Mallory Knox – White Lies
It’s been a rough ride for Mallory Knox over the past few years. Since Mikey Chapman’s departure as vocalist, they’ve struggled to land on ground as solid with Sam Douglas transitioning from backing vocalist to full-on frontman, not to mention a fan response that’s generally ranged from disappointment to disinterest. It’s not hard to see that side either; Mallory Knox at their best were elevated from the run-of-the-mill Britrock crowd by Chapman’s expressiveness, and Douglas is yet to prove himself in the same vein. That looks set to continue with White Lies unfortunately, especially when this does seem to be a general assimilation into the blank crowd they’d previously distanced themselves from. Sure, the scuzzier, garage-rock guitar tone is a nice touch, particularly for the more roiling sense of progression, but it’s hard not to stack this up against the band’s previous material and be disappointed by how middling it seems, lacking the dramatic peaks that had such flair, and instead feeling comfortable at riding a sound that’s generally fine, but doesn’t exactly stick when it’s this flat. In general, it’s okay, but for a band who’ve been mid-stumble for as long as Mallory Knox have, it’s going to take more than ‘okay’ to make a mark.
Slipknot – Unsainted
It’s no exaggeration to say that every new piece of music that Slipknot release feels like an event, even more so with Unsainted. While many assumed that All Out Life would represent the beginning of a new era for the ever-changing metal machine this band have become, now it would seem it was intended as more of a bookend; here, we have a brand new incarnation of the band, complete with new masks and a whole new album for August. And that’s definitely a good thing, especially when Slipknot have never been the most prolific of bands, to the point where – again – it makes new material feel like an event. But with all that being said, it’s hard not to see Unsainted as very characteristic of a Slipknot single, emphasising both their arena-conquering melodic metal prowess, and their knack for contorting industrial, nu-metal thunder into wild, dark new shapes. Being characteristic isn’t necessarily a negative though, especially when this is a lane that Slipknot have been so remarkably successful in for years now, but for a band who’ve gotten as far as they have with taking chances, this can feel like a retread of chances they’ve already taken and that have already worked for them. It’s certainly good and highlights just why Slipknot are among the best modern metal bands working, but it’s not quite the masterpiece that Slipknot can and have produced in the past.
Broadside – Empty / King Of Nothing
As easy as it is to slot Broadside among a genuinely enormous crop of pop-punk bands whose moment in the sun was muscled away by plain-and-simple overcrowding, they’ve always had a bit more of a likable sparkle that’s given them something of an edge against the competition. You’d hope that would have made for a longer-lasting result, but that hasn’t exactly happened up to now, though their pair of new tracks look to be what’s positioned to thrust them into polished, appealing territory whose appeal is pretty evident, but again, not that pervasive. It’s most prevalent in the sparkling pop-rock of Empty with its glossy ‘80s synths and Ollie Baxxter’s big-hearted hook, followed by the naturally darker foil of King Of Nothing which has always been pushed as the correct counterpoint on releases like this. If that was predictable enough, the lyrics fall into rather generalised pop-punk territory of lovelorn yearning in the former and inner turmoil in the latter, to the point where it’s difficult to isolate the appeal that Broadside once had beyond they’re slightly better at generic, modern pop-punk than at lot of their peers. It’s something, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t count for much.
Grayscale – Painkiller Weather
As much as Grayscale are heralded as being top of the ladder of intelligent, emo-driven pop-punk, that’s often felt like something of an exaggeration. They’ve never been a bad band and Adornment is still an exceptionally strong album, but next to bands like Knuckle Puck or even Seaway, this very earnest, plaintive take on pop-punk isn’t quite as impressive. It certainly feels on-brand that they’re continuing with that thread on Painkiller Weather, taking breezy, mellow pop-punk lushness and pairing it with Collin Walsh’s equable vocals and a generally laidback, sincere vibe that’s always been their bread and butter. And overall, it’s fine, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that more could be done with this, especially by removing the cracking synthetic elements in the production that feel inserted out of obligation over anything creatively fruitful. It’s definitely a case where most criticisms are nitpicks – in terms of melodic and lyrical construction, this is an enormously solid effort – but those nitpicks can add up to a point where Grayscale can lack a bit of crucial panache that’ll see them go much further.
Citizen – Big Mouth
No one could really say they saw new music from Citizen coming already. As You Please might be comfortably over a year old now but it still feels relatively fresh, and Mat Kerekes’ excellent solo album has just been released and is still continuing to pick up steam. It’s nothing to complain about, mind; Citizen seem to be on a reliable streak as far as this sort of tense, grungy emo goes, and Big Mouth feels like an excellent way of taking that in a new direction. This feels like a much more taut, muscular brand of emo that Citizen’s past works with its strutting bassline and punchy, staccato hook, but the darker rumbles beneath the surface show a band with plenty to offer in deeper, more angst-driven material. It helps that Kerekes is given the opportunity to let his louder, more ragged range shine, with the whole thing almost making a transition to straight-up rock at points that genuinely feels like a well with plenty more to mine from it. It’s already poised this next stage of Citizen to be an exciting one, particularly if they continue delivering like this.
Feeder – Youth
Even if Fear Of Flying turned out better than expected, there’s still not really any great hope for a renaissance of sorts of Feeder. As far as Britrock goes, they’re well past their prime, and at this stage, it’s just good to get material from them that doesn’t sound horrendously old and dated. At the very least, they seem to be continuing that with Youth anyway, which picks up a nice pop-rock rollick for the sort of ‘young and in love’ narrative that’s been done to absolute death at this point, but it’s not exactly unlikable here. Part of that is thanks to how unassuming the band are which they use to their advantage, stripping back any pretensions or artifice in a way that allows Grant Nicholas’ more straight-laced vocal delivery to achieve a good deal more than usual. It’s still enormously basic, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong either, and for Feeder, that’s still worth something.
Remo Drive – Around The Sun
Remo Drive have displayed quite a bit to like in the past, whether it’s a good command of melody that’s frequently been their greatest strength, or a solid fusion of indie-rock and emo for perhaps the most convincing impression of early Weezer of any band to try it out. That said, that willingness to like them has rarely crossed over to loving them, and while Around The Sun is a good step in that direction, it’s not quite there just yet. Remo Drive are yet to really explode with this sound, a fact which continues to slightly hold them back, but the jangling, sunny melodies do have a lot sparkle that’s easy to like, and Erik Paulson’s geeky but unassuming vocals have enough softness to highlight the ennui and tiredness that underpins the track. It’s a good fit for them, and one that could see some bigger things come their way if they’re able to build on it, and there’s genuine faith that they’ll be able to; this track alone might just be good, but Remo Drive clearly have the chops to make more from it.
THECITYISOURS – Low
The best way to describe THECITYISOURS up to now has been adequate. They’ve proven themselves as a perfectly competent proposition when hitting metalcore beats, but rarely have they elevated themselves above the banality that that can and often does result in. And one would hope that, with a full-length finally on the horizon, they’d have picked up some new tricks, but as Bare Bones proves, that doesn’t seem to be the case. They’ve barely moved an inch as far as perfectly serviceable but wholeheartedly forgettable metalcore goes, and even with the increased star power that Our Hollow, Our Home’s Connor Hallisey brings, as well as a brief melodic interlude that feels like the most distinct this band have ever been, this is basically nothing. The riffs slam down, the breakdowns hit with reasonable force, and whole thing blends into metalcore mush that really has no excuse to be a go-to tactic anymore.
Words by Luke Nuttall