On the eighth of July 2011, Frank Carter, one of the break out stars of the underground scene in the last decade decided that he could no longer continue to front Gallows, one of the few great punk bands to have emerged in recent memory. The departure was no shock, Frank had always maintained that his arrangement with gallows was temporary and the direction he pulled the group in was not always the one in which his band mates felt entirely comfortable.
Enter Wade MacNeil, former guitarist of the now defunct Alexisonfire, a post hardcore band from Vancouver whose music worked (mostly) because of the contrasting and at times conflicted influences the band had and their diverse set of musical tastes.
After the raw and cutting edge of “Orchestra of Wolves” the band scaled back the thrash in favour of a greater sense of ambition and depth. “Grey Britain” was a far more visual album encompassing a sense of drama and theatrics to the music, it even went so far as to allude to a time and place making it become almost a concept album with running themes and characters. And now with “Death is Birth” it seems that the remaining members of Gallows are going back to their hardcore punk roots. Which is where Wade comes in.
The first indication of what Wade was bringing to the table was released as a free download earlier last year. “True Colours” was the first taste of what was to come from the newly reignited band. And it didn’t fill me with much hope.
“True Colours” was true to the aggression and uncompromising brutality of the band, in fact its the hardest and heaviest thing they’ve ever released. But in all the extra anger and growling they seemed to lose the very thing that made them rise above the sea of metalcore and punk in which they were formed. They lost their control over the melody.
Usually they displayed such command over all the different aspects that made up each and every one of the songs, but with these solitary 40 seconds, that command seemed to silp though thier fingers. The guitars and vocals no longer seemed in harmony, the transistion between movements seemed abrupt and jarring, in short the whole thing felt rushed. This could be down to the lack of time they’ve had to reharse and bond as a cohesive unit, but when a band starts losing control of their sound it’s incredibly hard to regain it again.
Fortunately the first song of the new single renders most of these doubts unfounded. “Mondo Chaos” opens with a classic Gallows riff and displays their signature chant like vocals and politically charged lyrics. Best of all it shows they haven’t lost their ability to create an awesomely infectious mosh pit groove that gives you no choice but to start jumping around and banging your head regardless of your environment. It was the final breath of relief after four months of holding it in.
There are however some things that still concern me. By delving further into the Hardcore genre than its predecessor, the music gets lost in its trappings. Unlike “Grey Britain”, where each song had an individual introduction and a definitive sense of closure, “Death is Birth” struggles to mark out where one song ends and the next begins.
The tracks have lost there distinction from one another and as a consequence Gallows have lost some of there distinction from other bands. I used to be able to say that Gallows stood out from the crowd, but now I think they might be slipping back into it. Replacing a quintessentially British working class voice with a generic sounding American one doesn’t help either.
We’ll have to wait until the album is released before we can conclusively see if Gallows are going to continue their striking track record or if their new music will fade them into obscurity. The new direction isn’t really intriguing as it just makes them sound like an excellent band playing conventional metal excellently, rather than the unique creature Gallows were before, but with the time they need to hone their new sound, they might just recapture the jagged edge they displayed on Orchestra of Wolves.