Review: “7 Devils” by The Goddamn Gallows
The Goddamn Gallows, underground music’s favorite roots rock heathens and vagabonds, have recently dropped their much anticipated third studio full-length album, 7 Devils, on Farmageddon Records. With sixteen all-new originals, one cover song, a new member in the lineup and two notable guest musicians, 7 Devils is clearly the next phase of sonic evolution for one of today’s more exceptional roots fusion ensembles.
Whether you are a Goddamn Gallows fan or have only recently come across them, you will certainly find plenty to like about 7 Devils, as it has all the essential components of the gang’s sound: Mikey Classic’s electric six string and gruff, throat-searing vocals; Fishgutzzz’ thumpin’ and pluckin’ on the ol’ upright; the tight drumming and other masterful percussive bits by Baby Genius; the vigorous washboard playing and accordion squeezings of Avery; and the banjo and mandolin pickin’ of the one and only Jayke Orvis. Joe Perreze (The Perreze Farm) contributes banjo to most of the album’s songs as a guest musician, and Andy Gibson provides steel guitar to at least one track. Seven artists; seven devils.
7 Devils, agruably The Goddamn Gallows best album to date, possesses the key musical elements that made the band’s two earlier full-length releases great. There is a little from each. In fact, the songs “47 Crosses” and “The End of the World” could have just as easily have been on the band’s second album, the rootsy Ghost of th’ Rails, while “Stew Hogg” and “Sidewalk Slammer” would have fit in well among the other rockabilly street punk tracks on their debut Gutterbilly Blues. In addition to the musical elements that made The Gallows’ earlier sound great, there are a small handful of wholly new and impressive elements that make their current sound that much greater. And the standout songs that were born of these new elements are “Ragz n’ Bones,” “7 Devils,” and “Y’all Motherfuckers Need Jesus.” “Nature of the Beast,” however, a slow acoustic number with only guitar and vocals, and a bit of echoey yodeling, is a first on any Gallows’ release. “Instant Major Felony,” a carnivalesque gypsy folk instumental with accordion and drums as the dominent instrumentation, is also a first. That’s not the only song with such a style incorporated into it, as “Serafino” definitely has a punkgrass and gypsy-core feel to it, while “Malefactor March” has a circus stomp feel. And the cover track, “Waiting Around to Die,” originally a Townes Van Zandt song, is definitely executed in a Gallows sort of way, though with something else that brings a sound akin to that of the great Tom Waits to mind.
So…on 7 Devils the Gallows have managed to retain all the sounds in the phases of their musical evolution, all while experimenting with it all and adding to it — from gutterbilly blues and hobocore and roots rock to dark Americana and gypsy punk and riot country. Almost everything about The Goddamn Gallows is dirty, gritty and wild, and their music certainly isn’t any different. To be sure, the songs on 7 Devils don’t just rock the shack, they shake it down to the moldering timber at its soggy base, all the while making it evident that it’s only a matter of time before they bring the whole fucker down.
Having started out as a trio, The Goddamn Gallows have made a habit of picking up interesting strays here and there, first with Avery in St. Louis, who became their washboard player and accordionist, and more recently with picker Jake Orvis, formerly of .357 String Band, who now contributes mandolin and banjo to their songs. Because of new additions such as the ones they’ve brought on board in recent years, the sound they first forged had to be reforged, as it were, ultimately taking shape as something decidedly fuller and more complex, not to mention more musically brilliant. These boys are definitely a good ways down the road from the filthy squats and crusty punk scene of Michigan, where they met; just as they are now a good ways from the soulless and unforgiving streets of Los Angeles, to which they relocated shortly after, and where the trio officially started the band. Since then they have proved themselves one of the hardest working bands in independent and underground music, with their ceaseless and grueling touring, the ever-increasing quality of their songs, their dedication to the music and to each other, their altogether amazing live performances, and of course their brilliant releases.
Speaking of The Gallows’ releases, there is a 2010 vinyl-only release I failed to mention before. A collaborative sort of split album, this one, between The Goddamn Gallows & Black Eyed Vermillion, with the all too fitting title Swappin’ Spit. In all there are nine songs. Each band chose and reworked a few songs by the other, adding their signature sound to them, at times altering the tempo, adding more instrumentation or taking some away, occasionally switching up the intensity of the vocal delivery. Honestly, it couldn’t have come out better. The Gallows put their spit and sweat and blood all over Vermillion songs like “20-20,” “Jesus in the Waiting Room,” “Helping Hand,” and “Bones to Pick”; and Black Eyed Vermillion put their grubby mits and tobacco vocals to “Born to Lie,” “Pass the Bottle,” “Wanders,” and “Don’t Feed Me.” And at the end of the B Side there is a musical group effort of sorts, in which Baby Genius, Fishgutzzz, Mikey Classic, James Hunnicutt, Avery, Jayke Orvis and Gary Lindsey come together to play a rootsy cover version of Venom’s “In League with Satan.” The Swappin’ Spit release is also on Farmageddon Records.
7 Devils is now available from Farmageddon Records on both compact disc and long player vinyl formats. Of course one can also pick up a copy at one of The Goddamn Gallows’ upcoming shows. And with mad spectacles, sweaty antics, and utterly kickass music, Gallows’ shows are events not to be missed.
Without question, The Goddamn Gallows are at the forefront of the New Roots Order!
Every once in a while there comes along an artist, or a group of artists, whose roots are not lodged in the earthy depths of rural America, nor in the tree-lined back roads, perfectly arranged housing developments and manicured lawns of suburbia. Instead their roots are in the dirty asphalt of the city streets, the litter-strewn vacant lots, the dark alleyways and ramshackle flophouses. They’re in the filthy concrete of the sidewalks and buildings, the rooftops crusted over with years of pigeon shit, the neon glow of countless seedy barrooms, and the mechanical din of the El train passing by overhead. They’re in the rusting crossbars and splintered railroad ties down by the waterfront, the hobo campfires over by the rubble pits and the warehouse districts, the old brickwork of a thousand rowhomes, and the elaborate graffiti murals on the walls and overpasses and signs. They are the young and the doomed, these individuals. They are conscious of the dynamic between sinner and saint, though they have seemingly always belonged to the former. They are also the types of guys who, like brothers of the City Earth, move furtively through the underbelly of America –dedicated to a life of doing wrong the right way, their own way. And those are just a few of the things that point back towards the way these types of individuals come up in the world.