After the departure of singer Frank Carter, the recruitment of ex-Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil on vocals, an EP, and two free downloads, Gallows release their 3rd full-length album on September 10th. The band stated that the self-titled album, released through their own label Venn Records, "musically defines the band known as Gallows as we exist today." And if the Death Is Birth EP - released last December - is anything to go by, Gallows can be defined as hardcore that is angry, angry, and angry. But, we know what they say about assumptions.
As I press play I realise I was right not to make assumptions. In previous reviews I've mentioned hardcore punk's foundations and staples. All of these are thrown to the side with the start of the first track, Victim Culture. The song starts with female vocals. There's not over-whelming feedback or shouts... It's strange. It's new. But it's not long before the band starts up and does what they do best. This song is fast and angry, and straight away, if you missed out on their EP, the differences between former and current vocalists are obvious. With gang vocals making the song sound huge, a signature Gallows solo acts as the cherry on top of this cake.
Last June, a download-only single, has the sound of Gallows written all over it. But one thing I have noticed, apart from the obvious difference in vocals, is that this album seems a lot less 'riffy', and a lot more angry and loud. In my opinion though, it's the bass that makes this song. It's not often you read that, but it's the dirty overdriven bass that makes me think that if instruments had emotions, this bass would be full of hate. And it helps the music work so well with MacNeil's aggressive vocals.
The new single, Outsider Art, is next in the tracklist. MacNeil kicks this one off and there's a huge change. The vocals are a lot less rough and reminds me a lot of The Clash. It's in this song that you hear the main difference between Wade MacNeil and Frank Carter. Although both sound aggressive, like most hardcore vocals, MacNeil's have melody. It almost sounds like he could begin singing at any moment. Luckily he doesn't and sticks to shouting like a madman. Punk is at it's best when it's shouted in your face.
Vapid Adolescent Blues sounds like it's been lifted straight out of 80s D.C. Scratch that. The chorus, which is as catchy as a hardcore chorus can be, is a brilliant new twist on a classic genre. This song doesn't sound like it's been lifted from the past, it sounds like Gallows pulled a Marty McFly.
As I listen to the next couple of tracks, I feel like I've heard it all before. It's fast, it's angry, it's punk. But I don't feel like there's much keeping me here. Then Odessa begins playing and it sounds like it could be an Alexisonfire song. This change is refreshing and I'm right in the palm of Gallows' collective hand as the next track begins.
Nations / Never Enough is the heaviest song of the album. It take's Gallows' sound and makes it darker, heavier, and for lack of a better word, more mental. All I can imagine is a surge of people on stage who are subsequently jumping off, and I long to be one of those people. Wade's vocals lose all melody. It's pure chaos, and it's right up my street.
After Cult Of Mary's downright creepy ending involving a small child reciting lyrics about crucifying Christ, Cross Of Lorraine ends the album. I'm convinced that Wade MacNeil took this with him when he left Alexisonfire. It's a strange ending to the album. It has an almost overwhelmingly heavy ending, and it's anthemic, but it isn't as punky as the rest of the album. This is in no way a bad thing. I love when artists and bands try new things, and once I got over the change in direction in a matter of one song, I saw how fitting this was.
I know I've written a lot about Wade MacNeil and Alexisonfire. And I know Frank Carter got a mention in the very first line. But that shouldn't overshadow Gallows as a band. This album is heavier, more aggressive and darker than anything I've heard them release. Wade MacNeil's vocals are fuller and the music is 'beefier'. This album has Gallows come out from the darkness with all guns blazing. Gallows are back, and without a rapper in sight.
Gallows by Gallows is out on the 10th of September via Venn Records.