It’s cringey when doubters of Gallows’ later output say “I only like the first two albums, the stuff with Frank, it’s more punk!” What they’re basically saying is “I only like Gallows with a Watford accent”. It’s a ridiculous statement really because their Death Is Birth EP is drowned in old hardcore punk influences, and ‘Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead)’ is a tribute to the likes of Joe Strummer. Nevertheless, their fourth album Desolation Sounds does the most punk rock thing possible… it doesn’t give a shit.
Desolation Sounds is a record that’s gonna take you through a lot of different sounds, and all of them are unapologetically pushing the boundaries of what Gallows can do. The album opens with a huge old school Slayer sounding riff on ‘Mystic Death’, a song that picks up where their self-titled third album left off – high speed, catchy, but pissed off punk. The opening riffs and drums of second track ‘Desolation Sounds’ feels like it’s going in for another punk banger, but Wade McNeil’s voice is the first hint towards change, going down more like a smooth whisky as opposed to a rough beer. In stark contrast the next track ‘Leviathan Rot’ is Gallows-gone-beatdown, it’s heavy as elephant shit. Seriously, people are gonna lose their minds to it live.
After the chaos we get first single ‘Chains’, and its haunting additional vocals mixed with Wade’s creates a disturbing atmosphere before the huge “DON’T NEED NO VIOLENT SUMMER” kicks in… a build-up and drop even harder than tracks previous Gallows tracks like ‘Cross Of Lorraine’ and ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’. The moody Nirvana-esque guitars then kick off ‘Bonfire Season’, and whilst the chorus is a bit too laid back to match the grunge influence the song also gets a successful build up going.
The second half of this album continues taking you to a different place on every track – some going deeper into areas Gallows have previously explored and some completely new territory, but all exciting and sublimely pulled off. ‘Leather Crown’ is one the strongest in the band’s career so far, with Wade’s furious screams of “God damn the day I was born, God dammit all!”; He goes from one of the greatest vocal performances of his jam-packed career, to one of the most unique on ’93/93′ (which goes very Mike Patton at times). ‘Death Valley Blue’ has a very rocky vibe with what is possibly the first Gallows song you can shake your hips to (you can definitely boogie to ‘Staring At The Rude Bois’).
Speaking of firsts, ‘Cease To Exist’ is the first Gallows track you could consider (for lack of a better term) a ballad, more of a Pixies mixed with The Smiths misery kind of vibe than Michael Bolton though. The huge guitar solo ending only confirms this really – it’s daring, it’s new for Gallows, and it will probably piss old fans off, but that’s exactly what Desolation Sounds aspires to do as an album.
Desolation Sounds doesn’t try to be a punk album, it barely tries to be a Gallows album… it’s a stick of dynamite in your well of expectations. There’s hope in desolation, there’s hope in Gallows.