Live Review: Svalbard – Guildford

Live Review: Svalbard – The Boileroom, Guildford
17th September 2022
Support: My Eyes are Old and Bent, End of Salvation
Words: Robbie Maguire

The Boileroom has been providing a haven for The Arts in Guildford for the past 16 years. The last time Svalbard played within its friendly, compact confines was eight years ago. This evening saw the blackened hardcore quartet equipping themselves with two relatively local bands in My Eyes are Old and Bent and End of Salvation.

Despite losing their drummer at the last minute End Of Salvation doggedly ripped through a brutal set of death metal complimented by the fantastic crisp sound afforded by the Boileroom sound crew (a constant present in all three bands sets). The concise and polished drums complimented their gutsy and monstrous riffs and in opener ‘Hostis Humani Generis‘ the sheer gravitas and class of the song with its backing track of vocals was able to shine through. Not deterred one bit by what many bands would have failed to overcome End Of Salvation executed a relentless and very engaging opening to proceedings.

My Eyes are Old and Bent opened with their ace card. The scathing ‘Defiant’ ensured the momentum created by End of Salvation was retained. With frontman Ollie leading the charge front and centre literally screaming like his life depended on it, this level of energy and endeavour must be applauded. With progressive and experimental flavours present the quieter moments of introspection provided a respite from the gruelling barrage and vicious assault of the hardcore. This peppered with the individual character that MEAOAB convey made for a unique sound and visually captivating show.

The previous night’s warm up gig supporting Mono in London may have prepared Svalbard to hit the ground running with this intimate gig in the Guildford. However, those who’ve witnessed a Svalbard show before will attest to the ferocity and viscerally powerful live act that they are. Tonight, the four piece deliver a punishing, devastatingly on point set which yet again sees the band firing on all cylinders.

Anticipation is rightly sky high and as Svalbard tear through opener ‘Throw your Heart Away’ it’s clear why they are one of the most vital and exciting bands within heavy music. Not for the first time tonight we hear the delicate side of Serena Cherry. The hazy, quieter parts allow her to take a break from her striking vocals and offer her alluring voice to shine. Add to this the soaring guitar notes Serena wields despite Svalbard being so explosively crushing there is such texture and depth to the live sound.

Buoyed on from the relaxed atmosphere with the Boileroom and barely pausing for breath Svalbard tear into ‘Silent Restraint’. Drummer Mark Lilley impressively working his way through the constantly shifting sections and quick changes with ease. As intoxicating as it is captivating the song sees the last album ‘When I Die Will I get Better’ making up the majority of the eight song setlist tonight. Despite delivering their songs with such ferocity there’s such an evident warmth shining through the music. Rapid driving blackened hardcore with its huge cavernous riffs strikes down across the packed room yet as always the beguiling side of their music is present within the shimmering blissful gaze influence that graces their songs. ‘Click Bait’ sees the enthusiastic crowd chanting triumphantly the two word chorus of ‘Fuck Off’ whilst the anthemically uplifting ‘Open Wound’ live still retains that gentility and beauty as much as its caustic ferocity. An impressive constant is guitarist Liam Phelan with his menacingly harsh screaming vocals providing the perfect foil to Serena’s commanding delivery of the lyrics. A pummelling yet jubilant ‘Grayscale’ wraps up the evening as cries of “One more song” fill the air. Alas its not to be. The euphoric display of gentile gaze and crushing blackened hardcore comes to a triumphant end.

Svalbard were tight, energised and devastatingly sharp. They are comfortably at home in small venues like the Boileroom yet they have proved so often that they can easily transcend any perceived barriers or expectations put on them and effortlessly play the big stages. It’s the character, honesty and unity of the band in part but also they have the songs in their back catalogue to more than ensure that the continued Journey that they are on is an inspiring and upwards one. Its night like this though, special nights of live music that make you proud and privileged to be part of this exciting scene. Music should be immersive, reactive but also fun. Tonight was all three and not so much of a gig more of a celebration.

Words: Robbie Maguire
Header photo credit: Tim Finch Photography

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