It is always a danger for any band, particularly a hardcore punk band like Gallows who are founded on the principals of unity and fighting together for a common cause. Yes, that danger is when the singer becomes too big for the band and their very presence stars to overshadow almost everything else. That situation was gradually enveloping around Watford punk band Gallows as their vocalist Frank Carter become ever more the centre of attention. A schism was developing between Carter and the rest of the band which came to a head in July last year with Carter announcing that he was leaving the band to form his own group Pure Love. The statement issued at the time strongly insinuated that that old and very clichéd chestnut of ‘musical differences’ was a prime factor in the split. What is certain though is that both parties seem to have emerged stronger. Gallows first post Carter album featuring his replacement, former Alexisonfire singer Canadian Wade McNeil, is a resounding success. The eponymous title is telling. This record is the mission statement of Gallows mark 2.
Gallows is the sound of the band distilled to its purest and most intense form. Over the course of a brutally efficient 32 minutes, the band channels all their aggression into a collection of urgent and vital rock songs. Wade McNeil is a seamlessly fit, his uncompromising holler is a stark contrast to Carter’s snarl and he adds a sense of careering chaos to the sharp and direct punk of Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead) and Outsider Art.
The album opens with a startling piece of doomy rock. Victim Culture is full of portent and malevolence. It is a hugely exciting opening statement. The racketing tension of the opening moments giving way to a white-hot eruption with McNeil howling lyrics like, “There’s no escape from the vicious circle we embrace.”
As well as a slight change back to a very straight ahead punk sound Gallows have also adapted their lyrical approach. The bands previous album Grey Britain was something of a dour political diatribe. A state of the nation address for a Britain on its last legs. The new Gallows have largely eschewed such political comment in favour of a more personal approach. The politics of the self is more prevalent on the likes of Odessa, which deals in an oblique statement: “End me in the black sea, scatter my ashes in the East”. Most importantly, there is a pleasing absence of the sort of sloganeering that became tiresome on their previous two albums.
There is one track that does have an overtly political theme but it is a track with a global outlook more far reaching than their previous insular British approach. Last June is a visceral beast of a song dealing directly and succinctly with the violent treatment of G20 protestors at a demonstration in Toronto in 2010. “Like the pride before the fall, they can’t arrest us all.”
It is testament to the quality of Gallows that you never once feel as if something is missing. It appears that Carter’s absence has spurred the rest of the band on to up their game and mention must be given to the excellent song writing skills of guitarist Laurent Barnard. Gallows may have been floundering during the last days of Frank Carter’s time with the band but this very impressive comeback is the sound of a band reinvigorated.