UK punchers Svalbard address matters within politics, society on fiery ‘It’s Hard to Have Hope’

Often, I have to look at the calendar to check out what four digits are showing that indicate year based on stuff I see on the news and consume over social media. I can’t believe we still are fighting for basic freedoms for so many people, and I say this as a white cis male who doesn’t have shit to worry about. I don’t understand how some people don’t just lose their minds on the regular.

The fact that women still have to struggle for basic needs and rights is fucking insane to me. The fact we’re still trying to litigate what rights women have and don’t have is nuts, and if men were put in the same position, they’d be doing all they can to ensure they don’t have to struggle. What? That already happens? Oh. By the way, if left politics give you the liquid stool, good. Also, you might want to tune out today. prob got some cool shit for you. Anyhow, these issues aren’t limited to America, as Bristol, England-based pounders Svalbard also are fighting the good fight, and their excellent second record “It’s Hard to Have Hope” is both aptly named as well as a punch in the face for anyone who wants to hold women at arm’s length. The band—guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Serena Cherry, guitarist/vocalist Liam Phelan, bassist Adam Parrish, drummer Mark Lilley—is blunt and aggressive with their views, and good for them because fuck passiveness and kindness when it comes to defending basic freedoms. Not only is this record a political and societal firebreather, it’s also a smothering musical display that’s super catchy and ultra-vitriolic.

“Unpaid Intern” gets things off to a volcanic start, as the track grinds with a hardcore-style assault, Cherry’s vocals are fiery as hell, and melody rains down. The vocals wrench while the song is fast and relentless, coming to a crushing end. “Revenge Porn” fights for women’s sexuality and against the aggression they face from people they had the audacity to not want to pursue a relationship with or fuck. “They assume it’s your fault for being a slut,” Cherry bristles, “But it’s not!” while the melodies gush from there, and the band storms hard. “Where is protection for women?” she demands, amid a storm of burning shrapnel. “Feminazi?!” blasts back against one of the most cowardly terms ever invented by a person whose name never will be printed on this site. Barked growls and a walls of power act as a shield against women who have the guts to speak up for themselves, only to be shouted down, and the track is utterly righteous in its rage. “Pro-Life?” asks the pressing question of if pregnant women, sometimes against their choosing, are a part of this. They’re not. It’s pretty clear. Black metal-dripped melodies strike and smear, while Cherry howls, “This body is mine, so the decision is mine!” while the band backs her with heartfelt chaos that hammers home its point.

“For the Sake of the Breed” is situated in aggression and melody, focusing on people’s obsession with pure-bred animals when so many shelter animals need homes (I have three shelter pets, and they’re awesome!). The yowled chorus blasts you in the guts, and Cherry later howls the title of song over and over with authority. Her singing then goes clean, while the playing remains emotional and slightly gazey. “How Do We Stop It?” has a rushing start, with Cherry fighting alongside those who have been inappropriately handled by someone against their will, even if in a mosh pit where the perpetrator thinks he can get away with it. “It’s still sexual assault, how do we fight it?” she calls, with the music punishing and leaving shrapnel behind. “Try Not to Die Until You’re Dead” is a track where the band goes more delicate, and for good reason, as Cherry’s words try to cope with devastation and defeat and tries to relate to others on the same path. The song gets tougher later musically, as Cherry vows, “I may be aching and exhausted, but life’s not over yet!” as she refuses to give in and plows on to the very end. “Iorek” is a quiet instrumental closer that allows you to come down from the chaos and galvanizing emotions you just witnessed, as it gushes and flows, ending on what sounds like a note of hope.

It would be cool if one day bands such as Svalbard could blast out music based on fantasy themes or historical battles or something like that, but until rights are equally distributed, this is going to be their pulpit. “It’s Hard to Have Hope” is a high-energy, punchy record that’s a fun listen but also frustrating as hell because it reminds you again the fight for freedom isn’t over. This band pulls no punches, so if you’re on the wrong side of history, your mouth has a good chance of getting bloodied.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

Or here (UK):

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