When they released It’s Hard To Have Hope in 2018, Svalbard (opens in new tab) proved themselves as masters of channelling the zeitgeist. Outspoken, unflinching and obviously pissed off, the album saw the band blend hardcore with black metal and post-rock to rage against the relevant issues of the day. Revenge porn, unpaid internships and sexual assault were all topics openly condemned by Serena Cherry and co on their sophomore album. And while most bands would stop after identifying and shaming the injustice at hand, this quartet also had the self-awareness to go a step further. Every song asked, “How do we make it better?”, rejecting nihilism in favour of affirmative action. This wasn’t just genre-mandated anger; rather, this was four people earnestly yearning for a more egalitarian world.
When I Die, Will I Get Better? is very much the logical successor to …Hope, retaining its razor-sharp analysis and underlying optimism, while also exaggerating its ambient beauty. What Was She Wearing?, the abuse-orientated Open Wound and especially epilogue Pearlescent border on Alcest levels of bliss. However, they never once undermine the venomous drive demonstrated when Svalbard go full hardcore mode. The conclusion to The Currency Of Beauty heralds mile-a-minute drumming as vocalist Serena screams, ‘Stop fucking raping us!’, hammering home a track centred around the objectification of women. Similar is the roared message of Listen To Someone (‘Listen to someone without judgement’), trying to teach the seemingly simple ways in which the world can support the mentally ill.
When I Die… is a poignant work that understands the strife faced by the current generation – not to mention the kind of unhindered music they want to hear. It stands as Svalbard’s greatest statement yet, affirming them as one of the brightest prospects in a British hardcore scene already full of promising up-and-comers.