In the studio with Svalbard: “It’s us walking down a dark path together and confronting our demons head-on”

Svalbard have spent the past year working on their highly-anticipated fourth album, The Weight Of The Mask. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear it, but vocalist/guitarist Serena Cherry gives a peek at what to expect. Spoiler: violins…

In the studio with Svalbard: “It’s us walking down a dark path together and confronting our demons head-on”
Nick Ruskell

We decided to pay Svalbard a visit in the studio and find out what they’ve been cooking up on album number four…

It’s heavy – both emotionally and musically

“I like to think of the album as us walking down a dark path together and confronting our demons head-on. I describe it as the soundtrack to the war that rages inside your own head – it’s the musical equivalent of fighting yourself. It’s about mental illness and how that impacts on relationships, specifically romantic relationships, or the relationship you have with yourself, relationships you have with your band members, your family, the people closest to you in your life. It’s about how depression and anxiety can close you off from these people.”

They’re trying new things

“My reverb-drenched, glassy guitar is definitely prominent, but we’ve focused on certain aspects that were blended together on the third album [2020’s When I Die, Will I Get Better?], so they now have their own specific outlets. There’s two songs that are entirely clean singing, and then there’s songs that are full-on screaming all the way through, whereas on When I Die… we kind of blended the two. Some parts have a bit more technical metal guitar, and there’s bits where I turn off my reverb pedal, which is shocking to me. So, without wanting to quote Metallica, it’s frantic.”

It’s got Liam Phelan swapping guitar for violin

“Liam [guitar/vocals] is a grade eight concert violinist. That was the first instrument he ever learned. He did a few bits of violin for a band called Morrow on their album. When I saw him perform that live with them I was immediately like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this in Svalbard? This is criminal that you’re not playing violin on our songs.’ There’s some tracks on the new album where the violin really, really worked. What was amazing to me is he didn’t come into the studio with everything annotated and all ready to go with the violin, he just hooked it up with the microphone, tuned up and wrote all these violin layers on the spot. It was kind of magical to watch, all these layers, forming like that. What he’s added is really special – I think it adds a completely different atmosphere. Plus, I love My Dying Bride, so we’re one step closer to them.”

They went back to The Ranch to record with Lewis Johns

“We love working with Lewis Johns as a producer. When you’ve worked with a producer for so many years, you feel so comfortable fully expressing yourself in the studio. I cried recording the lyrics to pretty much every song. I’d just be there in the vocal booth crying, and Lewis would get it and make it feel like a safe space for me to express those emotions. And then they come out in a healthy way on the record, which I think is really nice. Working with him allows us to go to the depths that we go to lyrically and musically, because he’s got a really good way of making you feel comfortable enough to express your darkest sides. And he has a really cute dog, which helps. So you’ll have a little cry in the vocal booth, and then you come out and cuddle the dog!”

It’s coming out on Serena’s dream-come-true label

“If you look at my record collection, pretty much 80 per cent of the spines have the Nuclear Blast logo on them. To be on that label still hasn’t really sunk in for me yet – to be able to release an album with them and have their support has just been incredible. I’m super excited about it all. Even just releasing [first single] Eternal Spirits with them, it felt like a really special moment for me – it was amazing that I could see my band’s name on their label.”

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