Mallory Knox


Written by: TL on 16/11/2014 12:38:12

It can be argued that the UK is one of the best places in the world to be a rock band, because it seems like there - like few other places - it's completely ordinary for a rock band to be played on the radio and have a commercial viability that isn't far from the big pop names - And naturally then, young bands with big ambitions appear regularly to contend for fame and airplay. Had you asked me two years ago, I would instantly have pointed out Young Guns and You Me At Six as the best names in this game, but with one remaining quiet since then and with the other missing the mark a bit with their album "Cavalier Youth", the window has been open for the Cambridge quintet Mallory Knox to make their comet-like appearance, leaping to an almost instant radio fame and now seeking to extend their popularity with their second album "Asymmetry" arriving only a year and a half after their debut LP "Signals".

It's no secret that Mallory Knox plays a mainstream kind of rock, and if you're a person that (ignorantly) believes that "anyone can write a catchy single" then they're not a band for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy the rare bands that shows frightening consistency at conventional songwriting, then this is your kind of record. Mallory Knox never gets aggressive or heavy enough to scare anyone off yet there's enough power and darkness in the band's sound for them to be decisively "rock" despite their poppy tendencies. When you then add in singer Mikey Chapman's brilliant melodious singing and generally explosive vocal potential, you get a sound that can engage you early in the songs, rather than have you sit around "waiting for catchy bits" - the way some mainstream albums regretably do.

As any album with commercial ambitions, "Asymmetry" is frontloaded with good singles. Opener "Ghost In The Mirror" could be used to teach classes on how to write a radio rock single. Beginning with a signature riff that feels designed to kick off an arena show, the verse soon builds a threatening mood and the chorus gallops ahead and ends with an eerie melody in its last line, only to have a textbook middle eight bring about both a call/response hook and a potent guitar solo. The fellow single "Shout At The Moon" is the kind of song that's almost annoyingly catchy and at tracks two and three, "Getaway" and "Dying To Survive" hold up well too, with the latter in particular delivering a great punch in the chunky bridge where the band really lets it all hang out.

It's almost a shock then, when you get to track five and have to do a double-take, both to check that the band did in fact use a title as hopelessly corny as "Fire" and then to rightfully ask "wait, guys, were you even trying here?" The song simply isn't anywhere near as satisfying in its execution as the preceding songs. "When Are We Waking Up?" is better then, but it's the plus seven minute "She Took Him To The Lake" that's the talk of the album. If you line up all the good singles all the way from the band's "Pilot" EP, over "Signals" and the beginning of "Asymmetry", the feeling you should be sitting with is: "Okay, Mallory Knox can write straight up rock songs, no problem, but for their albums to be great, it would be cool to see their skills put to use on some curveballs that could add contrast and personality" - And "She Took Him To The Lake" seems to be just such an attempt at building something more elaborate and epic. Unfortunately, while the transitions between the song's "acts" are elegant enough, its first two sections have too little going on separately to justify their lengths, and when the song finally culminates and gets good from around 4:30, you are engaged alright, but it's hard not to think that the climax sits disconnected from the intended foundation in the prior bars.

The challenge to writing a song of such extended length obviously is to make the listener feel like everything is connected and there for a reason, but "She Took Him To The Lake" falls short of such cohesion and shows an area where Mallory Knox can still improve considerably. Truthfully though, it's still satisfying to note that the band is at least trying at this, more so than it is to listen to the relatively average material that holds up the last four tracks solidly but no more. As forewarned by "Fire", these compositions, although intricate and elaborate enough, feel a bit like the band was working on auto-pilot. The surprising and the explosive qualities are absent here, and while a good level of musicianship is maintained, you wonder if these are not songs that would have been left out if the band had taken more than the year and a half to write material to choose from.

In the bigger picture, this latter half of the album shows chinks in the consistency of a band that up to now had otherwise brought a thoroughness and integrity to the world of mainstream rock that was well beyond their years, and as such it is perhaps only natural. "Asymmetry" then, is less persistently muscular in terms of songwriting than its elder brother "Signals", and has more material that cynics could write off as filler. Having remarked that though, the half of it that does redeem the band's undeniable potential is as good as you could have hoped, and this handful of proper single-worthy tracks will likely carry Mallory Knox onwards and upwards with ease - Their status as one of the very best British radio rock bands thus still being quite preserved.

Download: Ghost In The Mirror, Dying To Survive, Shout At The Moon
For The Fans Of: Young Guns, You Me At Six, There For Tomorrow

Release date 27.10.2014
Search & Destroy / Epic Records

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