Hanging but not Dead
When a band like Gallows experiences a major lineup change due to “differences in the direction of the band,” there’s a certain amount of skepticism. The British quintet was already well-known for hardcore punk simplicity with death metal-style vocals, led by Frank Carter. Carter left in July of 2011, and a month later former Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil took his spot. The band recorded a new album, and as if to signify a new beginning, titled it Gallows. But how different is it than previous works?
The answer is: subtle, not staggering. MacNeil’s scream is close enough to Carter’s that he should be able to perform the older material on stage with no loss of quality. He also carries the melodic edge, a feat that’s difficult at the volume at which he lets loose, but a quality that defines Gallows’ sound. The album begins deceptively, with a spoken incantation over quieter drumming, but once it gets past that and into the louder parts of “Victim Culture,” it rarely looks back. The “oi”-style backing vocals, when paired with the elements like the heavy bass intro of “Last June” or the offbeat pre-chorus of “Vapid Adolescent Blues,” give the band a distinctive sound. None of this, though, represents a deep departure for the band.
Which does not mean Gallows is disappointing. Each song has a hook, and many have strong melodies and creative and often surprising elements such as the calm-yet-urgent bridge in “Odessa.” The simple buildup in “Outsider Art” makes the riff in the middle feel more complex than it is. At times, such juxtapositions feel unnecessary, but at the same time, they do well in setting Gallows apart from their hardcore punk and death metal counterparts—with a bend towards the punk side.