Review Summary: British hardcore's state of the union address.“Britain is fucked. Grey Britain is all about what's going on socially, politically and economically in the UK and how it affects us.”
When Frank Carter speaks, screams and sings, he doesn’t bullshit
. With his band, Gallows, the heavily tattooed geezer has spent the past few years in a spin of magazine hype, critical acclaim and blistering live performances (sometimes with all but the drummer ending up in the crowd). Their debut, 2006’s Orchestra of Wolves
, may have placed the band’s foot in the door of international hardcore, but it’s now time for the band’s sophomore, Grey Britain
, to kick the door down and trash everything in sight. This is no second album slump by any stretch of the imagination. Grey Britain
takes every positive attribute one associates with Gallows as a band, broadens its horizons and establishes a full progression upon it – literally to the point that it’s scary.
If the above quote hasn’t entirely assisted you in grasping Grey Britain
’s concept, you’ll be swiftly be pointed in the right direction the second Carter cracks open his lips and commences his tirade. “We have no fear! We have no pity! We hate you! We hate this city!”, he sneers cynically on “London is the Reason”, before chanting those very words in gang vocals. The lyrics continue in a similarly anarchic tone throughout the record, centralising around the demise of the world around us (in particular, the band’s native U.K.). “We are the rats and we run this town”, explains Carter in “London…”s opening lyrics, before commanding “If the horses don’t drink, drown them in the water” on “The Vulture (Acts I & II)” and “Drag your crosses through the ground!” on “Death Voices” (which itself alludes to the coming of the Four Horsemen). The role that Frank’s lyrics plays in Grey Britain
appears to be one of a ringleader, calling to arms anyone who is revolted by the way things are. One could even argue that Grey Britain
stands as the first aggressively political record of the post-Bush era. There’s certainly enough lyrically to support such a statement.
The rest of the band sound just as merciless and volatile through their instruments, without resorting entirely to down-tuned chugging, or even lapsing into the generic “aggressive white boy” guitar and drums attack that plagues so much hardcore that strives for legitimacy. Everything from the duelling guitar licks of Steph Carter and Lags Barnard to Lee Barratt’s tight, militant drumming emphasises the lyrical convictions and statements. Take the chameleonic shift from Act I to Act II of “The Vulture” as a prime example. The former introduces itself with echoing acoustic guitar and Frank quietly (and – shockingly enough – very capably) singing the disturbing lyrics. The latter completely transforms into a chaotic, distorted thrash, with the vocals becoming tortured, desperate screams. The lyrics remain the same in both acts, but the emotions conveyed could not vary any further.
Whilst the band is as solid as ever, it’s the little musical differences in comparison to Orchestra of Wolves
that boosts the record’s soundscape. From the sinister intro of “The Riverbank” to the sweeping outro of “Crucif*cks”, the album’s underbelly is spattered with subtle, haunting orchestration, piano-led interludes and sounds that could have been taken from any London backstreet (siren wails, pig squeals, muted screams etc) that add to the album’s bleakness in a daringly theatrical fashion. It may not seem noteworthy, but in the context of Grey Britain
it amalgamates the sound of the album with its daunting themes and concept.
Gallows, as a band, have become less raw (which some may see as a drawback), but have become far more cohesive and focused in the process- which is, really, difficult to see as anything but beneficial. The quintet has established a persona that doesn’t give a shit
about you, your government or NME’s cool list. This is an apocalyptic, relentless and uncompromising portrayal of where we stand in the world, and just what's gone wrong. No gimmicks, no transparency, no Obama coattails- just straight up hardcore punk with a new sense of purpose.
It’s time to for us to take a stand
We are dying on our knees in this great broken land
And all the martyrs, they have to fix themselves
And death ain’t a sin when you’re living in Hell
There ain’t no glory and there ain’t no hope
We will hang ourselves- just show us the rope
There ain’t no scapegoats left to blame
We brought this on ourselves, and we’re gonna bring the change
Grey Britain is fucking dead.
So cut our throats! End our lives!
Let’s fucking start again!