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Gallows - Grey Britain (Cover Artwork)

Gallows

Gallows: Grey BritainGrey Britain (2009)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: chrisafichrisafi
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Gallows. Despite all their detractors due to the unnecessary media hype following their debut album, their overconfidence in trying to 'break' the States and being plucked from relative obscurity into a £1million album deal with Warner, despite being a hardcore band, Gallows remain one of Britain's most exciting acts. After touring relentlessly they've built up a fierce fanbase, who have been waiting nervously for their sophomore album, Grey Britain. They wait nervously because Grey Britain is a concept album and an ambitious one at that, looking to portray the social breakdown of the country.

The Union Jack has bled away, it's black and white, and it's fucking grey."
The following lyrics are taken from "Queensberry Rules," one of the best tracks on the album, but on the whole, the concept side of the album is subtle and left to run in the background rather than being overbearing. This is certainly a huge positive as it stops the release descending into the many pitfalls that so many concept albums have succumbed to in recent years and gives the band some room to breathe creatively.

And breathe creatively they have; this is no Orchestra of the Wolves Part II. Overall, the album has a strong `90s hardcore feel to it, with plenty of backing vocals and chanting, aided with some help of the Cancer Bats. Most of the time it works pretty well, although perhaps the formula is slightly overused over the course of the entire album. There's also experimentation with slightly different approaches, tactics and general style, although there is still plenty of classic Gallows frantic thrash hardcore that made them take off in the first place. The band has also utilised the fact that they have signed to Warner by spending their money on an orchestra, a renowned producer in 'GGGarth' Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Rise Against) and other expensive add-ons but the production is good and raw rather than watered down.

After a forgettable intro track, "London Is the Reason" launches the album in true Gallows fashion with a fast tempo and a mixture of hard thrashing guitars and loose snazzy hooks. "Leeches" works to much the same effect before "Black Eyes" offers something a little slower. However, it is one of the more mediocre, middling tracks on the album until a huge, soaring finish which almost threatens to snap itself in half and will certainly work fantastically well live. "I Dread the Night," with its chanting finish, lacks the splashes of quality which run before it as does "Death Voices," with its strange encouragement to the listener to "Go on and fucking kill yourself." However, it benefits from an interesting stripped-down bridge build around a dirty, grimy chant which begins "four nails, four corners, four riders, four horses"' before ripping into another epic finish followed by a mysterious, crackling string-led outro.

This fast start to the album then slows down as "The Vulture Act I" sees everything stripped down to a surprisingly effective long acoustic intro to "Act II," which is essentially the same song given the full Gallows treatment. It is one point amongst many where Gallows try something a bit different and such experimentation is important if they want to really establish themselves as a key player in their genre. Fortunately, most of the time here they manage to pull such attempts off. "The Great Forgiver" and "Graves" go back to a 'classic' Gallows sound, before the latter plunges into a bizarre breakdown bridge led by Simon Neil, the lead singer of Biffy Clyro (inspired by the fact that the producer of Grey Britain worked with the band on their 2007 release, Puzzle). At best, this is an unwanted disruption and at worse, is the poorest moment of the album; it's a bit jarring to switch from Frank Carter's growling and snarling hardcore vocals tinged with a London accent to melodic Scottish harmonies and the attempted soaring, epic finish lands a flat and weak blow.

The already mentioned "Queensberry Rules" follows and is one of the album's best, discussing the topic of teenage knife crime, but the final two tracks, "Misery" and "Crucifucks," are a bit different once more. The first has a long piano/string-led intro before plunging into the song which is slow, heavy and packs a fair punch, with the lyrics revolving around the fact "Misery fucking loves us, and we love her too." "Crucifucks" is unfortunately average and latches strongly onto the concept of 'grey Britain' more than any other track and perhaps suffers, as a result, with a slightly overbearing apocalyptic feel to the whole thing before ending "Great Britain is fucking dead. So cut our throats end our lives and fucking start again." This is then followed with a long, drawn-out, four-plus minute eerie orchestral outro -- it's alright to listen to once or twice, but is generally pointless.

