Some bands need a couple of albums to find their sound, their niche if you like. Other bands seem to have stumbled upon their sound from their very first rehearsal. Their career is not defined by a grand steps from album to album, but rather by refining their craft on each album. Small changes to better their music a little bit every time. Svalbards second album makes it appear they belong to that second category.
My first encounter with Svalbard was their split with Pariso. One year later their debut One Day This Will End really led me into their universe and had me track their backlog. At that time that consisted of three EP's. And to my surprise I found that from day one they sounded like Svalbard. From the self-titled and self-released first EP the band has been very consistent. Even production-wise the changes were small (but always a step forward).
By now you might be wondering: what is that magical Svalbard sound I keep going on about? Svalbard are a hardcore band from the UK. What sets them apart from the crowd is the mixture of ingredients used. There's a base of post-hardcore with a strong metallic edge. That's always a good start of course. There's melody and fast riffs and gruff vocals. Then there's the crusty edge that is added. But on top of that there's something that you would not expect in this mix: post-rock like melodic guitar lines. If you have ever listened to a Mono song you will recognize the technique. In my mind it is a combination that simply can not work. But it does. And it's not a coincidence. Svalbard makes it work on each and every track!
It's Hard To Have Hope fits right in with their previous material, but (again) some slight improvements have been made. New on this album is the introduction of clean post-rock passages. It's used to great effect on a couple of songs. Serena proves she can also sing with clear voice here. Another defining aspect of Svalbard: the lyrics are outspoken as ever. On It's Hard To Have Hope topics such as the exploitation of unpaid internships or revenge porn are dealt with. It's no secret I enjoy bands taking a stand on subjects that matter greatly to them. Svalbards lyrics are one of the strong points to me. There is no beautiful imagery, no playing with words, only a very straightforward posting of their opinion. To be further emphasized by the urgency with which they are delivered.
Production wise nothing has changed to much. Again, Svalbard is not stagnant, they stick to a sound that works for them. On all releases every instrument is clearly audible, and so it is on It's Hard To Have Hope. The inclusion of softer post-rocky parts adds to a dynamic listening experience. Something that is very welcome. The consistent song writing also leads to an album where songs don't really stand out. I have listened to this album over a dozen times now and still don't have a favourite song (nor one that I've started to skip). Instead I listen to this album as a whole (as all proper albums should be listened to).
In conclusion: I was looking forward to this album and was not dissapointed. On contrary, I have eight more Svalbard tracks to enjoy. If you don't know 'm yet, I suggest you check Svalbard out as soon as possible. They have something unique to offer and get better each release.
8.5 / 10
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