Album Review: Svalbard - 'It's Hard To Have Hope'

24 May 2018 | 9:54 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Svalbard came here to learn ya something.

More Svalbard More Svalbard

In reviewing the newest release from U.K. heavy-hitters, Svalbard, I literally had to request the lyrics. For a record with such a deep message embedded in our current political context, it just seemed of the utmost importance to be able to fully understand what frontwoman Serena Cherry was snarling about during these eight new songs. That's not to be negative about this release or about heavy music in general - it's typical to not be able to discern every single word when someone is screaming louder than they have to in order to be heard. I just had this gut feeling that the deeper message of equality and acceptance Cherry was trying to get across here was important enough to study further and to take seriously. And so after reading the no-bullshit lyrics for the band's latest record, that suspicion was confirmed and then some.

For Svalbard's music - this form of emotional protest music dolled up into hardcore/metal - really means something; with the U.K. outfit saying it as loud as they bloody well can.

On 'It's Hard To Have Hope', Cherry uses the band's sonic platform of metalcore mixed with post-metal and tinged in melodic hardcore to muse on the social injustices that riddle a 2018 Western society. All starting with forefront single and album opener 'Unpaid Intern', of which she previously penned a well-written essay about. Describing the situation of this rather shitty business tactic towards younger interns, she depicts in her essay the cycle of being "unable to get a job" without experience and "unable to get experience because they cannot afford to work for free". (The cyclic hell that many people find themselves stuck in when trying to enter the workforce and find full-time employment). In a very Architects kind of way - in more ways than one - Cherry gets her message right across to you, with fast guitar work and heavy drumming carrying forward the sheer anger of her band's sentiments.

[caption id="attachment_1102536" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Svalbard, 2018. [/caption]

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Interestingly, while songs like 'Unpaid Intern' dip into the flaws of our society overall (see also 'For the Sake of the Breed' - a powerful track about paying breeders instead of rescuing shelter animals), the primary concern that comes across on these tracks is that of gender inequality. On potent tracks like 'Revenge Porn', 'Feminazi?!', 'Pro-Life' and 'How Do We Stop It?' - all dealing with vile attitudes towards women, victim-blaming, how we're judged for what they wear, and how sexual assault is treated and viewed - Cherry appeals to not just a music scene long dominated by men, but also the rest of the world too for some kind of empathy and respect.

It's a real pleasure to see artists such as Svalbard being so damn honest about their own experiences and relating them back to a wider cause, yet it's also a real shame that we're even having this dialogue in the first place. Nevertheless, it's important that young people - no matter their gender or sexuality - hear these kinds of poignant messages, so that they know how it feels when other people "assume it's your fault for being willing to trust" and even label you a "Nazi for speaking out" against matters that affect women and other people. (People who think like that need to be sorely educated in order to step outside of their own little world).

Svalbard's newest LP contains plenty of hard-hitting musical moments - like on many of the aforementioned tracks - but it also has it's fair share of softer, more dynamic moments too. Like the quite literally massive build-up on 'Try Not to Die Until You're Dead', as one such wonderful example. Yet the emotional weight, giant guitar melodies, direct lyricism and bracing unclean vocals of Cherry, as well as the powerful energy that the rest of the band bring on this solid album, make it all rather easy (and also quite fun) to digest both sides of Svalbard's unflinching sound. And by God, I really do hope that Svalbard receives real appreciation for their solid efforts and their determined voice here once 'It's Hard To Have Hope' drops!

Svalbard's new record is a diamond in the rough of shitty hardcore releases, and it feels overwhelmingly important in the long run about how heavy music circles discuss difficult topics such as gender equality, sexual assault, rape, and the rights of women, among other matters. To have bands like War On Women and Svalbard as well as women like Serena Cherry be such fearless voices in standing up for females in an inarguably male-dominated heavy music world personally means the world to me. I sincerely hope that this record reaches the people that it needs to - both those who agree with the band's politics and those who do not, for the latter are the ones who need to hear this album the most.

1. Unpaid Intern

2. Revenge Porn

3. Feminazi?!

4. Pro-Life

5. For the Sake of the Breed

6. How Do We Stop It?

7. Try Not to Die Until You're Dead

8. Lorek

'It's Hard To Have Hope' is out this Friday, May 25th.