Friday, January 6, 2012

Gallows Goes For Death Is Birth EP

Everyone I know who listens to the Gallows felt some sting last year when Frank Carter announced he was leaving the hardcore punk band from Watford, England. It's apparent everyone involved was too.

Well, almost everyone. I'm not convinced Carter was surprised. The writing was on the wall as he was already laying the foundation for Pure Love several months earlier. Most assumed it was a side project.

Where there seems to be more to the story is that Carter wanted to move Gallows more mainstream a la Queens Of The Stone Age. And yet, early on, he has often described Pure Love in the same fashion. Knowing this, I can't help but feel sympathy for Wade MacNeil as he steps into some big shoes.

No, Gallows will never be the same without Carter. But from everything I've heard, Gallows wasn't going to be the same with Carter either. And that is why I feel slightly better about the new EP from Gallows, introducing MacNeil as the band's front man.

Death Is Birth is four tracks of screaming hard core punk rock. 

Consisting of some material that Gallows was already working on in the studio, I have to give MacNeil props for being able to step into it at all. Then again, he isn't a slouch. As a long-time member of post-hardcore Alexisonfire and the founder of the punk band Black Lungs, I can't think of a better match.

If anything, the Canadian-born singer-songwriter-guitarist might add more range to the future Gallows repertoire, much more than some people might expect. Even better, if MacNeil had any mainstream dreams burning in his brains a few years ago, I suspect they were drenched with the release of Old Crows/Young Cardinals, which is the album that helped put a nail in the coffin of Alexisonfire.

The same could be said of the rest of the band's feelings about mainstream. Breaking out with Mondo Chaos as the lead into Death Is Birth (shortly after releasing the free :40 screamer True Colours for download), I think Laurent "Lags" Barnard, Steph Carter, Stuart Gili-Ross, Lee Barratt, and their new bandmate made their intent clear. It's hardcore and clearly explicit.

Although the lyrics are thinner than anything from Barnard (the band's principal writer), MacNeil delivers them. Everything else is Gallows material, with an edge that was meant to send a simple enough message — we're not dead and we're not mainstream.

Given the pace of production with Joby Ford as producer (The Bronx), Gallows banged out the EP on the quick. It's the longest eight minutes of thick and fast anger the band's ever released as a standalone.

Across the EP, Mondo Chaos delivers the best intensity despite its lyrical thinness. Death Is Birth is the best track of the the bunch, directly taking the change up to task. True Colours is too short to be anything more than a head-splitting novelty. And Hate! Hate! Hate! unfortunately meanders into standby sameness so you just might skip it.

Transitions can be painful and ugly things, so what?

If death is birth, than this is an ugly one, but not without merit (or I wouldn't bother). I'd give Gallows some more time rather than deciding their fate today. Any album produced in the months ahead might just ground the band, albeit a different one.

Sure, like most people, I was looking forward to reviewing a new Gallows album with Carter this year. Grey Britain was the pinnacle of a darker and harder Gallows, which makes the realization that another one like that is never going to happen all the harder (with or without Carter).

With luck, fans might find they like two bands: Gallows and Pure Love (which is what both bands want). At the moment, I'm moderately convinced Gallows can pull it together. In fact, I have more reservations about Pure Love, especially after the band teased its first track and then pulled it down. So, we'll see on Feb. 14 when Pure Love performs for the fist time.

Death Is Birth By Gallows Hangs On 3.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

A 3.8 is respectable here in that it is a shareable EP. Death Is Birth is not the best hardcore out and certainly doesn't shake the industry. The good news for Gallows is that the EP is continuing to catch interest behind the scenes (people buy it quietly) as the controversial split runs its course. In thinking about Gallows as a new band, they make the cut. I give these guys credit for sticking to their guns.

Death Is Birth by Gallows is available on iTunes. You can also find Death Is Birth on Amazon. Again, Mondo Chaos and the title track are worth consideration. If you want True Colours for its brutality, download it from their website for free.
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