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Album Review: It’s Hard To Have Hope by Svalbard

Alternative metal act Svalbard release their new album, It’s Hard To Have Hope on 25th May via Holy Roar Records. Formed in Bristol in 2011, they recorded 3 E.P.s and 2 splits before releasing their debut album on Holy Roar Records in 2015.

Uncompromising and hard-hitting, the takes direct aim at difficult topics that are only becoming increasingly more urgent to address. There’s little in the way of poetry to the lyrics, and there’s zero room for ambiguity as vocalist, Serena Cherry, screams “Where is the protection for the women?”. There’s an abundance of raw honesty as the Bristolian quartet tackle some very uncomfortable subjects head on; with sexual harassment, revenge porn and the exploitation of unpaid internships being just a few of their targets.

Whilst the lyrical content may form the ethos of the band its in the music that the real magic lies. The blend of euphoric black metal and post rock is met with new element of progressive guitar leads that adds an extra dimension to Svalbard’s already stunning arsenal.

It’s an album that must be heard to believed. Stunningly provocative and crushingly heavy in equal measures you cannot help but become enthralled with it and become fully immersed in both the message and the riffs. A cursory glance over the track list should give you an idea of the lyrical content, and to be honest we probably couldn’t do it justice, so we’ll leave it at stating that ‘How Do We Stop It?’ is a brutally honest, no holds-barred take on sexual assault that gives you serious pause for thought. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you think. Stunning.

Musically, It’s Hard To Have Hope is astounding. There’s not a single weak track, whether it be the brutal breakneck metal of ‘Unpaid Intern’ or the progressive take on black metal on ‘Revenge Porn’ or the pummelling drive of ‘Feminazi?!’ you can’t help but be swept up in the power and emotion that oozes from every riff. Jeez, we’ve only just touched on the first three tracks and if you’re anything like us you’ll be in love with the album already.

The soft, mournful singing that introduces ‘Pro-Life?’ gives way to crushing riffs before the track is spun into an atmospheric post-rock opus. As the track explodes again in the third minute you get the sense that you’re listening to something very special. ‘For The Sake Of The Breed’ hits you like a steam train before ‘How Do We Stop It?’ has the music to match the lyrical content. It’s the standout track on the album and it’s a must-listen. It might just be 2018s most powerful track. ‘Try Not To Die Until Your Dead’ is beautiful. Starting out gentle and emotive the track progresses into a commanding progressive black metal number full of spine tingling energy and back again a couple of time. We could pontificate about how stunning the track is for ages, you’ve got to experience it. Closer ‘Iorek’ is the moment that you connect emotionally with the album if you haven’t done already, otherwise it’s confirmation that It’s Hard To Have Hope is special, beautiful, brutal and thought provoking.

AD Rating 9.5/10

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