Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pole Vault

GALLOWS POLE – “Revolution” CD ’10 (Karthago, Austria) – If you’ll remember, back in February I talked at great length in Grand Halls 44 about a 1982 release by Austria’s GALLOWS POLE. That slice of metal greatness not only featured a stone-cold 10+ minute classic in it’s title cut, but was a non-stop butt-kicker from start to finish. As also reported (Christ, what am I Wolf Blitzer or something?!), the band is still in motion, having issued 3 records since that were ok but nothing on the level of that immaculate debut. What I also learned not long after posting the piece was that GP had just completed their 5th full-lengther and a copy was winging it’s way to me from across the pond. What would the results be? Let’s find out, as the package has landed….

There’s one thing I like about GALLOWS POLE that has nothing to do with their music. It’s their cover art. While some bands feel the need to tap into the tired, hackneyed, trite (any other words for this, Rick? lol) heavy metal thesaurus and slather their records with either demons or naked women, this Austrian bunch takes a different tack. Now before you get me wrong, let me explain. I’ve got nothing against demons. I mean, hey, I really like Demon from the NWOBHM. Perhaps far more importantly, I’ve got no problem with naked women. The more the better, especially when things like whipped cream are involved. Still, I prefer mine in the bedroom (ok, ok, my wife is reading over my shoulder…I just mean you, babe!) to album covers. No, GALLOWS POLE takes a very minimalistic route. In fact, up until this record, only the “We Wanna Come Home” album featured an actual drawing, the band preferring simple words and maybe a straight line or two (like the cross on “IRWT”). “Revolution” is a bit less reserved, with the image of a rose in the center and a fiery explosion radiating out from it. The point is that even still, the band avoids telling their whole story with the art, instead allowing a bit more of a timeless feel to grace their works.

The real question, of course, is the music and I wondered just how GALLOWS POLE were going to sound in 2010. The same as 1982? The answer is yes and no. And that is a cool thing. “You’re In My Way” opens proceedings and for a scant minute, I think I’m listening to a re-working of J. Geil’s “Centerfold,” with the “Na-na-na-na…” chorus. Thing is, while hard and driving, this is as catchy as hard rock can get without crossing over into an area called pop and you’ll probably have this doing laps in your mind for weeks. Immediately following are “Hell Again” and “Dirty Love,” each taking on a more decidedly AC/DC feel. They both remind me of what a band like Airbourne would be like if they actually had the talent to write riffs that were both hard AND infectious. Through each, main man Alois Martin Binder let’s his lower-mid-ranged pipes work with just enough swagger and ease to indicate the work of a guy who’s been around a long time but still wants to rock. Gotta admit, the opening line of the latter, “Wanna fuck you in the streets” cracks me up every time.

With the initial riff of “Falling Rain,” I’m transported back to the “IRWT” era with the hacking mid-paced riff and dark, sinister lead fills. Binder’s vox carry a threat here that is palpable without ever losing their intense emotion. The outro guitar soloing is vintage GALLOWS POLE: spare and economical but damn effective. “Always” dawns on the ears with a mellow acoustic intro, overlain by some plaintive soloing. As the song-proper comes in at 0:30, this one settles into a slow & doomy atmosphere. The lyrics tell a despair laden tale and again, the lead guitar is used, in many cases, to mirror the vocals and embellish their melodies. Up next is “For Lovers” and I’m lovin’ it. Man, I like the melodies in this one. Again keeping true to the doomy pace of it’s predecessor, this is a really unique song. The combination of the heavy guitars, Binder’s vocals and a melody that has an almost religious-hymnal texture is just excellent, as is the guitar solo that calls to mind a certain Leslie West.

For the final third of it’s 40-some minute length, “Revolution” picks up speed again with some more rawkin’ numbers. “Lonely Heart” has a “No Place To Run”-UFO taste, “Early Days” is like mid-period Rush in bed with The Church and “Baby Come On” marries latter day AC/DC to something I just can’t place but the “Hmmm…hmmm…hmmm” chorus is deceptively simple yet, once again, stuck in my brain.

For quite some time after getting it in the mail, I listened to “Revolution” and it reminded me of something, not so much in sound but in it’s downright basic coolness. Finally I figured it out. The NWOBHM’s very own hallmark band Diamond Head issued an album well into their career entitled “Death & Progress.” While not as raw or brutal as their legendary debut, it had a feel that on the surface didn’t seem especially epic but after a few listens began to reveal itself as something quite impressive. It was a superbly-written, massively catchy hard rock album, charged with a huge, killer production. Had they heard it, both the mechanic down in the garage and the exec in the corner office would both have been hard pressed not to crank it up. Say You Want A Revolution?...Not Always Necessary

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