CD Review of Grey Britain by Gallows
Gallows: Grey Britain
Recommended if you like
The Bronx, Black Flag, Cancer Bats
Label
Warner Bros. Records
Gallos: Grey Britain

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

A
nyone following the underground punk and hardcore scene in the last few years has undoubtedly come across Gallows – the UK quintet has garnered the kind of unavoidable gushingly loving online and print press that makes you hate a band even before you actually hear them. But the haters were silenced by Orchestra of Wolves, Gallows’ 2007 debut album. It was hard to deny the record’s emotionally explosive blend of grit and impassioned performances. Darlings in their native country, the band carried the energy over to the States where their tours routinely sold out and helped them gain buzz from the indies to the major label A&R departments from New York to Los Angeles.

In perhaps the punkest move they could have made, Gallows signed with Warner Bros. and handed the label Grey Britain, an album that has little to no hope of ever getting modern rock radio support. In Frank Carter, the band have a frontman molded from the same stylistic DNA as greats like Henry Rollins and the Cro-Mags’ John Joseph. Every acidic lyric is shouted with crazed power, leaving the listener to believe that his strained vocal cords might give out at any second. This isn’t just a guy screaming in a vocal booth, it’s an exorcism.

Gallows

On songs like "Black Eyes" and "Leeches," Carter’s vocal lines cut through the guitars like spears, never revealing any melody. The band’s arrangements are to-the-point and leave little room to breathe, which the music could have used at times. Sure, the youthful energy in their performances carries the material well, but some restraint could do their songwriting well in the future. The guitar riffs aren’t anything you haven’t heard before. The loose and revved-up guitar swagger in "Graves," for example, sounds like classic MC5, while the driving stomp of "I Dread the Night" will remind you of Rocket from the Crypt.

Produced by Garth Richardson (L7, Rage Against the Machine), Grey Britain doesn’t sonically stray far from one would come to expect from a modern punk/hardcore album. Carter’s vocals and the guitars are front and center and each chorus booms out of the mix with added crunch and volume for extra measure. The album has a few moments where Gallows open up to their sound to melody and the results are favorable. Softly strummed acoustic guitars provide a delicate backdrop for Carter’s hushed verses on the first half of "The Vulture (Acts I & II)" and it works surprisingly well. The next half of the track opens up to a fast-paced rush of guitars and agonized screaming, but the song’s first few minutes of melody make its impact all the more powerful.

Anyone who expected Gallows to sweeten up their sound in the wake of their signing to Warner Bros. is dead wrong. Put on a song like "London Is the Reason" and tell us if it would fit in between Linkin Park and Green Day’s latest singles. Gallows’ unflinching intent should be commended, but as a few moments on Grey Britain proved, melody could open up their songs to all sorts of compelling possibilities next time out.

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