The Horse and Sparrow Theory is the seventh full length from the Swedish crust punks Victims, in a career spanning over twenty years. For those who do not have a degree in economics the album title refers to the ‘trickle down’ theory that if a horse is fed enough oats eventually some will fall to the sparrow. Much of the album’s content therefore focuses on social and political injustices, the poor continuing to live off scraps while the rich get richer. There’s a lot going on here, both lyrically and musically. Victims have a message which they intend to share.
Musically it’s hard-core punk, but it’s that and so much more. Sure, there’s a couple of tracks which feel like straight up punk songs such as ‘There’s Blood on the Streets’ and ‘The Sea and the Poison’, both are short, sharp, shocks, speeding by in a blur before ending abruptly. For me however, one of the joys of this album is that for all the speedy bog standard punk genre tropes on offer, there are others which throw a few curveballs. The title track switches momentum, throwing in melodies, but it’s the catchy central and ominous riff that runs throughout the song that makes this one of the standout tunes on the album. The lyrics are similarly apocalyptic, focusing on the human race’s consumption of the planet’s resources and ignorance towards climate change. “Why do we even breed?” asks vocalist Johann Eriksson, “we are ignorantly absorbing the earth” and “consuming our way ‘til the end”. Lyrically it all feels very now and maybe slightly worthy?
The track ‘We Fail’ uses a sample from Brigadier General Stephen Cheney’s speech at the Swedish Institute of Internal Affairs in 2018. The track begins with Cheney describing climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ helping to accelerate instability, encouraging mass migration and terrorism. The quiet repetitive strum of a guitar in the background gradually builds tension as Cheney speaks until we hit a crescendo; guitars, bass and drums crash in with a huge tsunami of sound and a crushing riff follows. For all the US military’s reactive tactics it’s more likely the lack of proactive steps taken to stop climate change in the first place that is central to the song’s message. As befitting the subject matter the music is slow, grinding, and repetitive. It’s the soundtrack of destruction and impending doom.
The Horse and Sparrow Theory is ‘heavy’ in all senses of the word, equal parts punk, metal and rock n roll with nods to d-beat pioneers Discharge as well as Martyrdöd and Motorhead (Erikkson’s vocals at times sound reminiscent of Lemmy). The album doesn’t hang about, the eight tracks clock in at just under twenty eight minutes, getting the job done quickly and effectively. Some may be put off by such an overtly political album, but you shouldn’t be, it gets its point across very well by deftly managing to complement the music with the lyrics and never feels like preaching. It’s a rollicking good ride for the short time it lasts, fast, heavy, loud and above all, thought provoking. This is a seriously good hard-core punk rock album that deserves a moment of your time, you might learn something, but if not, at least you had fun.
(8/10 James Jackson)