Once upon a time, Gallows were an entirely different band- complete with a set of brothers by the name of Carter, they released two albums with this line-up, before the departure of their frontman Frank Carter in 2011. They then released one more album- their self-titled effort, with guitarist Steph Carter still in the band. However, in 2013, he too departed and now the UK’s hardcore-punk scene finds its most prominent band venturing out Carter-less for the first time and with a brand new album, Desolation Sounds.
This album is exactly as its name states; it’s desolate, bleak and so incredibly weighted, it’s hard not to imagine Gallows’ world in entirely black and white, encased in a constant, unrelenting fog. First track Mystic Death ensures the album enters on rolling guitars that, could they feel, sound as if they would be bearing the weight of a thousand crosses. Before this thought has a chance to manifest, the vocals make their entrance; sharp and contrasting, the guitars tear away to mirror this.
The title track, Desolation Sounds, is a little more understated. It feels dirtier and scuzzier, although with cleaner vocals. The bridge takes a break from the riotous anger for just a few seconds before plunging back into the angst Gallows mean to go on with. The award for the most ferocious, anarchic song on this record goes to Leviathan Rot- with razor sharp, lashing music providing a bold underline for raw, vehement screams, the track sounds as if it is fuelled by nothing more than hatred and fury.
Chains begins with a spectral female voice; it’s almost dreamlike and most definitely luring to a false sense of security. However, any sense of security, false or otherwise, is wholly unjustified given the circumstances and the dreamlike state quickly turns into a nightmare- the good kind where jarring riffs and rancorous snarls laden with distortion exist.
Bonfire Season is Wade MacNeil’s voice in its gravelliest, most honest state, while Cease To Exist is the mellower track on the album, with the final minute existing to bring the pace back up and remind listeners that Gallows are far from mellow, and that they couldn’t quite let it stand as an entirely chilled track. At the culmination of this album, just as Desolation Sounds is the ideal name, Swan Song is the perfect closer. It’s the epitome of punk in the sense that the guitar layers are all over the place; they’re urgent and racing; jagged but with a chugging bass. Because of this, it’s with a feeling of finality (that isn’t always present on an album) that Desolation Sounds finds its end.
It’s fair to say that Gallows have well and truly been through the mill and come out the other side. Yet, rather than letting this set them back, it’s taken its toll in the way of creativity, allowing for a record to be made that is both heavy and menacing while still maintaining an abundance of musical integrity that both refuses to conform, as well as naturally evolving on from everything this band have done in the past. Guitarist Lags sums up their album in a way that almost makes it sound like it’s all or nothing; ‘Desolation Sounds isn’t a feel good record, it’s an open wound and we’re inviting our fans to either drink the blood or flee for their lives.’
Desolation Sounds is out April 13th via Venn/Play It Again Sam Records