There is a long-standing tradition in art where civil unrest translates into the medium. Punk and folk music have been the most dominant genres to hold to this in North America, but some artists transcend these genre boundaries to provide their own, unique commentary on the state of life in the Western world.
War on Women blur genre lines, drawing from punk and metal, but expanding on these labels to create their own, identifiable sound.
With Wonderful Hell, we see the most fully realized release from a band who have been maturing with each release. They have built upon their political, hardcore image with increased musical skill, following a trajectory similar to their most obvious kindred spirits, Propagandhi.
Lyrically, they address political issues without descending into the empty sloganism that often hampers bands in the political punk sphere. They write intelligent lyrics with a heavy dose of vitriol which is supported by the loud and fast musical stylings of the band.
In what has arguably been one of the most chaotic and divisive years in America over the past century, Wonderful Hell fits nicely into the fold with its acknowledgement of anger, disillusionment, and underlying hope for a better future.
Shawna Potter brings their lyrics to life, eloquently addressing current issues that are relevant to those living in the current North American political climate.
On “This Stolen Land,” she brings voice to the irony of hating refugees while living in a country built on colonialism, acknowledging the racism which creates this disconnect, as she sings, “You create the refugee/ Then you hate the refugee/ No one’s illegal on this stolen land/ Check the skin against the paint/ It looks to be too dark a shade.”
While the album as a whole is overtly political in nature, they also address social issues which overlap, showing that issues can affect people at both the macro and micro relationship levels. In “Big Words,” Potter utilizes repetition of the phrase “hurt people hurt people” which will undoubtedly ring true for many listeners.
This is exactly what one would expect an album released during a global pandemic by an intelligent activist band from a country dealing with the fallout of mass racial unrest and under the leadership of a rapist president would sound like. It practically seethes with anger and frustration from the speakers.
As a whole, Wonderful Hell is a smashing success as a piece of political punk art. The lyrics are timely and drive the ferocity of the album, while musically, the band have never sounded more cohesive.
They have built upon their previous sound while avoiding the awkwardness that often comes with experimentation. As we near the close of 2020, it is certain that we will see this release on many end-of-the-year lists.