The 4-track hardcore outing has since became a marker of sorts for a band that wanted to remain true to their roots. It also gave them new material to prove themselves in person. Their shows are ferocious, enough so that some people wondered how hard they wanted to be.
Their new album answers any questions straight up as a self-titled restart. While the players are the same, Gallows is a new band. Their new material rubs up against Death Is Birth while making the case that they are anything but dead. There is nothing soft about this album.
Gallows is still a disenfranchised D.I.Y. punk band.
All of it has been a smart choice on their part. They knew that MacNeil could never be Carter. Instead, they made MacNeil the right fit for a Gallows without any frontman resistance. There is no doubt that the band is moving forward now. There will be no retreat.
Victim Culture opens with a 12-line definition of the song title, recited by a guest vocalist. As soon as she is done, Gallows defines itself. They don't care for any familiar victim outs and shout their defiance in a gang chorus: in us, we trust! Then MacNeil picks up the verse, embracing all the bad that finds them.
The song isn't the sharpest on the album. But neither is Outsider Art, which was also released as a video. It's good, but the pent up beginning holds on too long before breaking to the better half.
The video directed by Stuart Birchall was based on the band's vision for a twisted romance. The finished piece, however, feels like something different. The unavoidable collision isn't between mismatched lovers or anything like that. It's between two very different kinds of people who frequent the same scene, with the girl on the vicarious fringe becoming the brutal bruiser by the end of it.
Mostly though, the album plays better in its entirety. Everybody Loves You (When You're Dead) has the feel of real punk fury. Last June adds in the intensity of their earlier work as one of the most physical songs on the album. Vapid Adolescent fuses together beauty, brawn, and bawdiness that will make some blush.
After just these three songs, it's all very clear that Gallows is more cohesive. But it also reveals that MacNeil doesn't offer as much diversity in his vocals as Laurent "Lags" Barnard (guitar, keys), Steph Carter (guitars), Stuart Gili-Ross (bass), and Lee Barratt (drums) do on their instruments.
Why you might expect more from Gallows in the future.
I'm not suggesting MacNeil broaden his range. He sounds his best when ratcheted up on anger, and is only less convincing or even distracting when he moves beyond it. The band covers some of it with more gang vocals. It softens up the growls, roars, and screams with some semblance of harmony.
That makes Gallows is a great album for its unrestrained brutality, its not fully formed in every song. Even in the most musically interesting tracks — Austere, Depravers, Odessa — how the vocals (or lyrics) fit can be hit and miss. Austere is perfect. Depravers is strained. Odessa hits is on and off. The same can be said about the bonus tracks. We Bite fits better than Borstal Breakout.
Gallows Comes Out Swinging At 4.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
The self-titled album is better than the Death Is Birth EP and a harder hitting sound than Carter could have delivered. While there may be rough spots, Gallows is shaping up to be a hardcore band to watch. Who knows? Maybe that means anyone put off by the split will find they will have two bands to like on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Gallows can be picked up on Amazon or you can download the album on iTunes. You have to download the album to pick up the bonus tracks. Given the better of the two (We Bite) is only 71 seconds long, you might think twice. Barnes & Noble carries the CD. The band is currently touring in the United Kingdom before crossing over to the United States in November.