My Spotify Release Radar delivered the goods overnight when it shared Svalbard‘s “Open Wound” with me. It had been some time since I’d sat attentively with Svalbard’s music, and I was well overdue for a reunion.
The powerful single premiered via Kerrang earlier in the week, and came in conjunction with the news that the band’s third album is on the way. The darkly titled When I Die Will I Get Better? releases on 25th September via Holy Roar Records, Translation Loss Records, and Toyko Jupiter.
“Open Wound” deviates slightly from the political subject matter that tends to course through Svalbard’s music, but none of the fierce and driven sincerity is missing. “Open Wound” is about domestic abuse, and the song as well as the entirety of When I Die Will I Get Better? were said to be created from an oppressively dark place.
When speaking with Kerrang, vocalist and guitarist Serena Cherry described her experience in suffering through a bout of depression that was “The kind that completely obscures your perspective until you eat, sleep and breathe despair.” Serena shared that the “black cloud” of her depression in 2019 permeated everything, including the music she created.
“This hurts too much to be love.“
“Open Wound” hits deeply and painfully, from its free-falling introduction onward. Bristling statements toward an abuser set this listener alight with goosebumps, where despite the darkness and turmoil, there’s unmistakable bravery. A light melody and angular riffs inspire sparks of possibility, while metaphorical imagery paints the experience in a beautiful yet heartbreaking way.
Warmed by the searching bass and saddened by lines like “Place your hand over my mouth / And stop the words from coming out” makes for listens of “Open Wound” to be extremely moving. With resonant history of my own, Svalbard are the force alongside that past self that she never had, demanding to know why this inflicted pain is happening. It’s incredibly important that this piece of art is taking such a firm stance, and staring unflinchingly at the experience of abuse and its pain instead of hiding or being ashamed of what was done. These are most certainly things that we need to speak about.
The black and white and stormy ocean imagery of the music video is a perfect fit for the oppressive and unpredictable experience of domestic abuse. At times rapidly flashing, and at others suspended underwater with bubbles, it adds to the sentiment of the song. But there’s also room enough for personal interpretation. Watch below via YouTube, and pre-order When I Die, Will I Get Better? here.