Rewind to the summer of 2010 and Gallows were one of the biggest bands in the world. Sophomore release Grey Britain was met with universal acclaim and their frenetic and dangerous live shows, fuelled by iconic frontman Frank Carter saw them grace tours across the world. Summer 2011 and Frank departs having been persuaded to stay a member for the past twelve months by his brother (and guitarist) Steph, seeing Gallows shrink into the shadows. A band who once graced the covers of magazines worldwide had lost their tortured talisman. What next? Who could possibly fill these shoes?
The announcement of Canadian Wade MacNeil (formerly of Alexisonfire) as the band's new vocalist later that year was met with apprehension from both fans and the media. The band were open and upfront when interviewed, detailing that in order for them to continue developing, they had to try something different and keep challenging themselves. Gallows is the product of this vision, a step into something new and what an absolute triumph it is.
First impressions of anything count for a lot and within minutes, it is clear that this album is powerful... a real statement of intent. Gallows hits hard, very hard. The first half of the record is over in a whirlwind of barely containable anger paired with surprisingly catchy choruses. Lead single Last June, which sounded so special on it release almost finds itself eclipsed by the following tracks, Outsider Art and Vapid Adolescent Blues. While most of the attention will be focussed on the new vocalist, the guitar work of Steph Carter and Laurent 'Lags' Barnard takes the album to another level, passages reminiscent of the darker sides of Orchestra of Wolves and Grey Britain providing the perfect foil for MacNeil's vocal attack.
Odessa provides one of the latter half of the album's highlights, with MacNeil screaming "you can stare at a car crash, but it'll stare right back, the violent labours of love, in the back of a Cadillac" over Steph & Lags' intricate and jarring guitars to create a swirling hardcore punk masterpiece. One thing that stands out is the consistent quality of the entire record, from the eerie spoken word introduction to opening track Victim Culture to the final feedback-filled moments of Cross of Lorraine. This is an album with no filler, eleven songs of barely containable energy and aggression. What the band have produced with Gallows may not have the cockney charm and swagger of previous offerings Orchestra of Wolves and Grey Britain, but its quality is unquestionable.
The production on Gallows is excellent, with old friends Thomas Mitchener and Steve Sears taking responsibility for the aggressive tones heard throughout. This, coupled with the album's release on Venn Records (the band's own label) means that the record can be everything the band wanted, on their own terms. Above all else, Gallows has proven that their evolution as a band is complete. No longer are Gallows overshadowed by Frank Carter's legacy and with this release, they have produced easily one of 2012's best albums. With an extensive UK tour later this year the band are set to reclaim their mantle as one of the most important bands of the 21st century.
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