I don’t want to be the contrarian here, but I tend to be when it comes to famed hardcore trope Gallows. Sure, the Frank Carter years were seriously great, but Gallows was suited for something greater and seemed to hint at that during most of Grey Britain. With the addition of former Alexisonfire vocalist Wade MacNeil, and the subsequent release of the band’s third, self-titled effort, it was evident that Gallows was not only still as viable and vital as ever (no matter the vocalist), Gallows was a sign of further greatness to come. With the release of the band’s fourth album, Desolation Sounds, Gallows has not only risen to its suggested peak; it’s showcased how wise the decision to bring in Wade was. Mr. MacNeil’s varied voice is a big part of the appeal of Desolation Sounds, but it’s his personal and poignant lyrics that allow Gallows’ fourth album to be both its best and most dark.
Musically, the ferver and vigor is absolutely still there, but this is Gallows’ most progressive and varied effort yet. Songs like “Mystic Death” and the title track start the album in familiar fashion (imagine Gallows on riff steroids); however, songs begin to tick slightly off-kilter quickly. “Leviathan Rot” sounds like the unholy spawn of Trap Them and a sledgehammer. “Leather Crown” is the negative anthem you need in your life on Mondays. Yet, it’s the most startling deviations that work the best. “Chains” is the type of post-everything song that is haunting and gorgeous, the type of song that will literally put a spell in your brain. “Cease to Exist” is the type of slow-burner that, thankfully, never fully goes off, which makes Wade’s honest lyrics that much more pain-staking.
It’s the album’s ending that is ultimately telling here. The hopefully not prophetic “Swan Song” is equal parts typical and atypical Gallows, with its race-car-with-cut-brakes charging riff and its live-ready chorus. If Desolate Sounds is any indication, despite numerous member changes and mounting pressure, Gallows is as strong as they’ve ever been. Sure, not all of the experiments work, but those are the very rare exception here, not the rule. With Gallows’ second album with Wade at the helm, the band is as bold and (punishingly) beautiful as they’ve ever been, warts and all. (Nicholas Senior)