Recorded in the titular barn on the east coast of Tasmania, The Drones’ third album, Gala Mill, outshines their previous releases, the fantastically titled Wait Long By the River and The Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By, because they have managed to focus their songwriting and weed out their more meandering moments.
Gala Mill is a collection of nine songs that could be effectively characterized as doom ballads – they tend to be long, dark, plodding and obsessed with mortality. Fellow Australian act Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the most obvious reference point for their style; like them, The Drones tend to portray “morbid” topics in an objective light, preferring to tell a story rather than obsess over an idea and run through all of its clich?es, and strive to present them musically in the starkest way possible.
The epic closer, “Sixteen Straws,” which deals with a group of Catholic convicts drawing straws to kill each other to avoid the eternal damnation guaranteed with suicide, lurches along for nine minutes with little more than an acoustic guitar accompaniment, echoing the Dylan classic “Desolation Row.”
The Drones, with Gala Mill, have come close to perfecting the Australian equivalent of old-style American country, which focused on many of the same lyrical themes, without borrowing much from it sonically; instead most of their musical inspiration is drawn from Crazy Horse, The Stooges and Black Sabbath.