Gallows - Grey Britain
Record Label: Reprise
Release Date: May 5, 2009
When I first heard Gallows' debut album Orchestra of Wolves, I was immediately hooked on the band. They weren't offering anything completely new, with the album drawing easy comparisons to classic punk bands like Black Flag, but their music possessed an energy and an aesthetic that few other bands could boast. So excited was I about the record, that it was actually the first to spur me into writing about music, resulting in this slightly hyperbolic piece. "World domination" might have been a bit over-the-top, but since its successor is released on a major, the album obviously made a splash. Needless to say, I was as excited as anyone to hear what the follow-up would sound like. Fast forward a couple years and here I am, several username changes later, to weigh in on their sophomore effort.
When approaching an album like this, it's easy to get into the expectations game, and I'm as guilty as anyone of often allowing my hopes for an album prevent me from accepting it for what it is. As a result, my initial feeling toward Grey Britain was disappointment. Vocalist Frank Carter sounds as crazed as ever and the band still play as fast and as loud as before (and perhaps louder than before), but those looking for that quality that made Orchestra of Wolves stand out from the pack will come up empty handed. This time out, Gallows sound less hardcore punk and more hard rock -- in other words, they turned down the Black Flag vibe and turned up the Every Time I Die. It probably shouldn't be surprising that the band cleaned up their sound a little and added some metal riffs for their major label debut, but I still don't quite get the logic -- it's not like the record is going to be any more commercially viable. Perhaps they simply didn't want to remake Wolves, much to the dismay of punk purists. Regardless, had any other band released this album, I'd say it ruled, so expectations aside, Grey Britain is a solid release, and I'm not just saying that because Frank Carter could beat my ass down.
Given the band's prior work as well as the title of the new album, you'd at least be safe to assume that Grey Britain is not going to be a cheerful affair. The creepy string opening of "The Riverbank" sets the tone for a decidedly dark album, and could easily be part of a horror movie score. The strings build to a climax, signaling the impending doom that arrives in the form of crushing guitars. When the track resolves with Carter screaming, "God helps us all, we are ready to die!" even if you aren't just yet, he's at least got you following along. Now that he's got your attention, he uses rats during the plague era as a metaphor in "London Is the Reason" to make the statement, "We have no fear. We have no pity. We hate you. We hate this city." Simply from the album's title, you'd gather that Carter is not entirely pleased with the state of affairs in his native Britain, and it becomes all the more apparent in the album's lyrics. One source of his ire is apparently religion as he declares, "I don't drink the wine, and I can't stomach the lies," on "Leeches." "I'm burning all your churches down."
It seems no one is safe from Carter's rage, especially whoever the subject of "Black Eyes" is. "I know where you live," he screams -- which would be enough to get me to run and hide, and definitely consider moving. We already know he's into starting shit on fire. He's not acting alone either, as evidenced by the gang shouts on "I Dread the Night." Carter and his army are a force to be reckoned with, to the point of being responsible for the apocalypse on "Death Voices": "Dig up your casket. Fill it with stones. This is the end of the world and we're bringing it home." Just when you thought there might be no end to the assault, "Death Voices" ends with a minute-long eerie piano piece, which transitions into the acoustic opening of "The Vulture," a song in two parts, which gives us our first listen to Carter actually singing (for a bit), before pulling a Jekyll-and-Hyde act and returning to his typical pissed-off form.
"The Great Forgiver" is perhaps the heaviest track on the album, and on it, Carter is once again characteristically defiant against religious convention, painting the picture of arriving at the pearly gates and essentially telling St. Peter, "thanks, but no thanks." Death is a recurring image on the album and continues right through to its end, with "Graves" and "Misery," on which Carter wants to kill himself "just for relief." "Crucifucks," serves as the perfect summary for the album, as he lays out the ills of Britain in brutal and fearlessly candid fashion. Yes, these lyrical portrayals have shock value, but that's not their only purpose -- they also provide something to rally around. Carter repeatedly implores "Who's with me?!" and in the end, isn't that what punk's always been about?
As the album draws to a close, I can definitely understand anyone who turns up a little disappointed with this album. It's certainly a departure from the band's debut, but in actuality, it's more diverse musically, exploring a more metal-edged side as well as incorporating haunting orchestral segues, and without question, it retains all of the attitude that made Orchestra of Wolves so electrifying. Grey Britain is Gallows' unflinchingly defiant call-to-arms. The question is: are you with them or not?
This album right here is the bees knees. Original was good but this is straight up rebellious punk that everyone can relate to in the post bush america(not that obama is any better). If anything Gallows is more punk now than ever.
"we brought this on ourselves, when we could have been the change."