04 May 2009
by Raziq Rauf
When it comes to hot British bands upon whose shoulders apparently lies the weight of the world, they don’t come much hotter than Gallows. Lauded and damned in equal measure, Grey Britain is the most important record of their career.
A million words have been written, spoken, spat and shat about the Watford punk rockers signing to a major label plus other non-punk-associated endorsements as well as the relative disappointment of their debut, Orchestra Of Wolves compared to their live show. It doesn’t matter. As soon as this record came into existence, none of that mattered.
Punk rock’s all about going against the grain and how better to kick off a brand new record than with the sounds of a cello and gentle swash, presumably against a riverbank. It’s almost two minutes before Frank Carter’s gnarled voice, but what an entrance.
In just over half a minute of sludgy, strident riffs, he manages to namecheck Great Britain, the Queen, the Crown and the Union flag as well as burning down and being buried alive. The tone is well and truly set.
What follows is much more like what you might expect from this rabble: grand calls-to-arms in ‘London Is The Reason’, magnificent Southern-fried riffs to throw down to in ‘Leeches’, near-constant gang vocals in ‘Black Eyes’, a killer vocal line (“We are the new black / We’re as serious as a heart attack”) in ‘I Dread The Night’ and neck-breaking, ska-tinged punk rock in ‘Death Voices’.
But then the last minute of ‘Death Voices’ hits and the outro is a gentle string-laden affair. Call it a respite from the furious five-song-long hardcore onslaught you just endured, but Act I of lead single, ‘The Vultures’ continues with acoustic guitars and clean vocals from Carter. The anticipation they build for the inevitable eruption is incredible. This song is one of the finest six minutes you’ll hear this year.
Those sweet tones Carter teases out might be the most talked about feature but it’s the trademark gang vocals that are the reinforcing attribute of this album. Appearing in all but two of the tracks, they make the band ooze togetherness. Added to the ferociously inclusive ‘The Riverbed’ and the general theme of making this fair land great again, there is unity running through every bitter moment of Grey Britain.
Biffy Clyro frontman, Simon Neil’s cameo during ‘Graves’ is actually quite unnecessary but along with the musical dichotomy of ‘Misery’ – which again entertains those strings before Frank Carter rudely awakens us with a nice, loud, “FUCK!” – it’s another nice surprise to keep you on your toes as the album moves toward its close.
Watch Thrash Hits TV: Gallows talk about Grey Britain
If you’re looking for a mark of progression here, make a comparison of their apparent trademark album finales. The epic, heartfelt title track that closes their blitzkrieg debut descends into faded-out chaos in well under five minutes, while the bitter social diatribe known as ‘Crucifucks’ closes Grey Britain to the sounds of more melancholy string with exactly eight minutes on the clock. With maths, there’s a 68 per cent increase but the power and the overall effect is wholly unquantifiable.
With Grey Britain, the great white hopes of British punk rock have realised every one of their hopes and dreams. With the musicianship now matching the showmanship and a superb, higher level of thought going into the creation of this record, Grey Britain is the record that will inspire a generation. The future, therefore, is in good hands. Welcome back to your new favourite band.
Sound like: The Bronx, Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster, blood red Britain
Top tracks: Misery, Crucifucks, I Dread The Night
Gallows – Grey Britain tracklisting
London Is The Reason
I Dread The Night
The Vulture (Acts I & II)
The Great Forgiver