GALLHAMMER bore me shitless.
Well, not quite...
“Gloomy Lights” at first listen has all the excitement of watching paint dry but as is so often found in music, it's more a case of the artist not presenting you their fare on a plate, in fact it's more a device to have the listener grubbing their snout in the muck to find the aural truffle. So, this album demands a certain amount of involvement from you if you want the best of it.
This re-release drags this album from 2004 and depicts the band as a far uglier beast than they are now, their trade mark primitivism is all the more basic and the nuances found later all the more scarce. The positive to this is the hypnotic effect born of repetition, though it isn't immediate and it takes a while for the transition from the outwardly abrasive to the surreptitiously somnambulant to manifest. Instrumentally, it's a rolling wobbly bass that nudges you nightside, equally, if not more, prominent than the guitar, the precarious pulsing proceeds ponderously in distinctly Punk fashion, the low rumble quivering like a liquorice jelly. It's a right misery guts but in an endearing way, rather than drag you into the depths, you're more likely to offer to buy it a pint and slap it on the back with a view to telling it to pull itself together.
When it comes to the guitar, more facets are presented, dirgelike typically it also picks and prises with a stiletto point, needling away to form a pin-prick tattoo and then at other times it has more definition, forming doomy riffs that languidly stumble along without demonstrating any real purpose. Much of the guitar work harks back to the last age of disillusionment when your scruffy fucking anarcho-punks were saving the world, as such it sounds rough and ready and there's plenty of that sodium skitter that those bands of yore were beginning to introduce. Much of “Gloomy Lights” bimbles along aimlessly but occasionally GALLHAMMER bump proceedings up to a knotted mid pace that loses none of the DIY clumsiness the band excel at.
The almost ritualistic make-up of these songs is further enhanced by the vocals, they vary between grunt chants, feral barks, drawn shrill cries and almost anything in between, what's more they are minimal and infrequent adding a certain shamanic mysticism to them. The drums are also thumped out in languorous fashion but for all that they still have impact in their less-is-more crash and bash. There are moments of abandon, such as on the second bonus track “Lust Satan Death” where the clatter gets a patter on, in fact this song offers the only obvious sign that the trio are enjoying themselves to any great extent.
“Gloomy Lights” is something of a mood album for me, it took a long time to gain any appreciation for it and the mind set I need for it to have effect isn't one I'm in very often. That said, it has its charm and it certainly strokes the synapse of many others who seem to fawn over rather than yawn over what GALLHAMMER offer.
(Online June 31, 2010)