Gallows – Desolation Sounds
Over the past few years, it would be hard to say that Gallows have managed to maintain the momentum they built up over the first five years of their career. With less media attention and a drastic change in sound, things weren’t looking great for the punk darlings of 2007. However, this means nothing. With an incredibly loyal fanbase and unmatched live shows, Gallows, whilst maybe not still the jewel in the public eye, have been continuing to destroy the competition for years. Just, under the radar for now.
Until now. Full disclosure, Gallows just might be my favourite band of all time. Sure, I discovered relatively late in their career, but what I came to find was a band that weren’t just dangerous, but furious beyond all recognition. Grey Britain is a punk masterpiece, and managing to follow it up with such ferocity on their 2012 self-titled follow up with a new vocalist just show what this truly remarkable band have to offer. I could talk about my love for Gallows until the sun comes up, but that’s not why we’re here. The band’s highly anticiapted fourth record, Desolation Sounds is released today in the UK, and I’m here to tell you if it’s any good. (Hint: It really, really is.)
1. Mystic Death
2. Desolation Sounds
3. Leviathan Rot
5. Bonfire Season
6. Leather Crown
8. Death Valley Blue
9. Cease To Exist
10. Swan Song
Starting the album, Mystic Death is a head-turner for anybody in the vicinity. If you were to tell a Gallows fan back in 2007 that the band would someday be capable of writing an almost Slayer-esque track such as this, they’d never believe you. An almost Seasons In The Abyss style opening riff gives way to one of the finest choruses in the band’s arsenal, as the song gets the album started with an incredible bang. Title track Desolation Sounds is a real curveball, but in all the right ways. An almost dirge-like punk call to arms, the raw energy contained in the track is almost tantalisingly deceptive, an explosion threatening to boil over at any moment into pure chaos. The subtle hints of psychadelic rock creeping in, the band utilise their unique talent of creating a heavy song with truly minimal distortion or artificial effects. If anyone had any doubts about newly crowned vocalist Wade MacNeil’s talent, this is sure to quash them.
How do you follow up on such a subtle masterpiece? One of the most raucus, pit-destroying, hectic pieces the four piece have ever put to record. With a heavy focus on the instrumentals, Leviathan Rot smacks you around the face, and encourages flipped tables throughout, proving Gallows can still pack an immense punch when they want to. It’s at this point some may remember that the band lost one of their two guitarists a few years back, but it’s also when they realise that any band that can produce this sound with just one axe-man is something special. The guitar work on the album is simply incredible, and follow up track Chains showcases the diversity in Laurent Bernard’s arsenal. A slow burner, the doom inspired instrumentals create a beautiful hopelessness that the band should have explored years before, and is welcome anytime.The use of female vocals in the track lend themselves beautifully, and provide pacing that brings the album to an ominous crawl.
The first time I heard Bonfire Season, I will admit I was skeptical. It was a shock to hear such a different sound from the band, as the lust-filled vocals and guitar lines dance together in harmonious, grungy steps. Vocalist Wade is once again the star of the show here, with his signature cracked vocals providing a sound that may be alien to those of us unfamiliar with his earlier work in Alexisonfire. As another stand out, I may have been dubious at first, but the song is among the best work the band has ever produced, and I was a fool to doubt it. From another slow burner, the breakneck pace of Leather Crown is almost blinding in it’s intention to throw you back into the brutal pace for which the band are best known. While the track is more of an exercise in straight forward Gallows fare, this is by no means a problem. The beauty for this song is it’s placement on the album, coming from two slower tracks, it’s exactly what the listener wants, and it delivers in droves.
Seven songs in, it’s almost as though Desolation Sounds is just getting started. 93/93 is another more experimental track, but one that works just as well as those before it. More twangy, down-played guitar parts feature on the track, a personal favourite aspect of the album of mine. Special mention should also be given to drummer Lee Barratt, who seems to strike just the right beat on each song on the album, never being too much, and providing the band with the perfect rhythm, along with bassist Stuart Gill-Ross. You won’t find a tighter band in the UK hardcore scene today. Death Valley Blue, whilst not being the most remarkable track on the album is another grower, and as I write this I find myself enjoying it more and more. I wouldn’t like to criticise a song I know I’ll grow to love as much as the rest, so I’ll update this section when I come to a decision.
Cease To Exist is a slow, eerily thoughtful journey into the darker recesses of the band’s creativity. Distorted bass following a biting guitar line, harmonised vocals provide an almost soothing ride into the abyss, and we have yet another brooding, beautifully bleak track that really stands out so late on an album of true classics. With a crescendo that wouldn’t sound out of place in any stadium rock band’s arsenal, the track threatens to take the crown of future live performances, if the band can fit it in between all the other classics. Ending the album in true Gallows fashion, saving the best ’til last is the pummelling Swan Song. Dischordant guitar work, pounding drums and another call to arms, the album is finished on a high note comparable to any tracks on the four piece’s most lauded earlier work.
If you love punk, if you love hardcore, hell, if you love music with guitars in it, do yourself a favour and buy Desolation Sounds. You won’t regret it. A slow burning masterpiece that’s not afraid to sucker-punch you into submission when it feels like it, the album could well be the band’s finest yet. A mature, crushing journey into the darkest musical landscapes the Watford boys can offer that leaves you begging for more.