Review Summary: Canada's Gallows release another solid album of songs to get into fights to.
Subtlety has never been the strong suit of punk music. Punk, in all its forms, is generally about fast tempos, power chords, and three-minute compositions. This is all mighty fine for the casual music fan, but for the more discriminate musical connoisseur, punk rock lacks the depth and variance to attract more than a cursory glance. That being said, Hail Destroyer
, the Cancer Bats
’ sophomore release, isn’t going to change anyone’s minds about the punk/hardcore genre. They yell, they scream, they pummel you with monster riffs and harsh vocals, and then, thirty-five minutes later, they’re gone. However, if you’re willing to accept them as a guilty pleasure, or even better a generally great band, then Hail Destroyer will give you exactly what you want.
isn’t too different from the band’s explosive debut, Birthing The Giant
. It’s still the same guitar driven hardcore/southern rock formula that gave them their start. The biggest evolution made within the band is with vocalist Liam Cormier. On BTG, Liam’s vocals mostly consisted of him either shouting or “speaking aggressively”. Here, he finally breaks out some actual screams, giving the music a bit of variety it definitely could use in spots. His vocals are comparable to a more aggressive/less melodic Tim McIlrath (who makes a somewhat lackluster guest appearance of “Harem of Scorpions”), and there isn’t too much to fault with his performance.
Because this is a mainly riff driven album, the heaviest load falls on guitarist Scott Middleton. Thankfully, he delivers in full with head-banging, chair-flipping, teeth-gnashing riffs worthy of the best mosh pit. He may not be the most technical guitarist you’ve ever seen, but that’s really irrelevant. His greatest strength is knowing what it takes to wring the most out of a song. On “Regret”, he follows the song’s slightly odd progression flawlessly, switching from a classy palm-muted shuffle into a weirdly groovy verse riff, before breaking into a flurry of notes that could very well be considered one of the shrewdest pieces of audience manipulation the band have ever committed to disc.
It’s the album’s brilliant titular track, though, that’s the true antithesis of the Cancer Bat’s motto: be the heaviest band ever. It’s essentially the album’s dead canary, letting you know just what sort of toxic depths will soon follow. Liam’s vocals are sharp and harsh, Scott pummels you the album’s most head-banging riff, bassist Jaye lays down a solid foundation underneath the guitar, and Mike, the band’s drummer, continues to provide passable (but never standout) beats that, at the very least, fit the music well. For those looking for a representation of the band’s heavier elements, “Pray For Darkness” is about as perfect a summation as you’re going to find. It’s a 90-second blaze of pointed metal riffing the never relents or compromises, and is the most concise way to sum up everything that’s awesome about the band.
Despite the band’s unwavering dedication to hardcore, they do add a nice bit of variety to the mix. “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” is a grimy, slow, and deliberate beast of a song that is eerily reminiscent of a slower Mastodon song, and indeed feels like a mammoth slowly lumbering ever on. “Let It Pour” has that almost dance-y feel that could have come straight from the band’s debut, while “Deathsmarch” builds until a gang vocal finale that’s a perfect conclusion to a great song.
Despite all these positive attributes, Hail Destroyer isn’t some sort of godsend hardcore blessing or anything. Most of what’s here can be taken in within one listen, so there’s not the same replay value as there is with more experimental hardcore bands like Converge. Also, eventually the chugging riff patterns get tiring, as they are used throughout the album to varying effectiveness. Then there are songs like “Sorceress” which are too much of a structural mess to properly get a hold on. Make no mistake; this isn’t an album for fans of art-rock.
Still, Hail Destroyer
is ultimately true in its aims. It does exactly what it sets out to do (namely, provoke its listeners to mosh like there’s no tomorrow), and it caters to exactly the audience it wants. Whether you are among those in this desired audience is directly dependant on your musical tastes. For all you children of nothing, this is your song.
Lucifer’s Rocking Chair
Pray For Darkness