Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: Bridge 9 Records
The Achilles heel of many contemporary hardcore bands is that they fall too easily to monotony; building short, to-the-point songs is often the only way to hold a listener's attention through its entirety. With their latest effort Desolation Sounds, Gallows have crafted a piece that completely circumvents this issue by balancing melody and grit perfectly, engaging the listener and demanding their mental investment from start to finish. There is a substantial shift in tone from their 2012 self-titled LP, on which frontman and former Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil made his debut with the band.
Always an ominous force, Hertfordshire hardcore unit Gallows honor their grim name on Desolation Sounds, their fourth and possibly most brutal record yet. After swapping original vocalist Frank Carter with Canadian Wade MacNeil in 2011, they set out to reaffirm (if not reinvent) themselves with their eponymous third album, effectively launching the second phase of their career. With the business of MacNeil's 2012 album debut out of the way, Gallows seem to be building on the thick, foreboding sound of their new era with Desolation Sounds, whose bleak title refers to a large body of water in Western Canada.
Gallows seem fated to be an ever-changing beast. Since the release of their last album - their self-titled effort which saw former Alexisonfire man Wade MacNeil take the reigns - they’ve bid farewell to another of their founding members, seeing them take on the challenge of becoming a quartet. Yet, if the roar of ‘Desolation Sounds’ is anything to judge by, you’d never guess they were a man down.
In hindsight, Gallows’ brief flirtation with dizzying major label heights - which led to a legendary million pound contract, as well as their heartfelt-but-imperfect ‘fuck the system’ concept album, Grey Britain - embodies the very fate of modern rock music. The big time, and modern guitar music, simply don’t mesh - and since the departure of founding singer, Frank Carter, Gallows have become - let’s face it - a distinctly better band. Carter’s since gone on to form Pure Love, a group that make The Script look almost edgy, so the fact his co-ordinates weren’t in line with the rest of Gallows is now all the clearer.
The final track on Gallows’ fourth album is titled ‘Swan Song’, and considering the rate at which they’ve been losing members in recent years, you’d be forgiven for misreading that as some sort of omen. Gallows, however, are not the kind of band to go gently into that good night. Logic dictated that the 2011 departure of Frank Carter – the impish, flame-haired frontman whose bilious charisma was the Watford quartet’s defining trait – should’ve spelled the end; instead, they brought in Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil and returned with 2012’s ‘Gallows’, a blistering reaffirmation of intent following their brief, ill-fated major label sojourn.
By nature, hardcore isn’t generally very progressive. But Gallows’ fourth full-length finds the band exploring what lurks beyond the darkest corners of the genre. The requisite vitriol is there, but so are moody, mid-tempo songs like “Chains” and the goth-rocker “93/93.” Not every experiment on 'Desolation Sounds' works—and the atmospheric ballad “Cease to Exist” feels admittedly out of place—but for the most part the album successfully rides the line between innovation and self-indulgence.