A Glimmer Of Hope In This Grey Britain
Open the papers, turn on the news or simply step out of your front door and immediately you are hit with the hysteria of a country doomed. Knife crime, economic disaster, racism, rapists and child abusers free to roam the streets; its all there, like a grey cloud clinging to Britain and its something that hasn’t escaped the notice of Gallows. Never ones to shy away from controversy, ‘Grey Britain’, the band’s follow up to 2006’s ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ finds the Watford band addressing the nation, pinpointing what is wrong with the country and ramming it forcefully down our throats in the hope that someone will take notice of what we have become. Part mission statement, part outpouring of emotion, ‘Grey Britain’ is Gallows focused but still as angry as before as they set out to put us all in the witness stand.
Ominously dark from the onset, ‘Grey Britain’ leaves no subject unchallenged as the sense of foreboding radiates throughout the opening of ‘The Riverbed’. With a steady flow of water accompanied by a lone cello, ‘The Riverbed’ isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a Gallows opening track as it creepily beckons, parting only as Frank Carter’s vocals pierce through and a pounding drum beat and throbbing guitar riffs announce the band’s arrival as Carter continues to paint the picture for ‘Grey Britain’, laying down the mission statement as he relays the futile scene we are all stuck in. It may be Gallows at their most composed, but its none the less hard hitting as Carter’s lyrics stab straight to the heart of reality and boldly lay the truth before all. Indeed, this is what ‘Grey Britain’ is all about from the rousing gang vocals of ‘I Dread The Night’ inciting fists to pound the air to Carter’s venting about knife crime in the brutally raw descriptions of ‘Queensberry Rules’ angrily ramming home the image of “… every teen who lost their life hung on the end of a kitchen knife”, ‘Grey Britain’ is here to illustrate just what is wrong, refusing to shy away from any subject. Not to be left untouched, religion also comes under scrutiny with Carter pondering the notion of eternal damnation, or rather the lack of it in ‘The Great Forgiver’, triggering a brain aching dilemma to ensue as you too find yourself struggling in unison with the front man as he cries “if god is the great forgiver then all the scum will be delivered”, ascertaining that “they bury the men but not their sins// they just say a prayer and they take them…” into heaven, stirring up a religious struggle in all.
Gallows have grown and ‘Grey Britain’ is testament to that. Sure, the viscerally unpolished energy that brought them to everyone’s attention is still there with plenty of fire and venom to spill, but this is a band that has built on that, moulding ‘Grey Britain’ into a statement for all to take notice of and no more is that visible than on ‘The Vulture (acts i & ii)’ with Carter and an acoustic guitar taking centre stage as he sings rather than shouts his lyrics, giving a new dimension to the band, that works extremely well. In the end though it is left to ‘Crucifucks’ to lay things to rest as it neatly ties all the threads of ‘Grey Britain’ together. Somehow managing to take an even more direct, condemning route and going right for the jugular, ‘Crucifucks’ brings all the anger of the album to the surface, attacking all those who the band deem to have taken Britain to the cleaners from priests who Carter snarls should have their throat slit, to racists, child abusers, rapists and everyone else deemed “fucking scum” who “march hand in hand while they rape our green and pleasant land” before the front man delivers his final blow; “we are dying on our knees in this grey and broken land” that strangely come across more as a call to arms than a self pitying realisation.
For all the negativity that lyrically seeps out of the Gallows latest offering, there is something refreshing in the fact that ‘Grey Britain’ is not looking to lay blame at anyone else’s door, instead insisting that there are no scapegoats, we’ve done it ourselves. And herein lies the brilliance of ‘Grey Britain’. Yes the country is messed up; yes there’s violence at every turn, the economy is doomed and even the once reassuring notion of salvation in the afterlife is tarnished as heaven is apparently over run by sinners ready to squat on your cloud and scarper with your harp. And whilst ‘Grey Britain’ may bring all these things glaringly into the cold light of the day, it strangely offers a sparkle of hope because whilst there are British bands like Gallows, prepared to shout the reality of the world kicking and screaming down your ear, you can’t help but be proud that somewhere in this grey old land there is a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon. We may be down, but with Carter and co at the helm, we are most definitely not out. This is the rally cry; sit up and take note before it’s too late.