Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Live Review: Gallows, O2 Academy 2, Newcastle, 08/10/2012

It seems cruel to judge anyone against Frank Carter, but for the foreseeable future that's a burden Wade MacNeil is going to have to live with. Furious, confrontational and borderline psychotic, Gallows' founding ginger linchpin was nothing short of a colossus behind the mic, proving instrumental in their ascent which came dangerously near to culminating in a mainstream breakthrough. Unsurprisingly, former Alexisonfire man MacNeil doesn't profit from comparison, but while his replacement of Carter has divided fans you'll find few who've not wished him success. It's a stint which has experienced an adequate start, but although the band's self-titled third LP has garnered mostly positive reviews it's fair to say the jury's still out on the new incarnation, and its frontman in particular.

To their immense credit, the quintet clearly have faith in their recent exploits, as demonstrated by the fact Gallows and preceding EP Death Is Birth accounted for nearly two thirds of tonight's setlist. If their performance proved anything, however, it's that a portion of that faith has been misplaced. Sure, Gallows circa-2012 have their moments; the soaring and anthemic "Outsider Art" for instance was delivered with thrilling conviction, while "True Colours'" fleeting stay saw MacNeil fulfill his potential as an intense, domineering leader. For all their excellence, though, there were also plenty of numbers which represented little else than bland, conventional hardcore, lowering standards and doing nothing to quell the notion they're a band who've lost their edge.

Despite being involved in the creation of those newbies, MacNeil's contributions hardly helped matters. Although formidable in frame, the Canadian possesses barely a fraction of the presence and anger which gave his predecessor such a compelling aura. The reality is he's little more than a standard screamer; one who's perfectly competent in his role yet does little to distinguish himself from the hordes of similar voices doing the rounds. This wasn't so much an issue on recent works, but it did unfortunately raise its head when he was required to tackle some of the established favourites. Opener "Misery" was a prime example, with the singer's throaty rasp sounding woefully flat compared to the searing impactful rage of old. In fairness, such instances could also find the instrumental quartet lacking their usual punch, but there's no doubt their focal point's inability to adapt was the main stumbling block.

Luckily redemption lay at the conclusion with a succession of songs from debut album Orchestra Of Wolves. Whereas MacNeil struggled to impose himself on material from Grey Britain, here he curiously seemed in his element, spitting his words with a purpose and vigour which set the likes of "In The Belly Of A Shark" and "Abandon Ship" alight. Without such a strong home run, the band may even have found themselves usurped at their own show, courtesy of a phenomenal supporting set from Feed The Rhino. Ripping through their catalogue with a ferocity and force scarcely matched by their tour mates, the Kent-based five-piece made a hell of an impression, and were belatedly rewarded for their endeavours with the night's first circle pit. Opening act Brotherhood Of The Lake weren't half bad either, and it says a lot about how good Gallows are (or perhaps, were) that even when wounded they can just about live with such competition.



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