In 2006 Gallows emerged from seemingly no-where and rejuvenated UK hardcore punk, in turn earning frontman Frank Carter, amongst numerous accolades, the number 1 slot in the not so prestigious NME Cool List. Back with their second offering, there’s no doubt of the high expectations for ‘Grey Britain’ to be one of most important releases of the year.
Before we even talk about the music though, what hits me right from the start is that in contrast to the aptly titled ‘Orchestra of Wolves’, which brimmed with raw brutality and bite, the title of ‘Grey Britain’ feels weak in comparison, like some miserable concept album. After all, in these times of seemingly endless economic recession who wants to be further reminded of such woe? Thankfully with negative preconceptions aside, ‘Grey Britain’, is a very promising affair. Immediately more ambitious and pre-conceived than the debut, opener ‘The Riverbank’ sets an eerie, haunting tone, that remains present throughout; almost stalking the listener. Lead single ‘The Vulture, Part II’, accompanied with part I – which sees Carter take a break from the usual screams to actually sing, is the perfect continuation from previous killer singles ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ and ‘Abandon Ship’. The contrast between parts I & II works really well, with the former’s simplicity making the latter’s impact much greater. Elsewhere ‘London Is The Reason’ and ‘Death Voices’ also showcase single potential, even if they are perhaps the perfect example of Gallows sounding a bit too polished and well produced for their own good. However, polished or not, it’s still unmistakably Gallows. Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil makes a welcome cameo on the otherwise forgettable ‘Graves’, however arguably the biggest talking point comes from the highly controversial sampling of a tortured pig used at the end of ‘Misery‘, that could not have been timed better given the recent emergence of the swine flu epidemic / scare-mongering; accidentally giving the album more relevance than it perhaps deserves.
They may not have reinvented the wheel, and ‘Grey Britain’ is as a consequence not as strong a release as some magazines will have you believe. There are some good ideas here but the execution is somewhat flawed, with Carter struggling to be provocative, but without over-doing it – the closing lines of last track ‘Crucifucks’ offering up such wisdom as “Grey Britain is fucking dead. So cut our throats, end our lives and lets fucking start again”. However, despite its flaws, ‘Grey Britain’, like its predecessor, offers aggressive, yet controlled, blasts of fury directed at contemporary Britain. Whether in time it will be considered in as high regard as ‘Orchestra…’ or as it was intended to be, remains to be seen, but there is not doubt in the present it’s Gallows still at their scathing best.