Review Summary: but albums like this help.
No one ever changes if they keep getting told what they want to hear. Everything seems to be a touchy subject nowadays because people prefer to pussyfoot around issues in the hopes that problems will solve themselves instead of addressing them directly. Of course, there are those that defiantly stand above others and spew out a bunch of brash words in order to shock a crowd or gain attention but more often than not the ones with the biggest mouths have the smallest brains and the ones with the biggest brains are tight-lipped; in either case, nothing productive is ever achieved. We live in a world where we shoot ourselves in the foot and blame the gun.
Svalbard is the kind of band that has the guts to stand and confront the touchiest of subjects combined with the knowledge, maturity and in some cases, experiences, to address them in such a way that leaves audiences agreeing with why there is an apparent problem and how to solve it, rather than merely acknowledging a problem exists. That feeling where you get so frustrated over something which, to you, is so mind-numbingly obvious or simple to accomplish and despite your best efforts other people still fail to grasp… That frustration is what Svalbard sound like.
Hope slips through Svalbard’s fingers no matter how desperately they claw for it, and a sense of that struggle is ever present throughout the Bristolian quartet’s second album. Every song heavily features tremolo guitars which soar and crumble throughout the album, providing a relentless feeling of yearning intricately sewn into the background of their songs. Cascading guitars and shivering drums are calculatingly timed to explode in time with Serena Cherry’s searing vocal performance during “Feminazi” and the skill in which the band is able to quickly weave between extremities without losing momentum or intensity in songs such as “Revenge Porn” and “How Do We Stop It” maintains a manner of urgency. Combined with the band’s desperate and sincere lyrics, Svalbard’s sound is one that is simultaneously destructive and enriching.
Countless bands base their lyrics on subjects they feel deeply passionate about yet end up diluting their context by overusing metaphoric phrases or cryptic symbolism. Svalbard’s honest approach is less subtle. Far less. “It’s Hard to Have Hope”
is bursting with direct denunciations and brazen belligerence spoken with uncompromising conviction, but, what makes Svalbard such a refreshing band is that they focus on issues that are glossed over in heavy metal. Everyone has heard a song about war, corrupt politicians or poverty but when was the last band who highlighted the absurdity of unpaid internships, the immorality of genetically engineered pets or the vile dishonesty of revenge pornography- genuine issues no one is aware of" At times their unflinching attitude comes across as what the unprepared may deem ‘too straight’ or 'too much' but this straightforwardness is so effective for the band. Perhaps the only way to get people to listen, understand and question something so important is by serving them with a healthy dish of brutal honesty.
Nevertheless, where there is a vision, there is hope. Gentle melodies and shimmering atmospheres, particularly the heartening closer, “Iorek”, signal that Svalbard has not completely given up on humanity yet and offer fleeting moments of reflection and a different kind of sincerity within each song throughout “It’s Hard to Have Hope”
. Arguably, it’s during these softer interludes that yield more of a response- they sound vulnerable and innocent while the isolated singing highlights key questions or phrases with unflinching composure. The level of passion that Svalbard exudes and, moreover, how they project that passion into their ferocious delivery makes “It’s Hard to Have Hope”
not only meaningful but also unignorable.