Svalbard’s set at August’s ArcTanGent competition looks like a second of triumph. The post-black steel quartet are only a stone’s throw from their residence city of Bristol, and the tent is rammed – hundreds of heads bob to the band’s frantic, snarling verses, then are stilled for the shimmering and shoegaze-inclined melodies. When singer/guitarist Serena Cherry roars the hook of the music Clickbait – a primal, punkish “Fuck off!” – a legion of voices scream it along with her. “That’s by no means occurred earlier than,” she giggles into the microphone afterwards.
Cherry appears jubilant, however when she and I sit down backstage shortly after the set, she reveals that the elation was merely a masks. “You’ve in all probability seen me on stage smiling for 35 minutes,” she says, “however I’m at one of many lowest factors of my life in the intervening time.”
Since she shaped Svalbard with co-singer/guitarist Liam Phelan in 2011, Cherry has been open concerning the reality she has despair, each in her lyrics and through interviews. It’s one thing she’s suffered from since childhood. “I keep in mind having this overwhelming disappointment, whilst a younger little one,” she says, “and I keep in mind feeling remoted.”
Nevertheless, the musician says she entered a “downward spiral” in 2020. For the reason that pandemic Svalbard have launched the lauded Once I Die, Will I Get Higher? album and signed to Nuclear Blast Information – residence to a few of steel’s greatest names together with Cherry’s favorite band, Nightwish – however the fixed work of being a musician, alongside a day job at a gaming journal, has turn into a battle.
“I’m so fortunate to be in a job I like and a band I like,” Cherry says, “nevertheless it leaves little or no room so that you can exist and join with folks. The final three years, I’ve turn into much more lonely and massively misplaced confidence. Typically it seems like each message on my cellphone is a requirement or a request.”
Cherry voices her troublesome life to evocative impact on Svalbard’s impending fourth album, The Weight of the Masks. Opening monitor and up to date single Faking It laments the kind of factor she needed to do on stage earlier at this time: feigning pleasure once you’re actually deeply sad. “I don’t recognise that smile,” Cherry howls over cascading black steel. “How is it so convincing?” November expresses the cyclical nature of despair over a soundtrack of solemn and affected person post-rock – “I believed on daily basis that I wouldn’t really feel this unhealthy once more” – and aside from Easy methods to Swim Down, which likens unrequited like to drowning, Cherry rejects the flowery language and metaphors commonplace in steel. “I don’t really feel love, I simply pretend it,” she screams, unforgettably, on the climax of Faking It.
“It was a really deliberate option to be as lyrically direct as attainable,” she says. “You may hearken to a music by most steel bands and it is likely to be about despair or one thing political however, dressed up in prose and poetry, that message turns into obscured. For those who say one thing as concisely as attainable, you possibly can attain as many individuals as attainable.”
A music referred to as How Do We Cease It? – from Svalbard’s 2018 second album, It’s Laborious to Have Hope – revisited the trauma the singer/guitarist felt after being groped in a moshpit as an adolescent. “If it’s in a darkish alley or it’s in a mosh pit, it’s nonetheless sexual assault – how can we cease it?” run the lyrics.
“I got here residence and I offered each single steel shirt I had,” Cherry remembers. “I ended going to steel reveals, all the things. I took an actual step again from all of it. I couldn’t imagine that this had occurred in a supposedly protected, expressive place.”
Nevertheless, the music additionally rallies the viewers to share their experiences of sexual assault within the steel scene, in order that no sufferer feels alone: “Everybody, come ahead! Come ahead! We have to elevate consciousness!” Hearken to Somebody from 2020 explores the results of despair and advises “hearken to somebody with out judgment”, whereas new music Defiance is concerning the victory of going to the fitness center when your psychological well being tries to maintain you down.
For some listeners her method might really feel prosaic, however Svalbard’s lyrics are an expression of Cherry’s admirably clear moral code. “What can we do, as people, to make the tiniest quantity of change?” she says. “The lyrical sample of ‘that is shit – how do we modify it?’ – that’s the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel. The nicest factor a Svalbard fan might say to me is that our music made them really feel much less alone.” That in flip, she says, “actually helps me to not really feel alone.”
The Weight of the Masks out now on Nuclear Blast