Album review: Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask

Svalbard open up on the depths of depression on their gorgeous and masterful fourth album, The Weight Of The Mask.

Album review: Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask
Emma Wilkes

The Svalbard we’ve come to know have fire in their veins, with pointed, vital things to say about an unjust, broken world that works for the few and not the masses. More personal black clouds, however, have never been far away, and on their fourth album, they loom closer than ever. Ahead of the album's release, singer/guitarist Serena Cherry told Kerrang! that she doesn’t have the energy for political rage at this moment in time, but her fighting spirit does periodically glisten across The Weight Of The Mask, and even when it’s not there, it remains enormously compelling.

The Weight Of The Mask is an album that sounds like Heaven and Hell all at once. By burrowing deeper into the dreamier, blackgaze-inspired sounds they began to explore on 2020’s When I Die, Will I Get Better?, they sound richer and more beautiful than ever. Defiance is a ebullient, arms-wide-open moment that shimmers with trilling guitars and violin, while the self-described “anti-Christmas song” November unfurls from something fragile-sounding into a blindingly cinematic peak with devastating feeling. Even if, bizarrely, you don’t pay attention to the lyrics whatsoever, the sounds alone are more than enough to put a lump in your throat, especially on To Wilt Beneath The Weight where the lush guitars seem to scream at the sky as much as Serena does.

Yet entwined with the beauty is an unsparing, red-raw sense of desperation. There’s a brutal bluntness about the way Serena expresses her pain, from the way she declares against the clattering, chaotic backdrop of Faking It that, ‘I don’t feel joy, I just fake it / I don’t feel hope, I just fake it,’ to a crushing moment in Lights Out – a track that at one point sounds positively wintry – where she admits, ‘I’m too depressed to show you just how depressed I am.’

There are libraries full of heavy music about depression, but this is up there with the most accurate portrayals. This is a record with a tremendous amount of weight, offering a stunning portrait into one of the cruellest things the human mind can be subjected to. At the same time, it’s also so much more than that – it’s Svalbard at their most focused and intricate. They can even call this their masterpiece.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Alcest, MØL, Pupil Slicer

The Weight Of The Mask is released on October 6 via Nuclear Blast

Check out more:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?