Grey Britain

Written by: PP on 26/05/2009 17:07:38

"Grey Britain" is Gallows' first release on Warner Bros since signing the much talked about one million pound recording contract with the major label. A whole lot of question marks surrounded the signing, ranging from people in disbelief over Gallows' ability to meet Warner's sales targets to whether or not Gallows would be allowed to be Gallows on their next album. You see part of the band's charm on "Orchestra Of Wolves" was their complete neglect of appropriateness. Songs like "Orchestra Of Wolves" (the "My name is Casanova" song) or "Just Because You Sleep Next To Me Doesn't Mean You're Safe" weren't just offensive, their lyrics included the sort of vulgarity that wouldn't get approved on a major label in a hundred years, let alone be allowed on a public radio/tv station.

So how, if at all, have the band changed for their sophomore album "Grey Britain"? On first impression the band aren't anywhere near as vulgar and offensive as before. Unless some songs passed me by unnoticed, I haven't heard any chauvinism or derogatory lyrics of women on the record, something that can probably be attributed to be a part of the major label recording contract. At the same time the band have become much more serious, but that doesn't mean that the general negativity and bleakness of the band's lyrical universe has disappeared. "Grey Britain" is a namely a concept album about the humongous social, economic and political problems of Britain and how it affects her citizens. I'll give this to the band: the record conveys its bleak concept exceptionally well. From the down-tuned guitars to Carter's desperate screams, everything on the album is one giant metaphor to the current political, economic and social problems in the UK. Like Sputnikmusic nicely put it: this record is "British hardcore's state of the union address."

Strictly instrumentally speaking, the band's base in aggressive hardcore punk is still dominant throughout the album. "Leeches" could've been on "Orchestra Of Wolves", and although the lead single "London Is The Reason" is somewhat different and catchier than previous Gallows output, it still essentially feels like a Gallows song. They play with rattling rage on all songs but they've always been really good at injecting their songs with melody while keeping them strictly in the hardcore punk genre. There are a few more clean vocal parts on the record, but fortunately nowhere near as much as one would've expected from a band that's now on a major label. The band clearly hasn't forgotten where it came from, rather they have improved on the formula by a boatload. Many songs now feature dramatic orchestral intros and interludes in the form of epic orchestration and classical piano passages. That may sound like a train wreck on paper but it adds a lot to the band's otherwise bare and raw expression. Lets take an example: "The Vulture (Acts I & II)" starts off with three minutes of orchestral instruments, an acoustic guitar and Carter wailing (rather well, I may add) cleanly into the microphone, before the band's typical breakneck pace and Carter's familiar gritty yell take over the song.

So based on the above, all's well in the Gallows camp despite their bleak assessment of Britain's matters? Well, "Grey Britain" is a double-edged sword in that while the band's songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds--the songs have much more to offer instrumentally and structure wise--they've also lost some of their original identity and have replaced it with something much bigger. Whether that's good or not is up to the individual listener to judge. But more than that, Gallows' biggest problem is still the same as it was for "Orchestra Of Wolves". As anyone who has seen the band live knows, the band's songs transform from fiery cats to bloodthirsty lions in a live environment, but they're still somewhat unable to translate the explosiveness into a studio environment. As such, many of the songs sound like hardcore punk songs, sure, but they feel a tad bit tame in comparison to the band's live performance, even if the huge recording budget has somewhat improved this aspect. But that isn't such a big problem anyway, and here's why: Remember when Green Day proclaimed "American Idiot" to be a punk rock opera? That's because they hadn't heard "Grey Britain" by Gallows yet.


Download: London Is The Reason, Misery
For the fans of: Cancer Bats, The Ghost Of A Thousand, The Bronx, Give Up The Ghost
Listen: Myspace

Release date 02.05.2009
Warner Bros

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