Anarcho-punk has always been shrouded in a certain ungodliness, but what do you get when a band aims to incarnate such impiety? You get Brooklyn goth-punks Pawns, and their debut LP, The Gallows. out TODAY on Mass Media Records and Nothing But A Nightmare Records. It may have been a minute since you’ve heard a band so deliberately and effectively explore what actual horror sounds like, instrumentally, rhythmically, vocally. The opening drum cadence on “The Cross” calls to mind the war torn imagery of the cover art, and perhaps the military campaigns all too fresh in our memories. It quickly gives way to the dreary beauty of choral guitar, ominous and ever present throughout the record. It’s a haunting, inviting sound, cloaked in the mysterious shadows of melody, like a melancholic wail you trick yourself into hearing when thinking of a lost loved one.
The instruments serve as the unknowable feeling of something lurking around every corner of a Transylvania castle. You’re being toyed with. And then the thunderous bellows of singer Gage Allison’s nightmarish baritone confirm your fear, and you could very well be going insane. “Who said that!?” “Where are those voices coming from!?” You get the idea. Foreboding is the name of the game, and you never have the upper hand. The Title track and its successor, appropriately titled, “Brimstone and Fire,” are like slow and fast renditions of woeful mental breakdowns that lead to an unwilling exorcism. Thank god for the “Interlude,” right? Wrong. Its static reprieve offers nothing but hair-raising, gut-wrenching unease and it hammers home the implacable bleakness of the album’s whole. The military-march drumming returns on the latter half of the record, and it only calls to mind the innumerable white crosses and stars and headstones of cemeteries of foreign wars. The grumbling of bass on “The Snake” and album closer, “The Pyre,” comes as though your stomach has a uvula and they’re flicking it over and over again like a spring-loaded deathtrap. As the world sinks further and further into moral decrepitude, the songs of The Gallows will serve as an eerie soundtrack.