The Bristolian quartet SVALBARD are proving to be a gem in the British metal scene. It’s Hard To Have Hope, the band’s second album is sure to propel the band further in high esteem. A band who do not shy away from tough topics, it would be easy to fall in the trap of focussing on the song titles and lyrical content, but the band’s music is just as hard-hitting. So much aggression AND passion has been poured into this album, I genuinely think it’s going to blow everyone away.
Starting with a topic most of our generation can unfortunately relate to, Unpaid Intern is as angry and aggressive you feel when you’re confronted with the pessimistic job prospects of today. What I find exciting about SVALBARD is their ability to avoid being pigeonholed. Hardcore is present, as well as post-rock riffs and black metal musings…and that’s just the beginning. I think this diversity hopefully predicts the longevity and accessibility of the band, as they will comfortably flow from one scene to another and it’s sometimes the crossover bands who achieve the most awesome things. Unpaid Intern is a perfect example of what SVALBARD are all about.
The dual vocals of guitarists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan have a nostalgic KYLESA feel about them. I’ve always thought Cherry sounds a cross between Laura Pleasants and WALL OF JERICHO’s Candace Kucsulain. One of the most unforgiving female vocalists around, Cherry often steals the show on this record with her screams and hushed vocals. The latter can be heard at the beginning and end of second track, Revenge Porn. If the subject matter wasn’t so serious I would dare to call this song beautiful. A disgusting yet current topic, this song is complimented by the equally damning approach the band take with their delivery. A black metal influence is strong here, with its soundscapes and hectic drumming. Comparisons to OATHBREAKER could easily be made here but you can understand why label mates MØL will be joining SVALBARD as support for a few of their forthcoming shows, as they both have that glorious post-black metal sound.
Feminazi?! continues the black metal feeling with the drums and riffs sounding like WINTERFYLLETH and ENSLAVED. It is quite spectacular and once the middle eight kicks in you will be well and truly under SVALBARD’s spell. After two strong opening songs, this track keeps up the pace and gives It’s Hard To Have Hope a further, darker edge. Things slow down a notch with the opening of Pro-Life?!; Cherry sounds like she is channelling her inner MYRKUR, but things accelerate again in the usual black/post metal manner. The laidback moments shine and emphasise the heavier parts.
Next track For The Sake Of The Breed is one of the album’s highlights for sure. It rages HARD. It charges, drops, crashes and has the most brilliant pacing, bringing back those KYLESA vibes again. Things take more of a post-hardcore turn with How Do We Stop It? There is something about this song that feels different to the others. There’s less urgency but the emotions feel deeper, giving the track a heightened aura of importance. Similar can be said for Try Not To Die Until You’re Dead; the pace and delivery is modest and eerily mesmerising, but bursts of determination crash through with triumphant riffs and passionate vocals. This could be a dark horse to be fan favourite.
The album finale Iorek is an entirely different beast. It is an instrumental wonder, taking influence from post-rock and even indie, it provides light to the dark intensity of the record. The bright riffs create shimmering soundscapes and shine hope on the darkness. It provides a stunning conclusion to an incredible album. The organic production of It’s Hard To Have Hope ensures the gritty tunes retain their rawness. Beautifully constructed and executed, SVALBARD have potentially made a modern classic. The British underground scene is bursting with potential and SVALBARD are worming their way to be the cream of the crop.