On May 25th UK based hard hitters Svalbard will release their new album It’s Hard To Have Hope through Holy Roar Records and Translation Loss Records (pre-order here). This is their second full length album, which refines their distinctive blend of euphoric black metal, post-rock and d-beat.
We asked guitarist/singer Liam Phelan about the 3 records that have influenced him the most.
Nasum – Human 2.0
My introduction to this album was hearing the song ‘Shadows’ and I was floored, a perfect mix of grindcore, groove and melody. I rushed straight out to pick up a copy and excitedly spent 30 minutes attempting to remove the numerous stickers Relapse use to secure their CDs with a breadknife.
The jubilation of finally gaining access was easily surpassed as the opening feedback of ‘Mass Hypnosis’ crept into my ears and then a couple of seconds later……BOOM…..my love affair with this band began. This album is near perfection in my opinion; yeah, the production isn’t great, but its rawness only adds to the urgency of the songs. 18 years later it still makes me want to dance around my living room like Jon Chang, my cat watching me with disdain.
One of the things I admire most about them is their ability to bring lots of different flavours to the table and still sound like “Nasum”. That is something I always hoped we could accomplish with Svalbard. When we started, my blueprint for the band was a cross between the more melodic/crust bits of Nasum and………
Mew – And The Glass Handed Kites
I heard songs from this album in a friend’s car in 2005 and I wasn’t totally sure about them at first, but I found them earworming their way into my head days and weeks after that initial listen so I picked up a copy of the album and everything just clicked into place.
This is their masterpiece, the production is fantastic, the songs are expertly crafted, it’s dark and sombre but so uplifting. The rhythms are slick with time signature changes coming from out of nowhere but never derailing the flow and a joy to air drum to once you’ve nailed them.
Despite being labelled a dreampop band I can hear plenty of heavy influence creeping through the songs (there’s actually a song on one of their early, Denmark only, releases with screaming on) and it’s this amalgamation of indie, shoegaze with a sprinkling of metal influence that makes this such a special, one of a kind album.
Just don’t listen to their newer releases, they fucked it!
Helmet – Betty
The kings of using a 3/4 riff over a 4/4 beat. I first heard Helmet whilst watching Raw Power/Noisy Mothers (can’t remember which it was called at the time) back when heavy music still had the pull to be on regular terrestrial telly, albeit at 2am and for only an hour.
I made so many fantastic musical discoveries courtesy of this program and its irritating host, Krusher.
Betty is my favourite Helmet album. Great guitar tone, killer snare tone (I wonder how many times John Stanier has been asked about it!?). It’s an album which sounds like a band doing exactly what they want, whatever the repercussions. Songs like ‘Beautiful Love’, ‘The Silver Hawaiian’ and ‘Sam Hell’ are the most obvious contenders for the “This doesn’t sound like Helmet!” award, but still work in the context of the album perfectly. On the flipside you have songs like ‘Milquetoast’, which is basically ‘Ironhead’ crossed with ‘Unsung’ and although it’s formulaic it still gives me goose bumps in the final section of the song.
I always admired the way Page Hamilton used his jazz chops and effects to create walls of contrasting noise/melody and an almost ethereal wash around the bruising riffs. This album was definitely an influence on my playing when I first started teaching myself guitar.