The lyrics aren't a cutting edge social critique of Great Britain; this band isn't about that. Instead, it is seriously angry. It offers no solutions, no arguments -- just unfiltered disdain and disgust. The apocalyptical and suicidal edges which occasionally crop up are perhaps signs of the band even taking it too far; however, this band will always do what they feel like and as a result this release is very exciting. It's raw. It's big. It's brutal. It's different. And although it's far from perfect and almost certainly won't even be the most listenable hardcore full-length of the year, it will be the most important.

 

 
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The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseOperation Ivy - Operation IvyGallows - Orchestra of WolvesThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came from the ShadowsFrank Turner - Love, Ire and SongThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimPropagandhi - Supporting CasteDescendents - Milo Goes To College

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
roosterboy (January 8, 2010)

Where does the hate for this band come from.? This is brutal, intelligent, and absolutely everything that the band have to give. The first time I listened to it I thought FUCK.... and hit play again to see if it wasn't just some catchy hooks played fast that drew me in. Nope, this is brilliant and if every band played with this much conviction, punk would be the most popular music on earth.

dookiemonkey7 (November 28, 2009)

This album doesn't really live up to the bar set by Orchestra of Wolves, but goddam, it is still a fucking great record that will end up next to a Black Flag or Minor Threat album in some punk's record collection

Above (October 14, 2009)

this album is one of the best in 09, buy it and listen to it

PMAtill_ImDOA (August 24, 2009)

sooo
i saw them at warped tour...
and they made fun of some band called brokencyde. i looked em up to see what the fuss is about. holy shit fuck my ears perioded all over.
however, gallows ripped my face off needless to say.

allon (May 16, 2009)

i don't know what you're talking about, i thought the intro track ruled haha. the album's all right though. it's really artsy, but the songs don't stick out to me as much as they did on orchestra of wolves. i still can't understand how this band was good enough to earn a major contract

onegirlarmy (May 15, 2009)

Wait, weren't the Ramones the "American version of punk rock"? or The Stooges, or Richard Hell?

I once met a dude who seriously thought the Ramones were British. I guess those heavy NY accents can get confused with British accents.

chrisafi (May 14, 2009)

This is an important album in my opinion - I'm not overhyping it (read the first sentance). I didn't say it was groundbreaking and revolutionary I said it was important, big difference, if you can't understand that then be quiet.

KevinJamesSuperFan (May 14, 2009)

Also thisband isn't doing anything that The Bronx didn't do 5 years earlier...and countless other bands did before that. How the fuck is that influential or important?

Not saying that they're a bad band by any means, I actually kinda like the first album....but for the love of Christ quit building every band that sounds little bit outside of the mainstream into the next fucking Led Zeppelin.

KevinJamesSuperFan (May 14, 2009)

"The band has also utilised the fact that they have signed to Warner by spending their money on an orchestra"

Why.WHY.Why.WHY

Do bands that get some money always feel he need to add a fucking orchestra? How could that possibly be an improvement for music with this sound?

epoch (May 14, 2009)

This is a really, really great album.
Important? No.
Lasting? Probably.
Revolutionary? No.

But it's great, aggressive punk rock, and that's good enough for me.

DreeeamWeaver (May 13, 2009)

who are the Ramones again?

lookbackandlaugh (May 13, 2009)

Wait, weren't the Ramones the "American version of punk rock"? or The Stooges, or Richard Hell?

damo (May 13, 2009)

i really can't get into this band no matter how hard i try.

very good review pal although i'm not sure who in britain uses the word "sophomore"

GreenVandal (May 13, 2009)

Amazing how worked up people get over the same old shit. This band is okay, but certainly nothing to become dedicated to.

