What we know: Gallows are expected to deliver big on their first album release proper as part of their (insert the figure you’ve heard) deal with Warner Brothers. Quite simply, ‘Grey Britain’ has to be the dog’s proverbial and the rest o’ the beast an’ all. Too much is at stake for it not to succeed, critically and commercially.
What we didn’t know ‘til now: ‘Grey Britain’ dares to venture where the band’s debut LP of 2006, ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ (released via In At The Deep End prior to a re-issue on WB the following year), didn’t even dream of exploring. The ambition on show, the risk taking in stretching the band’s trademark sound to incorporate strings and acoustic elements… It’s enough to leave one wholly bamboozled first play out. And the whole thing is, in essence, a concept album, and one featuring contributions from members of (absolutely out-there acts) Rolo Tomassi and Biffy Clyro. Things are different. Very Different.
But don’t go assuming they’ve mellowed. That is the last thing you’ll think after hearing ‘Grey Britain’ for the first time. Sure, opener ‘The Riverbank’ is a swerve ball to trump all swerve balls, the gentle lapping of water accompanied by ominous orchestration for well over a minute, a crow calling from afar, bells ringing in the distance – but it’s a scene-setter for an LP that dissects what it means to be British in an age when expressing national pride is so easily mistaken for small-minded xenophobia. In short: Gallows are pissed off, and from the top down everyone’s getting theirs…
“The Queen is dead / and so is the crown”
All bets are off. The order is rearranged. “God help us now / We are ready to die”. And so begins ‘Grey Britain’ in all its snarling, savage glory, ‘London Is The Reason’ ripped into with nary a second’s silence between opener and successor. Here, the band’s hardcore sound battles to the surface with fists flying – “We hate you / We hate this city”. Guitars squeal, vocalist Frank Carter spits guttural couplets with the tones of a man road-hardened after two years promoting the shit out of a rightly respected debut, and most importantly of all the catchiness of ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ presents itself to the fore – while ‘Grey Britain’ is bristling with aggression, tempered though it has to be, never do Gallows forget to match their sonic might with melodies enough to offer newcomers a way into the maelstrom.
But let’s not delve too deep, not yet – the album is not in stores until May 4, giving us plenty of time to digest ‘Grey Britain’ and present a detailed review nearer its release date. Clash needs to spend a few hours more in the company of this multi-faceted LP – right now the acoustic strums of ‘The Vulture (Acts I & II)’ – check that title! We said it was a concept album! – catch us out every time, leaving us vulnerable for the track’s devastating second half. Talk about knock-out blows. And then there’s the closer, ‘Crucifucks’ – be you a fan old or new of Gallows, the way in which the album slides to its final silence is going to leave you tongue-tied, stunned into an impressed silence.
It’s a grand statement, ‘Grey Britain’; a genuinely ‘big’ album that is going to expose this little hardcore band from Watford to the kind of audiences they’ve never before courted. It has to, or else their evident effort, all the spilled blood and sweat, has been for fuck all. Frankly, I can’t see that happening.
What we’ve learned: Gallows haven’t just avoided making ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ part two, but may have raised the bar for hardcore worldwide. Be excited.
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‘Grey Britain’ tracklisting:
‘London Is The Reason’
‘I Dread The Night’
‘The Vultures (Acts I & II)’
‘The Great Forgiver’