Reviews Gallows Orchestra of Wolves (Reissue)


Orchestra of Wolves (Reissue)

The word “fucking” appears on Orchestra of Wolves forty-nine times. Let me break it down for you: there’s thirty-nine “fucking”s on the full-length and ten on the two bonus tracks for a grand total of forty-nine. That’s not including variants such as “fuck”, “fucked”, etc. I counted every time it appears in the lyrics (there’s an extra in one song title that I didn’t include since the line appeared in the lyrics themselves, bringing the tally up to fifty), some of which were line repetitions, but I didn’t listen to see if vocalist Frank Carter repeats any of the lines that were only printed once, so it’s entirely possible that you’ll hear more than fifty “fucking”s on Orchestra of Wolves. (I didn’t notice any extra “fucking”s inserted into their version of “Nervous Breakdown” or on the hidden track, but they could be there.)

While listening to this record (a US reissue, originally released last year with different artwork) and perusing the lyrics I felt them gathering: gradually accumulating “fucking”s, syllable filling and punchy, floating through my headphones like angry bees. I don’t really have a problem with “fucking”s, and have always considered myself a vocal supporter of profanity. I gave myself the task of counting the “fucking”s on Orchestra of Wolves out of the weary skepticism that set in once I heard it a few times. Do we really need another entry in the post-Converge emotional hardcore sweepstakes? Must we have another album’s worth of songs carefully balancing chunky mosh chords against skronky riffage, another lyric sheet full of lovelorn lyrics, all-caps “fucking”s staring up at us like kids in detention?

There’s a reason, and maybe an unconscious one, why there are so many “fucking”s on Orchestra of Wolves: sex and intimacy are the record’s overriding themes. The nasty title track blasts girl-hunting lotharios by speaking in their voice, like a 21st century update of Government Issue’s “Notch to My Crotch.” But the horribly-titled and Ray Bradbury-referencing “Will Someone Please Shoot that Fucking Snake” represents the nadir of the album’s lyrical content, as Carter strays into an almost parodic Jacob Bannon-esque wilderness. Imagery includes rain, guns, snakes (natch), knives, hearts, beatings, bleedings, beds, and words like “blackened” and “engraved”; it’s the familiar lyrical territory of intertwined sex and violence so prominent in canonical Converge, Pig Destroyer, etc. It’s a contrast to records like Witness and The Troubled Stateside, which kept a personal perspective lyrically while injecting a fresh dose of class consciousness, broadening the scope of each record without degenerating into boilerplate punk politicking. Gallows seem to lean in this direction on “Stay Cold”, but ultimately stick to familiar terrain.

Gallows do their best to distinguish themselves from the pack with a battery of exotic techniques. Aside from the customary gnarled single-note runs and stomping, mid-tempo Suicide File-isms, there are the palm-muted chugs, quirky keyboard squiggles, a droning sung vocal or two, some moody minor-key guitar arpeggios, double bass rumbles, some wailing lead guitar, and even the sound of rain pattering on concrete during “Orchestra of Wolves.” Occasionally, these flourishes work: “Will Someone Please Shoot That Fucking Snake” (ugh) boasts a zany, unexpected carnival keyboard line that had me beaming in spite of myself. (An unintentional bit of color comes from Frank Carter’s English brogue peaking through his screamy, fucking-saturated vocals.)

Sadly, many of Gallows’ valiant efforts to set themselves apart fail; the simple fact is that most of the songs on Orchestra of Wolves just aren’t memorable. It’s almost worse that it’s not really a bad record: the breakdowns are satisfyingly bruising, the guitar skronk effectively wonky, octave chords epic enough, etc. And I’d champion an actual band rather than another indie-pop careerist or posturing “noise” “artist” any day of the week. Feeling so underwhelmed by this album makes me feel like a jaded prick; didn’t I once wish there were more bands like this? But Orchestra of Wolves just feels way too familiar, falling far short of the intensity in the best Converge songs and never mustering up the songwriting dexterity of a band like The Bronx (experts at the Black-Flag-with-Drive-Like-Jehu-skronk thing). If you’re into this kind of thing and aren’t as discriminating as me, it’ll probably do the trick. But I can’t help but feel like something’s missing, even with all the “fucking”s.

6.5 / 10Jon
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6.5 / 10

6.5 / 10

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