Track By Track: Gallows - Desolation Sounds
The band’s Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard runs through their latest release, from front to back.
Next week Gallows release their new album ‘Desolation Sounds’, ahead of a month of festivals and live dates including headline shows in Glasgow, London and Manchester, as well as visits to Leeds, Hatfield and Wolverhampton for Slam Dunk Festival.
Here, guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard runs through each track featured on the release, from the “fuck you” of opener ‘Mystic Death’, the crushing punk of ‘Leviathan Rot’ and the slow and brooding ‘Chains’ to “the catchiest thing [they’ve] ever written”, ‘Death Valley Blue’, the song he’s most proud of, ‘Cease To Exist’, and deathly closer ‘Swan Song’.
The intro to this song features what I consider the best guitar riff in the Gallows catalogue. I can imagine it being used in an old school horror or Bruce Lee style Kung-Fu movie. ‘Mystic Death’ is basally our FUCK YOU attitude distilled into 3 minutes of monstrous noise. We knew this track had to open the album straight away as it encompasses all the trademark elements that have made our music what it is - swagger, menace and energy. We first played ‘Mystic Death’ at Hyde Park last year and I can’t wait for it to become a permanent part of the set in May.
While ‘Mystic Death’ acknowledges the Gallows sound of old, the title track of ‘Desolation Sounds’ allows us to introduce a band in a very different place. Since starting Gallows ten years ago my tastes and desires have developed extremely over time. It’s the same for the rest of the guys in the band. This album would not have happened if it was going to be a case of churning out the same aggressive punk’n’roll we’ve always done and ‘Desolation Sounds’ exemplifies that. The song came together entirely in the studio and has a very stripped back garage punk feel to it. It also allowed Wade to be more expressive vocally. One of the main reasons we asked Wade to join the band was because of his vocal style. The ‘Death Is Birth’ EP and the self-titled album feature Wade at his harshest whereas ‘Desolation Sounds’ allows Wade to unleash his full range.
You may recognise the voice of the girl doing the spoken word intro. She opened the self-titled album on first track ‘Victim Culture’. This is Gallows at its heaviest. Again it’s extremely reflective of where our tastes have gone over the years. If we’re going to write some hardcore punk then it needs to be crushing. The outro riff sounds like the end of the world and we told Steve Sears, our producer, to make the song implode towards the end as it it was falling apart under its own weight, cos it’s fucking heavy, geddit?
Chains was the first track we wrote for the album back in February last year. The female vocals are by my girlfriend Helena Coan, she sings for an amazing band called Dios Mio and just so happened to be in the studio when we were recording. It was a real struggle finding the time for everyone to get together and work on some music. We’re so far apart and extremely busy with other projects it almost makes no sense to book tours. As a result we have so many hurdles to jump before we can even say yes to a show or booking studio time. This song sparked that desire to make an album and also allowed Gallows to step away from the circus that had previously been imposed on us by media. ‘Chains’ is slow and brooding, when people were probably expecting or indeed hoping for something fast and angry. The orchestral beauty to ‘Chains’ is a the perfect introduction to the body of work that is ‘Desolation Sounds’.
Following the release of ‘Chains’ came ‘Bonfire Season’ and suddenly all pre- conceptions of ‘Desolation Sounds’ were immediately shattered. This track became a challenging song for our fans to accept. I’m sure many abandoned ship but while they were drowning in their own youtube comments we discovered recognition from an older audience who understood and fell in love with our mixture of dark post-punk and goth rock. I think bands like the Cure, Bauhaus and Joy Division have always been in our genes but before we’ve been too shy to demonstrate their influence in a direct way. Again, Wade’s gravelly tones allow that element of rage to seep through the music. It’s atmospheric beauty doused in gasoline and we’re holding the matches.
This features a very old riff from the Gallows vaults and in many ways ‘Leather Crown’ combines both sides of the album. It’s extremely fast and aggressive but also breaks down into a soundscape anthemic guitars and powerful shoegaze style delays only to throw the listener back to the lions for the final verse and chorus. I guess while tracks like ‘Chains’ and ‘Bonfire Season’ strike a balance between the light and dark, ‘Leather Crown’ unashamedly cuts between the two mid-song. I remember reading an interview with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins around the time of ‘Siamese Dream’’s release. He mentioned that for every song they would just overlay hundreds of guitars and we went for that idea in this song. Everything opens up for the instrumental section and then falls back into place when the vocals kick back in.
This track actually reminds of early Gallows and I mean REALLY early Gallows. Some of the stuff we were writing in a squat in Slough way before ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’. Wade always said the middle 8, where it breaks down to drums and guitar, would be what they use in TV adverts. I can see his point. This track is punk as fuck and holds no prisoners.
Death Valley Blue
Perhaps the biggest nod to 90s alt rock we’ve ever written. Stu, Lee and I grew up listening to a real mixture of bands living in the British suburbs. Back then it was acceptable to listen to Blur, Soundgarden, Pennywise, Slayer. They all represented our musical interests at the time. Today not much has changed. We listen to bands Biffy Clyro and Nails. It doesn’t matter that they’re extremely different, they both hit different spots. Writing a song like ‘Death Valley Blue’ hit one of those spots. It’s definitely the catchiest thing we’ve ever written but still has that token Gallows discordance.
Cease To Exist
Looking back at everything Gallows has ever recorded I think I will remember ‘Cease To Exist’ most fondly. It’s an extremely emotional song that is beautifully sad. I’m so glad Gallows can make music like this alongside everything else we do. It’s testament to the fact everything we do is sincere and personal. It was a great feeling putting this track together and when I originally pitched the demo I never thought the rest of the guys would back it. When we started working on ‘Cease To Exist’ everyone was so excited that we just focused on the track for an entire day. When we left the studio that night it was pretty much done. As opposed to our usual ferocity we can write heartfelt songs too. Too many bands are more more concerned with how many mosh parts they can fit in a song than writing a song that can touch people no matter their background. I understand that a lot of people want Gallows to be one of those aggro bands 100% of the time but that doesn’t stimulate any of us anymore. I’m more proud of ‘Cease To Exist’ than anything I’ve ever done in my career.
This is from an old demo that was sent around many moons ago. Our drummer Lee kept mentioning it when we were in the studio and apart from a few structural changes it’s pretty much the same as the early recordings. The outro is a reminder that certain death is always round the corner.
Gallows’ new album ‘Desolation Sounds’ will be released on 13th April via Play It Again Sam. Watch the third part of their ‘Desolation Sounds’ documentary below.
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