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Album Review: Desolation Sounds by Gallows

UK punks Gallows release their fourth album Desolation Sounds on the 13th April. Named after an expanse of water in frontman Wade MacNeil’s native Canada, you’ll find Desolation Sounds being a different beast from Gallows’ previous work. There’s something darker, heavier yet more accessible running just below the surface.

It is, says Gallows founding member Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard, “the record I’ve dreamt about making. I think the album sounds really fearless,” the guitarist continues. “It’s the sound of a band that’s comfortable with playing music together, rather than trying to fit into a certain scene or zeitgeist or any preconceived notion of what the band should be. We just ignored the outside music world and made an album that felt good in our guts.”

Clocking in at just shy of 36 minutes, you’ll find each track to be a burst of hard hitting and immediate punk. There’s a blistering ferocity to opener ‘Mystic Death’ and air of a more refined and accessible sound to title track ‘Desolation Sounds’ before the raw aggression from previous records reappears on ‘Leviathan Rot’. This time around the aggression is coupled with thunderous riffs and pummelling drums that add a whole new weight to the Gallows sound.

You’d be forgiven for taking time to get used to the new vocals of Wade McNeill and 2012’s self titled Gallows seemed to be a transitional record. On ‘Chains’ you get the feeling that MacNeil’s vocal now sits perfectly alongside the abrasive and aggressive sound. In fact with ‘Chains’ you may just find yourself hearing one of the best hard and heavy punk tracks of 2015.

That feeling of togetherness is further displayed on the superb ‘Bonfire Season’. It takes Gallows to the next level with the band producing a sound that previously may have been beyond their means. It’s immediate and accessible, the guitar riffs are catchy while a delicious bass groove drives throughout the track. MacNeil’s vocal has a versatility that lends itself superbly. That versatility is evident on ‘Leather Crown’, from what was easy on the ear the aggression returns and the screamed vocal lines marry perfectly to the deep and heavy riffs.

Without a shadow of doubt Desolation Sounds is Gallows at their very best. The sound is darker, heavier yet it’s more instantaneous and enjoyable. ‘93/93’ is one of the many album high points; it has a refined aggression and a ferocity that would put many so-called metal bands to shame, yet it is ridiculously infectious. ‘Death Valley Blue’ delivers up more immediate riffs and a groove that you cannot help but fall in love with.

‘Cease To Exist’ takes things down a notch, plodding along at a more relaxed pace. It’s beautiful and fragile. The explosion of the track around the 3 minute mark is glorious. If that wasn’t enough for you, the bass line and crunching riffs of ‘Swan Song’ sucker you in while pummelling the last breaths of life from you.

Desolation Sounds is an essential Gallows album and essential for anybody who likes their punk dark and heavy. It is Gallows at the peak of their career, carving out a sound that should make them the UK’s most prized possession.

AD Rating 9/10.




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