It’s hard to understand what life is really like in another country unless you’ve lived there, or maybe spent a lot of time seriously studying it from afar. In the case of Poland, I’ve done neither. Living in the United States, what I know about the current state of affairs in Poland comes just from reading a scattering of news stories from time to time.
A lot of the recent stories tend to focus on the country’s support for Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian invasion, and the huge volume of Ukrainian refugees that have flooded into Poland. At least here, that reporting (which comes with a favorable gloss) has tended to eclipse other things I remember reading about the autocratic and theocratic nature of the country’s right-wing ruling regime over the last few years.
Herida Profunda‘s new album Power to the People caused me to re-focus on those eclipsed narratives. The band’s frustration and fury over socio-political conditions in Poland (where they live) is plain for all to see (and hear) in the album. The music burns so ferociously that you could know and feel the emotions that spawned it even if you were ignorant about its lyrical content.
Of course, the assaults on civil rights that have been occurring in Poland are happening in many other countries, including the one where I live. And thus Power to the People is a rallying cry that knows no borders.
But let’s let Herida Profunda speak for themselves about this new record:
“It took us ages to write the new album and then, even longer to record it. During that time, we’ve been witnessing changes that ruling party in Poland are imposing on normal people, silent acceptance for extreme right, Polish women stripped from their basic rights, takeover of national TV to spread propaganda.
“The title, as well as lot of lyrical content is a comment to this situation. We have always been a band with a political message, but maybe the way to win the struggle is to cut off all political content, self-organise, resist, do your own thing, build your own world where justice is served and the machine of corruption and suffering collapse. Fire To Parliament! Power to The People!”.
If you want more details about what those comments are talking about, one place to look is in the annual Freedom in the World Report by the U.S.-based (and largely government-funded) Freedom Organization, an institution founded in 1941 that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Its 2022 report on Poland recounts how the nation’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party “has enacted numerous measures that have increased political influence over state institutions and damaged Poland’s democratic progress. Recent years have seen an increase in nationalist and discriminatory rhetoric”.
Among other things, it details reports on a near-total ban on abortion in Poland that took effect in 2021, the forcible expulsion of Belarusian migrants in violation of international law, the PiS transformation of Poland’s public media into “a government mouthpiece” through the purging of independent or dissenting voices, the rise of “nationalist and homophobic rhetoric” among government figures (including President Duda), the dominance of “cronyism” in the current regime that has led to the staffing of public institutions “based on party loyalty and personal connections”, the ruling regime’s out-sized influence on the operations of the legislature and the judiciary, the use of libel laws by politicians and government-affiliated entities to harass journalists, and much, much more.
That report gave Poland a “freedom score” of 81 out of 100 points. In case you’re wondering, the same report gave the U.S. a score of 83, only marginally better.
Okay, okay, I hear you: What about the music on Power to the People? That’s mainly what you’re here for, isn’t it? Let’s get to that now.
In a nutshell, the music on Power to the People is weaponized for the expression of confrontation and anger. The guitars strike like churning and slashing blast fronts of abrasive sound, or clang like mallets pounding against sheet metal. The drumwork is obliterating, whether it’s spitting bullets at a high rate of speed or smashing like brutal sledgehammer blows. The bass is a big hurtling drive train, but picks its moments to beat you senseless. The vocals are a screaming and roaring fury, a combination of larynx-rupturing and gut-rumbling gutturals (and a few raw yells mixed in).
The pure adrenaline-fueled explosiveness of the songs makes the most immediate impression, but it won’t take long to figure out there there are other ingredients at work here. The shimmering and seething guitar leads introduce moods within the mayhem — moods of desperation, bleakness, grim viciousness, and wild defiance.
Here and there, the songs even sound hallucinatory. Moreover, the slaughtering rhythms often rapidly shift into hammering grooves and bursts of primal punk scampering, and one of the most musically interesting songs, the closer “Wasteland”, is actually a mid-paced, head-nodding bruiser, with heartbeat that flatlines.
It also becomes increasingly evident as the album proceeds that although the music often sounds chaotic, the changes are sharply executed. These tirades are damned tight. And although you wouldn’t call the production “clean”, it’s sufficiently clean and balanced that all the moving parts are easily detectable, and the precision of the execution isn’t concealed.
True to the band’s dominant grindcore roots, the songs are compact, but Herida Profunda pack a hell of a lot into these short, sharp bursts. They let their punk roots come straight to the fore in some songs, and discharge destructive grindcore savagery in others, and those shifts from song to song are part of what will keep listeners on the edge of their seats and locked in as you run this gauntlet.
And now — finally — here’s a full stream of this electrifying album:
Power to the People will be released on July 22nd by a collective of labels — 7 Degrees Records (Europe), 783 Punx (UK), Wise Grinds Records, Give Praise Records, and To Live a Lie (US). You’ll find more details about these offerings via the links below.