Always an ominous force, Hertfordshire hardcore unit Gallows honor their grim name on Desolation Sounds, their fourth and possibly most brutal record yet. After swapping original vocalist Frank Carter with Canadian Wade MacNeil in 2011, they set out to reaffirm (if not reinvent) themselves with their eponymous third album, effectively launching the second phase of their career. With the business of MacNeil's 2012 album debut out of the way, Gallows seem to be building on the thick, foreboding sound of their new era with Desolation Sounds, whose bleak title refers to a large body of water in Western Canada. Songs like "Mystic Death" and the especially savage "Leviathan Rot" are among the band's heaviest and most relentless tracks to date and the robust wall of low-end sound, courtesy of producer Steve Sears, stands like a brick wall as MacNeil's throat rattles and slams against it. Fortunately, Gallows' growth isn't limited simply to playing louder and harder. Songs like "Bonfire Season" and the punchy title cut offer some of the album's more melodic and accessible moments while still living within the band's hardcore framework. The moody, textural intro to "Chains" features spooky harmonies from guest vocalist Helena Coan before launching into a sludgy, pounding assault that violently alternates between the song's two disparate sections. Elsewhere, the vibed-out dirge "Cease to Exist" falls squarely between the grabby melodic thump of "Death Valley Blues" and the harsh, complex punk of album-closer "Swan Song," with its epic finale which culminates in a wash of feedback creak and mournful acoustic guitar. Gallows are certainly not getting any happier, but they've got torment down to a science.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger