Monday, December 5, 2011

Album Review: Gallows - Death Is Birth

EP Rating: A-
Who’d have thought it? After losing Frank Carter, their colossal lynchpin and one of hardcore’s finest frontmen, Gallows may – whisper it – have got even better. Former Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil wasn’t exactly an obvious choice of replacement; For one, he’s never fronted a band of Gallows' ferocious ilk before, but perhaps more importantly the irreversible fact that he’s Canadian renders lyrics like “The union jack has bled away/ Its black and white and its fucking grey” a little obsolete. Surprisingly, though, his addition has done little to curb the momentum which they kicked into gear with previous records Orchestra Of Wolves and Grey Britain, and shows that they remain a cut above the rest in the hardcore game.

As far as vocalists go, MacNeil’s screams are a lot more conventional than Carter’s raging bark, and so from that perspective the band has lost a large part of what made them so unique. Thankfully, though, the roots of their past achievements are still firmly planted in this EP’s four tracks, with MacNeil adopting similar vocal patterns to those that his predecessor mastered, as well as performing in front a similar barrage of hard hitting riffage. That’s not to say that the band’s musical approach hasn’t changed at all – there’s no “Vulture” or “Graves” here – as the quintet take a far more direct approach to their songwriting, with none of the tracks reaching the two-and-a-half minute mark.

"True Colours'" 36 seconds of chaos represented a blistering statement of intent upon it’s unveiling back in August, and it loses none of that woah! factor within the context of Death Is Birth. In fact, the other three tracks follow along relatively similar lines, with the closing title track in particular proving arguably their most intense recorded moment since "Orchestra Of Wolves." Indeed MacNeil's voice lends itself perfectly to the more spontaneous outbursts heard here, with the focus being less on sheer anger and more on packing a quick and efficient knockout punch. The new vocalist isn't the only member who excels, though, as the rest of the band also puts in arguably it's strongest shift yet. Guitarists Laurent Barnard and Seph Carter deserve particular praise, with their savage ensemble of riffs showing no signs of drying up and following-up perfectly to their vastly improved performance on Grey Britain.

In fact, the only aspect of this EP which could be said to disappoint is it's lyrics. As alluded to earlier, it wouldn't do to have a Canadian vocalist raging at the state of broken Britain, but generic refrains such as "Hey! Say fuck the world/ I say it's already fucked" are hardly any better and sound shallow by comparison. Of course bands change, but in this particular aspect it's a change for the worse, and you'd hope that it's an issue they'll address in the future. In fairness, though, that's more or less all that you can fault with this effort, such is it's resounding impact. Next year's touted LP will go a long way towards determining whether or not Death Is Birth is merely a false dawn, but on this evidence Gallows are continuing to go from strength to strength, and aren't missing their carrot-topped canon in the slightest.

Official Website


1. Mondo Chaos
2. True Colours
3. Hate! Hate! Hate!
4. Death Is Birth

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