The follow up to 2018’s It’s Hard to Have Hope, I was not expecting just how good When I Die, Will I Get Better? is.
This is an album where crust aggression and hardcore fury collide with resplendent post-hardcore, shoegaze melodies, and startling moments of ethereal beauty. It’s an approach which is so rich in its delivery that many other bands seem to sound flat, lifeless, and just plain average in comparison. I tell you what, although I enjoyed the band’s previous release, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is on another level of quality altogether.
Svalbard have developed their sound to great effect. Essentially retaining their hardcore roots while progressing their ethereal emotive side, the sizeable shoegaze injection into the music has worked wonders. These well-written songs are textured exemplars of a band continuing to develop their own ideas, while producing very enjoyable and satisfying music in the process.
When I Die, Will I Get Better? is so epic-yet-grounded that when it drags you down into the dirt one moment and then propels you up to the heavens the next, you can’t help but be grateful for all of it. The result is a striking album that juxtaposes gorgeous atmosphere with forthright aggression, while never really fully abandoning an airy, shoegaze feeling while it does so.
The description which comes to mind most strongly when listening to this is what if Alcest came from a crust background…When I Die, Will I Get Better? reminds me of this. Imagine Alcest’s shoegaze style crossed with melodically-charged crust punk, and wrapped up in a passionate modern package. There are many instances of soaring clean vocals dripping with feeling, while the music is equally ripe with emotion. Heavy or light, unleashing rage or exploring introspection, Svalbard’s music is striking.
When I Die, Will I Get Better? is an exceptional record. It’s great to see the band exceed the promise of their past, and forge a bright future for themselves.
The sound of a band truly coming into their own, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is an essential listen for any fan of emotive modern heavy music.