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When looking through interviews with bands that hail from our mother country, they always declare Australia as a “summer paradise” when compared with England. Then again, maybe because England has wrist-slittingly depressing weather, a generally dark demeanour about its population and landscape, and has birthed such crimes as One Direction onto the world, it’s no wonder that their punk and hardcore scene is one of the most vicious and confronting out there.
Since their inception, Gallows have arguably embodied that kind of dark, cathartic viciousness when compared with a lot of their peers. They’ve got the familiar punk rock sound of bands like Alexisonfire and Every Time I Die, with the intensity and abrasive nature of Converge (especially with those riffs, man). They did it all this way back in the day, they did it when lineup changes occurred, and they do it now with their fourth album, ‘Desolation Sounds’.
Ah yes, ‘Desolation Sounds’. It seems like an unfinished sentence describing the album and the band. Such as: ‘Desolation Sounds Like This’, or ‘Desolation Sounds Like Gallows On Crack,’ or ‘Desolation Sounds Like Gallows On More Crack Than Usual’. But each of those would suffice as a pretty accurate description for the bands new exposé into speed (no, not the drug), punk rock, and sonic aggression.
The riff-heavy and groovy cacophonous nature of album opener ‘Mystic Death’ sums up the album’s approach to your ears rather nicely. The brief tambourine, chime-like shaking at the start gives way to (mondo) chaos in a split-second and that’s how this album likes it – a steady, quiet pace at first, that then explodes around you like a musical interpretation of the Vietnam War. The venom and vehement aggression spat from the mouth of singer Wade McNeil on this track is wondrously appropriate for the band’s sound and he has really come into his own since replacing the original crazed red-haired singer, Frank Carter. After that Hellish introduction, the album does not take the easy road, and it’s time you got acquainted with it, intrinsics, quirks and all.
‘Leather Crown’ keep the band’s whirlwind-like energy up, and the band run full steam through your ears with punk beats, thrashy, dissonant guitars, and raw screams. But this isn’t a fast song for the mere sake of it, as it settles down mid-way with guitar feedback and acoustic guitar layering for that much needed peak and null contrast, before it gallops away again. On the other hand, ’93 93’ just smashes its head against your ears in a beatdown-like fashion with reckless abandon.
The title track feels like a softer, but nonetheless sludgier, Cancer Bats and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact the same could be said about ‘Bonfire Season’, which puts the group’s bombastic nature on the back burner for moody atmosphere, haunting singing, and some mid-tempo drumming and riffage for what is a pretty damn good song. This also marks the first time in the album the band starts to take their time with the songs, but in a controlled, exceptional way. Then ‘Chains’ holds you down in a very bleak manner before steamrolling over you with pummelling percussion and throaty, distorted shouts, but by fuck, you’ll love every goddamn second of it. It’s a song that seems to go against the trends of their modern day peers and the call of “sham rock and roll” only amplifies this. ‘Chains‘ is also the first ever Gallows song to feature female vocals, courtesy of the girlfriend of lead songwriter and guitarist, Laurent Bernard, and they should have tried it out sooner as it’s some exceptionally chilling stuff.
Surprisingly, ‘Death Valley Blue’ sets the mood lighting on and gets romantic with its subject matter, or at least, as romantic as Gallows could ever be with a catchy number like this. Wait, Gallows…being catchy? Yeah, you had better believe that shit! In keeping with a more consistent pace than other albums, ‘Cease To Exist’ follows on with a slower, droning and spine-tingling slow burner that is as haunting as it is distorted and tonally caustic. Finally, ‘Swan Song’, a title fitting the end of this record, interweaves between being chaotic punk rock and surprisingly clean rock that just ends with noise, sheer fucking distorted noise, and guess what? It’s just fucking beautiful, like this whole dark, desolate, aggressive sounding album that makes mince meat of your senses.
As of ‘Desolation Sounds’, we are now three releases into the Wade McNeil era of Gallows and it’s still looking really bright, or really grey, whichever sounds best for you and your perception of Gallows. ‘Desolation Sounds’ is at its core, aggressive, confident, brooding, dark, and essential – it’s basically Gallows doing what they do best. Hopefully Wade McNeil’s plans with Alexisonfire (holy shitting fuck, they are back!) and their future won’t hinder the album’s post-release plans too much, which will hopefully include an Australian tour. Someone, make that shit happen…especially as 2015 marks the band’s ten year anniversary.
1. Mystic Death
2. Desolation Sounds
3. Leviathan Rot
5. Bonfire Season
6. Leather Crown
7. 93 93
8. Death Valley Blue
9. Cease To Exist
10. Swan Song