Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: April 14th, 2015, via Venn Records
Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil returns, for the second time, to preform lead vocals on Gallows fourth record, Desolation Sounds. Guitarist Laurent “Lags” Barnard claims it is “the record I’ve dreamt about making” and is certainly worth praising. Read on to learn more about this classic punk album for a modern time.
The album kicks off, edgy and rough. This is certainly an album for the mosh pit! The opening track, “Mystic Death” serves as a fitting introduction to the next forty-five minutes or so, with its highly distorted, dissonant guitars, its pounding drums and thick guitar chugging, and the heavy screams of MacNeil. The title track offers a very different sound. Dropping most of the distortion for a guitar which sounds distant and echoed and cleaner vocals, “Desolation Sounds” has a spacious atmosphere to it and a riff repeated through the verse, reminiscent of something Tony Iommi would write for Black Sabbath. “Bonfire Season” looks to really change the vibe of Desolation Sounds with a more melodic, rhythmic guitar parts and a rough, raspy, muffled vocal part, and with a slower, more laid back tempo, “Bonfire Season” is definitely a contender for the best song of the album, which explains why it was chosen as the lead single for the record.
Gallows describe Desolation Sounds as what “might just be the most bleakly beautiful, weighty and affecting collection of music you will hear this year”. From the harrowing screams of “Leviathan Riot”, the solemn solitude of “Cease To Exist”, and the hard hitting, explosive waves that are “Leather Crown” and “Death Valley Blue”, Gallows have accurately described their album, and have appropriately titled the album after the emptiness and destruction which defines desolation. The closing track, “Swan Song” demonstrates a level of musical sophistication, with a polymetric pulse pushing and pulling the verse sections, adding a juxtaposing intricacy to the simplicity of a traditional punk beat. This fusion is not uncommon to Gallows, who, although are playing on the characteristics of older punk rock, also employ an array of techniques from metal and modern progressive cannons. “Swan Song”, just like “Bonfire Season”, “Chains” and “Death Valley Blue” are fantastic examples of how Gallows showcases the hectic, busy, and angry energy of punk rock, while also showing emptiness and spaciousness, and solemnness which together creates the desolation, a trait which has been absent from most punk rock since the 1990’s.
By far this is not a unique album, but that is where Gallows strength lies; they are able to capture the tone, sound, and attitude of their heroes of the UK and California punk movements of the past, and perform them with excellence. I cannot think of a recent hard core, old school punk inspired album which was able to do this in a way which gives the style the respect and justice it deserves, ultimately making punk rock of the 1970’s and 80’s sound youthful again. In a world where punk rock is often too pop or metal influenced, Desolation Sounds sits nicely in between the Sex Pistols and Black Flag, but with a modern, progressive edge. Gallows clearly show their obvious influences of both British and American punk, demonstrating not just the energy, but the sonic textures which fuelled through the 1970’s and 80’s underground.
1: Mystic Death
2: Desolation Sounds
3: Leviathan Riot
5: Bonfire Season
6: Leather Crown
8: Death Valley Blue
9: Cease To Exist
10: Swan Song