Pressure, stress, and adversity have broken countess bands over the years, but still others thrive when their backs are pinned to the wall. Following the sudden departure of frontman Frank Carter last year, English hardcore troubadours Gallows had a choice: Either move forward and try to build on their steadily growing momentum without their singer, or let Carter’s departure break them.
The band’s 2010 sophomore effort, Grey Britain, had the bullshit-free hardcore band poised for a major breakthrough, so when they decided to soldier on with Alexisonfire guitarist Wade McNeil, no one could fault them for it. But messing with band chemistry is always dicey, especially when the moving part is one as central as the singer.
Thus, expectations for the band’s self-titled third album, their first for Venn Records, were hard to nail down. But while just maintaining the quality of past efforts would’ve qualified Gallows as a success, few could have predicted the new-look band would come out swinging the way they do here.
Gallows doesn’t lose a step from the band’s ferocious hardcore ways, instead making muscular strides forward. Opener “Victim Culture” almost goes so far as to warn listeners what’s to come (“Do you suffer nervous breakdowns?/ Are you frightened for your life?/ Are you often plagued by nightmares?/ Can you sleep through the night?”), and first-time listeners might be thrown by how strongly the record delivers on its threats. The band screams and bludgeons its way through the 11 tracks of Gallows, barely stopping for air.
Each track bleeds into the next with brute, punk rock fury, and tracks like “Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead)”, “Vapid Adolescent Blues”, and “Depravers” lead the way with tar-thick guitars and mash-up drumming working in support of McNeil’s hardcore battle cries. The mood is decidedly pitch-black and sullen, but the record is so rife with propulsive frustration and anger that there’s no room for wallowing.
More than an impressive musical step forward, Gallows does the band one better by showing their true colors. Faced with the option of either cutting their losses or rolling the dice, the band has doled out its most aggressive and turbulent record of their still-budding career, proving that not all bands are suited for the path of least resistance.
Essential Tracks: “Everyone Loves You (When You’re Dead)”, “Depravers”