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Gallows: Grey BritainGrey Britain (2009)
Warner Music Group
Reviewer Rating: 4
Contributed by: chrisafichrisafi
(others by this writer | submit your own)
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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