Bristol’s Svalbard plays crust punk with a post rock twist– similar in spirit to Deafheaven’s black metal/ post rock sound and Tragedy’s melodic take on crust. The result is something beautiful and surprisingly accessible, but nonetheless unrelenting. Flightless Birds is only two songs long, but it does exactly what a two song release should do: make you wish there was more.
“Flightless Birds” opens the EP, managing a tightrope walk between outright aggression and ethereal beauty. The song is filled with melody, an excellent counterpoint to the vocalists’ throat shredding screams. Half way through, Svalbard dials the hardcore back and lets the dreamy soundscape of their post rock influences shine through. It’s a balancing act that they execute perfectly. Upon hearing the concept of their sound in words, I was worried it would come off as a far cry from the aggressive anti-pop that is crust. Thankfully, Svalbard combine the melodic and ethereal sounds of post-rock cohesively, creating a sound that is as confrontational as it is beautiful.
There’s a desperate quality inherent in “For What It’s Worth.” It bleeds feeling– reminiscent of the reckless outpours of Rites of Spring and Embrace. It also gives the listener a broader taste of Svalbard’s musical palette– featuring a taste of melodic vocals sung on the edge of hoarseness. Throughout the song, the guitars spit, languish, and burn through memorable riffs, melodies, and lines of trilling notes. There’s a remarkable amount of diversity in fretwork, and for good reason; while the songs on Flightless Birds are by no means ten minute monsters, they are longer than the average punk song. It’s a more subtle detail, but this is where Svalbard impressed me the most. They are able to sustain a song’s duration with quality music better than most other bands that seek to travel past the four minute mark. The music they write warrants the time spent listening and never edges past the border of self-indulgence.
Flightless Birds is a quality EP and a clear indicator of more good to come from Svalbard. For those that are fans of punk at its most defiantly musical, this is a clear victory.