Punk’s not dead – and neither are Gallows.
Alistair Lawrence 2012
First things first: are they the same band? No, of course not. When Frank Carter left Gallows to concentrate on being one half of Pure Love, the Watford punks were relieved of an iconic frontman who, despite his love/hate relationship with the limelight, never lost his own voice and stage moves that a raft of imitators have stolen since.
Wisely, the men he split from regrouped and refocused with Wade MacNeil. The 28-year-old Ontario native, an integral part of Canadian post-hardcore trailblazers Alexisonfire for a decade, arrives as a friend and flecked with the kind of tattoos you don’t acquire without knowing your punk rock. The thought of the two parties pooling their talents is an appetite-whetting one and, despite a year of hard touring, they arguably haven’t truly had a chance to do so until now.
Crucially and brilliantly, MacNeil sounds nothing like his predecessor. That said, he has no problem adjusting to Gallows’ wavelength. Punk bands always sound best when they’re taking on the world, and chief songwriter Laurent Barnard sounds like he’s on a mission to remind everyone of his credentials.
It only takes two songs for the blood-twisting riffs of old to re-emerge on Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead), which is followed by MacNeil spinning a web and a punk rock cliché on its head with Last June, a broadside at the treatment G20 protesters received in Toronto in 2010. The latter’s one of their best songs to date, and one they couldn’t have written without him.
The avoidance of the ‘everything sucks’ polemic that wrote previous LP Grey Britain’s lyrics into an angry, lonely corner on occasion shouldn’t be underreported or underrated. MacNeil never stares into the abyss for too long, preferring to flick it contemptuous glances as he surfs his vocals over the likes of Outsider Art and Depravers, two more of several sinewy, white knuckle thrill rides. Tellingly, nobody ever dared write Gallows off in print and anyone wondering why now has a 32-minute explanation. This is music with a pure heart, a clean conscience and the snap of a steel-spring trap.