Fans of Bristol noisemakers Svalbard already know that they cover topics that most bands won’t touch. Those checking in on their second LP, ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’, will quickly glance at the song titles and realise this is far from what you’d find from a new Five Finger Death Punch album.
The metal commentariat has thrown many tags at Svalbard‘s sound. Is it post-hardcore mixed with black metal? Crust-punk with shoegaze undertones? Then you remember that the best bands aren’t exactly easy to pin down. What can be pinned down is that this LP is a solid expansion upon their 2015 debut, ‘One Day All This Will End’.
Serena Cherry leads the vocal attack, assisted by fellow guitarist Liam Phelan. The guitar lines, constructed in an almost post-rock manner, bring the brooding melancholy along with the fury.
The band come roaring out of the traps from the moment you press play with opener ‘Unpaid Intern’, a blistering attack on companies who reward interns nothing for their hard graft. On top of that, you have a chant-able chorus. Hurrah!
Clean vocals are prominently used for the first time on ‘Pro-Life’, reminiscent of Rachel Goswell of Slowdive. Impressive soundscapes are created throughout the song, but the impassioned yell of “This body is mine, so the decision is mine” shows that the band don’t need a metaphor to cloak their message in. With the population of Ireland voting on whether or not to change their abortion laws at the time of writing, this song feels eerily relevant.
Svalbard‘s music is immersive and multi-faceted, with penultimate track ‘Try Not To Die Until You’re Dead’ being the best demonstration of this, but the message is clearly important to the band. Sexual assault, revenge porn, and animal welfare are among the subjects covered. With the recent wave of high-profile sexual assault and abuse allegations, many listeners will know that they’re not alone.
Bands like Oathbreaker and MØL have set the bar ridiculously high in how to be crushingly heavy and gorgeously melodic at the same time, but if Svalbard continue down this route, they can sit with the best of their craft. In ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’, they’re beginning to spread their wings and are hinting at something truly special. Let’s appreciate bands who can both walk the walk and talk the talk.