Also, a funny thought: the term hardcore used to basically mean the American version of punk rock. When you said punk, it was British; when you said hardcore, it was American. Now there seems to be a British hardcore band (or at least American bands that want to sound British) coming out every other day. Something about that is amusing to me. I don't mean that in some sort of elitist way either, it is just interesting how the reactionary genre could kind of become the dominant one in the country that is generally credited with the original sounds conception.

thirtyseconds (May 13, 2009)

Not fussed on this band. I should love them, but they don't quite do it for me.

lookbackandlaugh (May 13, 2009)

Really? I guess I just don't know the other bands are British; the only one I can think of is Dirty Money. I've seen a lot more Australian bands get picked up though, which is interesting.

Well, lookbackandlaugh, I agree about it not mattering if they're important or not but they're sure as hell influental.

There's loads of bands in the UK who shouldn't be playing to more than 100 people per night who are now playing to 500-1200 per night and some quite harsh bands are on tour with much, much poppier ones.

Gallows got signed by Epitaph, and Epitaph proceeded to sign 5 other UK bands and some other UK bands signed to american hardcore labels.. Gallows opened those doors. I don't know how they did it *cough* Craig Jennings *cough* but they did it.

lookbackandlaugh (May 13, 2009)

Whether this band is important or not is kind of a strange question to me. I mean, it's been three years since their first album; there aren't bands claiming them as an influence yet, or changing their sound to sound like them. It's not like after "Witness" came out, and everyone was doing MLIW style hardcore. Not everyone, but there was a noticeable upsurge.

ridebikesnothorses (May 13, 2009)

"Great Britain is fucking dead. So cut our throats end our lives and fucking start again."

this is some extreme pessimism!!! i will not listen to this purely cos of that.

maybe one for the non-brits out there

hayman (May 13, 2009)

This album rips. I've heard a shitload of "hardcore" albums and this is right up there. If not, tell me who is because I want to know. Also these guys first album sucked 'cause it sounded like shit, this album is awesome because it is recorded properly. Good times.

conduit (May 13, 2009)

First off this album is pretty good, way better then the last one, this band is really awesome live though, I will give them that, and I do dig the new album but..

"also i wouldn't say they take the whole hopeless kill-yourself pessimism thing "too far" because this band is all about horror and being over-the-top. if they didn't go all the way they wouldn't be considered one of the most important hardcore bands of their time. and, uhm, they are."

No man, not at all. Gallows are good but just because they managed to score a major label deal doesn't make them one of the most important hardcore bands of their time, although, what you mean by "their time" is kind of mindblowing to me in the first place..when did this band drop their first record? 2006 in the UK? Quite a span of time there..three whole years..

mikexdude (May 12, 2009)

I really don't consider them that important, in fact, I can't say I've ever listened to them. And I know hardcore. I have an "x" in my name, sucka.

gotsmuch (May 12, 2009)

also i wouldn't say they take the whole hopeless kill-yourself pessimism thing "too far" because this band is all about horror and being over-the-top. if they didn't go all the way they wouldn't be considered one of the most important hardcore bands of their time. and, uhm, they are.

gotsmuch (May 12, 2009)

i generally agree with this review, except i'd put on the more "listenable" end of the spectrum instead of the "important" end, i.e. i don't feel like listening to this album the whole way through is a chore the way chrisafi does. score is for grey britain.

The last GOAT record ripped. The new one...doesn't. In fact, the only thing it accomplished was making me realize how awesome the old one is.

chrisafi (May 12, 2009)

Yeah he did that with a broken rib cos he's crazy.

I haven't got the new Hexes record yet but when I do if it hasn't been done i shall. Desperatly waiting for the new Ghost of a Thousand to drop so I can review that. But I might be anticipating it too much and end up dissapointed. But it will probably kick ass

Deadpan (May 12, 2009)

Yeah, I mean, I thought they were boring musically at least before I saw them. I thought they might be a decent live band though, but the live setting didn't really reveal some edge to their music that I was previously missing. They're just an unremarkable band to me, I guess.

