounding percussion, reverberating bass, the gang’s consistently energetic dual vocal approach--and how it feels versus being a pure riff fest.

That subtle shift marks a maturation of the already superb If I Die, Will I Get Better?, and while it fashions an adventure much more reserved and patient, it sacrifices no aggression in the transition. In comparison to its predecessor, The Weight of the Mask retains much more of a -core vibe; the band endeavors to include more complex motions, heavy chugging, and hard-hitting grooves that harken back to their more violent earlier works. “Eternal Spirits” demonstrates how the group’s metalcore roots cooperate with their modern post-metalcore methodology, using blistering, varied percussion, blackgaze melodies, breakdowns, shimmering keys, and angelic clean vocals to generate overwhelming tension and a soothing release from it. That same intensity is reflected in the succeeding “Defiance,” with blast beats paving the way for arching tremolos and a vicious cycle of tempo shifts. There’s plenty of space for tracks to progress in that manner, with each song frequently embarking upon a profound transformation, ranging from the evolution of “November” from a gothic-like opening into a roaring melodies and a headbanging-worthy groove, to the patient build-up of the aforementioned “How To Swim Down.”

When balancing its lingering volatility and bolstered atmosphere, Svalbard’s latest can reach phenomenal heights, and their striking instrumental climaxes leave ample room for the poignant vocal performance to slide in. The rolling percussion and erupting guitars of opener “Faking It” complement its emotional finale--a despairing admittance to playing pretend throughout daily struggles--and closer “To Wilt Beneath The Weight” leans on a menacing bass rhythm to usher in its conclusion, forming a hefty foundation while a final grasp for optimism is painstakingly relayed through dueling harsh vocals. Brilliance truly shines through in the impactful “Lights Out”: a chaotic black metal-infused assault that relentlessly plows through spiraling riffs, only to suddenly collapse into a shoegaze-inspired clearing that allows the tune to breathe momentarily. Gradually, the band reemerges from that tranquility, layering keys on top of pounding guitars that make every resonating scream sound like an unflinching declaration. Every part, from the robust bass to the piercing screams, is remarkably intertwined, and the sheer cohesion of a given track is impressive to behold.

Turning inward has undoubtedly pushed Svalbard to enhance their songwriting abilities, and in retrospect, it seems an appropriate sequel to their catalog. Though featuring sprinklings of hope and stray optimism, much of The Weight of the Mask revolves around a palpable sense of exhaustion--from faking happiness, from acting content, from just dully weathering out whatever particular storm descends. It’s a violent, yet stunningly beautiful bending under the pressure that comes from internal and external stress, and when brought to life through two different contributing voices, the emotional payoff feels universal; it’s not heard through only one perspective, but separate views that both know a similar pain. Svalbard’s work has always been relatable, yet that deeply personal connection makes a deeper cut. Powered by some of the best melodic riffs to find in contemporary metal, The Weight of the Mark stands as Svalbard’s current masterwork, and its straightforward messages are capable of resonating across a wide audience.




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user ratings (144)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A Mars is never late he's just always tired. Anyways, this predictably rocks off socks.



Bandcamp link: https://svalbard.bandcamp.com/album/the-weight-of-the-mask



Also on Spotify. I am too tired to see if Apple Music still exists.



Let me know what y'all think!

someone
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2023


6759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

here it is

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2023


10318 Comments


Big numbers all around interesting

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2023


32073 Comments


Love the clean parts on this one. Reminds me of Rolo.

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The party is only just beginning, lads...

Storm In A Teacup
October 12th 2023


45967 Comments


I am late to this but I am still v excited.

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes Storm, get into the JAMS

TheTripP
October 12th 2023


4576 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

man this is great, every time I give it a listen it hits on a deeper level. I need to dig into the lyrics

SteakByrnes
October 12th 2023


30135 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Let's go dude!! Huge!!



I gotta jam this still, maybe I'll hit it later



also third para has format error my brother in christ, [i]The Weight of the Mask[i]

Manatea
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2023


1973 Comments


This album is so good
This review is so good
Mars is so good

bigweinerdon
October 12th 2023


2724 Comments


Rips. Not as good as When I Die but still sounding great

Pikazilla
October 12th 2023


30473 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not as good as When I Die [2]

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not sure what you mean Steak, absolutely zero formatting errors, I'm perfect.



(thanks bb)

Hawks
October 12th 2023


90689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Pika is getting up there with Tundra with some of these BS ratings ahrd.

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Okay Hawks settle down, let's not go THAT far lol ;^)

Pikazilla
October 12th 2023


30473 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Hawks just mad I 1'd buttprog reveries and 3'd the worst bleeding through album



I am sorry I didn't enjoy this as much as you guys, I still think their first two are their absolute peak.

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

How dare you feel differently



Nah but for real, I'm surprised how different your rating is for this one versus their last one, both of which are very much in the same stylistic vein.

Pikazilla
October 12th 2023


30473 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Alright, so here are the reasons why I don't like this as much as the previous one:



1. The guitar mixing. How did they manage to make it sound so big yet flat at the same time?

2. Buildups. It feels the songs on here just have shoehorned-in atmotremz sections simply for the sake of it, and because of that everything sounds so choppy. It's like AI was fed Svalbard songs and randomly stitched together what the algorithm has churned out.



3. Lights Out. This is their worst song. I really don't like it lmao

Tundra
October 12th 2023


9864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'd prefer them switch up things at this point, sounds just like their previous stuff

MarsKid
Emeritus
October 12th 2023


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's fair, I think the cohesion between the quieter/harsher moments is still pretty airtight? If anything it might feel a bit more rocky because there's more of a -core 'oomph' behind it but nothing that's shoehorned.



"Lights Out" is so good though :^(



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