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Grey Britain Stephen Burkett , May 13th, 2009 10:10

We're all fucked, the country's fucked, everything's fucked, politicians are fucked; fucking hell, the church is a bit fucking shit, isn't it? And, like some orgiastic display of self-fuckery, we've only fucking gone and fucked up an entire social generation of kids by feeding them fucking booze and letting them fucking fight and fucking fuck, haven't we?

Welcome to Grey Britain, the curiously reactionary vision of how Gallows see our green and pleasant land. Whether or not five guys who've been trotting all over the world for the last two years almost non-stop are best placed to conduct a state of the union is moot; the Watford mob always prided themselves on getting right to the black little kernel of truth at the heart of a particular situation – Orchestra Of Wolves was full of dark vignettes that, even though the rollicking hardcore they were allied to wasn't exactly groundbreaking (except when they sounded like Botch, which is always welcome in this day and age), made a hell of a lot of people think twice about the words they were screaming in Frank Carter's face when he leapt offstage and got in their faces.

At least that was always the plan – while their debut talked of the guttural horror of living in Hemel Hempstead, now the focus has been expanded to take in the entire nation. Modern life is rubbish, apparently, but the main problem with Grey Britain is that it simply isn't nasty enough. Sure, Frank's vocals are as much of a shredded howl as ever, but the punk rock 'n' roll of 'London Is The Reason' and 'Queensberry Rules' hasn't got the caustic punch to match up to his screams. Gallows' debut arguably worked on such a grand scale because it brought hardcore to the masses without watering it down; 'Death Voices' adds nothing to the template whatsoever and plods where it should slam – you'd think a song invoking the four horsemen of the apocalypse would sound like the purest hymn to hell this side of guitarist Lags Barnard's nightmares, but instead it feels strangely restrained.

The flashes of viciousness contained within the acid burn of 'Leeches', the cut-up 10-fingered riffery and gut-shot guitars sound, well, fucking hideous. They're raw and screwed up, with the bass tones bleeding into the battery of percussion that feels like you're sheltering underground while friendly bombs rain incessantly a few metres above – and that's exactly what the rest of the record should sound like. And 'The Riverbed' too has a furious lack of restraint to it, Frank bellowing “Let it rain on me” over and over in what sounds like the anguish of a guy who really, really, really fucking hates being dry.

The atonal delivery of Biffy Clyro's Simon Neil on 'Graves' slice like a chainsaw through an otherwise unspectacular song – simply having a different sound to cling to rather than the relentlessly punishing monotone guitars works wonders, confirmed by the shock-tactics of 'The Vulture (Acts I & II)'. I say shock, what I really mean is an acoustic guitar – calling this Gallows' 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)' moment isn't strictly accurate as rather than soundtracking a thousand cancer patients dying on a million shit US TV shows it thuds into a beatdown that could make Scott Kelly's fillings shake. Well, not quite, but the simple texturing that comes with the change of pace is startling. Plus, Frank can actually sing, and the menace he carries in his voice is impressive in its unsettling caged anger.

No noble failure this, more of a slightly missed opportunity. Grey Britain is enough of a blast to remind people why Gallows are important to so many, but not quite the focused wrench it could have been. At the very least it shows they're a band who'll be around for a while, and that's as much as anyone could have realistically hoped for.