After another member leaves, the Watford punks embrace aggression and dread
The final track on Gallows’ fourth album is titled ‘Swan Song’, and considering the rate at which they’ve been losing members in recent years, you’d be forgiven for misreading that as some sort of omen. Gallows, however, are not the kind of band to go gently into that good night. Logic dictated that the 2011 departure of Frank Carter – the impish, flame-haired frontman whose bilious charisma was the Watford quartet’s defining trait – should’ve spelled the end; instead, they brought in Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil and returned with 2012’s ‘Gallows’, a blistering reaffirmation of intent following their brief, ill-fated major label sojourn. Carter, meanwhile, formed Pure Love and released a baffling stadium-indie record whose capital-P positivity seemed absurdly quixotic in a Britain that was only growing greyer, angrier and more desperate. Pure Love are currently on ‘indefinite hiatus’. Gallows, in one of life’s little ironies, are in rude health.
‘Desolation Sounds’ arrives in the wake of another Carter quitting the band – guitarist Steph, Frank’s brother, who left in 2013 to focus on new project The Ghost Riders In The Sky. Once again, the upheaval only seems to have emboldened them. If ‘Gallows’ was about proving that they’d lost none of their piss and vinegar, ‘Desolation Sounds’ serves as a reminder that there was always more to them than that anyway. The ambitious ‘Leather Crown’ and ‘Chains’, whose eerie choral sections are punctuated by a malevolent piledriver of a chorus, are the work of a band who want to do more than simply measure up to their past.
Elsewhere, ‘Bonfire Season’, with its strangled, swampy guitar riff and lyrics about bodies “hanging from the trees”, draws on the gothic Americana of True Detective (guitarist Laurent Barnard is apparently a big fan), creating an atmosphere of dread. On the caustic ’93/93’ they take it a step further by quoting directly from Aleister Crowley’s school of occult philosophy (“Love is the law! Love under will!”). Lyrically and musically, Gallows are a very different band from the one who made ‘Grey Britain’, and the fact that you can’t imagine them making this album (or its predecessor) with Carter will remain a deal-breaker for some. Who’s to say what might have been for Gallows? All we know is that we haven’t lost our appetite for what’s still to come.
Director: Steve Sears
Record label: Venn
Release date: 13 Apr, 2015