The set sucked partly because Frank had a broken rib?.. He crowdsurfed to the soundboard and ran all the way back to the stage..

It's just that playing such a big gig to so many people kinda exposes them like the one trick ponies they truly are.. But yeah, 07 was awesome because it was so weird seeing a "new" british band play so late on that stage.

Chris, are you reviewing the Hexes record?

chrisafi (May 12, 2009)

At Reading last year Frank Carter was playing with a broken rib; and they played some new stuff off this album (i.e. previously unheard) which obviously kills the atmosphere. It was average (I even reviewed that set for punknews that said so to that effect) but for those reasons

If you had seen them at Reading in 2007, or much better - in any medium sized venue in the country you would realise that they are formidable live (although alot of their fans are ****s)

Deadpan (May 12, 2009)

Their live show bored the shit out of me within 5 minutes at Reading last year. I've never understood where the hype came from, to be honest.

chrisafi (May 12, 2009)

The 90's reference should be mid-90's and is simply referring to the large amount of gang vocals throughout not the overall sound - I admit its not as clear as it should be

It's kinda nice that you guys get to avoid all the press Gallows are drumming up with this record. They said something which they then changed because PETA came into the picture, they've posed with British National Party flags and clothes in recent pictures and they've said alot of questionable stuff in hopes of "not being a fucking cartoon band" because they're so "real from the streets".

Piata (May 12, 2009)

I could never get into Orchestra of Wolves and pretty much wrote Gallows off, but Grey Britain has this wonderful duality to it that makes it refreshing.

Perfect example is Misery that starts with a long piano intro before a jarring "FUCK!" and the sound of glass smashing. It's like the took the over-production values of a lot of music, sprinkled it in here and there, and then ripped them out to yell, cuss and hammer their instruments it true hardcore fashion.

Excellent album.

Cos (May 12, 2009)

I wouldn't say this has a 90's hardcore feel at all--aside from the big gang chorus vocals remind me a lot of old Strife records. The sound here is more akin to something like Hot Snakes, but with a massive, Rise Against-esque production. The bass is way too fucking loud for my liking.

For all the hype and ambition surrounding this record, I had hoped for something with lyrics that are a bit more developed--they're pretty damn cliche. "Misery loves us...and we love her too"... maybe Morrissey could get away with sounding smart while singing something so dumb, but not these guys.. But fuck it, its a great hardcore record to sing along with while I bang my hands on the steering wheel to the beat.

Nice review. I'd love to see this band live, but there's no way in hell I'm getting near the Warped Tour.

oldpunkerforever (May 12, 2009)

actually not bad, they get way to much hate on this site.-oldpunker-

Yeah, that 90's hardcore comment needs to be a bit more specified. When it was said about their last record it meant usally meant stuff like Drive Like Jehu because of how frantic they used to be but that's not the case anymore.

Kinda boring record. A few good tunes and some great lyrics, but pretty boring overall. I liked the way they used to incorporate noise rock into the mix but these tunes are pretty straight forward. 3.5/5.

Chadreligion (May 12, 2009)

I really liked the last release, and this should be a promising follow up.
Great live band too.

mikexdude (May 12, 2009)

One question, I haven't heard this... 90s hardcore feel? Not like earth crisis, right?

preston (May 12, 2009)

Hey Gallows, it's pronounced "Great Britain."

chrisafi (May 12, 2009)

PMA - the Gallows live show will not dissapoint, even if it is at Warped.

chrisafi (May 12, 2009)

Vey happy this went up; I just thought it was important that a Brit reviews this album and if mike thinks I did a good job then I must have.

*cue mass criticism*

PMAtill_ImDOA (May 12, 2009)

my only complaint about this record is the poor effort on the cover art. otherwise a really, really solid release. loads of replay value.

and, i am FUCKING STOKED to see them at warped.

mikexdude (May 12, 2009)

Score's for the review. Half a star off cause it won't beat Brian's review.

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