Like ‘em or hate ‘em, Gallows are a band who’ve lived or died on lead singer Frank Carter’s shouty rhetoric. The times I’ve seen them live, Frank held you rapt with the lure of his disturbing but utterly compelling rage.
That they’ve replaced him (with Wade MacNeil from Alexisonfire, who have promptly split up) seems like a strange move. Gallows without Frank seems like a bizarre proposition, like the defining quality of the band has gone up into the ether.
Their guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard more or less admitted this when he said “Frank was a great part of what we are and we didn’t want a copyist.” So why not take new singer and start a whole new band? Then you’d avoid the obvious embarrassment of having to perform Frank-less versions of, say, 'In The Belly Of A Shark'.
For better or worse the singer provides the energy, personality and focal point of a band. Inevitably when a new singer arrives on the scene, everything changes; the look, the sound and the heart of the band.
Yet music history has shown that rock fans are more forgiving than indie ones. AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Faith No More are just three of the bands who've changed their singers and gone on to have successful careers. The ethos can be encapsulated by this quote from Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham who initiated yet another incarnation of Thin Lizzy in 2009. He said, “The point is keep the music going and give people a taste of what we were doing (back in the day)”.
Of course, there's the other side when things take turn for the bizarre.
Take Queen’s album of new material with Paul Rodgers ‘The Cosmos Rocks’, or INXS’ 'Switch' album with Michael Hutchence replacement J.D. Fortune. In both cases they were fair-to-middling approximations of the original model. In hindsight you were left thinking “what’s the point?” as these addition to the band’s catalogue seemed to sully their reputation.
It’ll be interesting to see how Gallows adapt to the changes and how their audience reacts to them. Let’s hope they're the exception to the ‘new singers’ rule.