Words by Yasmine Summan / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe
Mallory Knox have returned from their brief hiatus to shed any doubt or dismay, as they charge through the UK on their self-titled tour of 2018 – joined by JUDAS and Dead! Playing a series of more ‘intimate’ shows, the now four piece band are back on the road for six dates throughout April, ready to rock out until they tear the whole room apart from Brighton to Glasgow.
Tonight is Mama Roux’s turn, as Birmingham hosts the penultimate gig before Mallory Knox close out their tour at the Bodega in Nottingham. JUDAS are first to kick in, and whilst I enjoy their typical indie rock style of stripped down, guitar riffs, and continuous drum set loops – that shifts attention onto the ‘tom toms’, bringing an elevated, pop element to their music – the harmonies are scathed by off-pitch, out of tune rhythms and a lackluster vocal range from lead singer, John Clancy.
The man clearly appears to be trying his hardest, but rather than having his vocals crisply cut through thin air they crunch into the microphone and even become inaudible at times. Although JUDAS maintain a vivacious stage energy throughout their set and gain quite humbling crowd engagement, albeit with sadly off par vocal ranges that somewhat scorn their talents and on occasion left me to painfully cringe.
Bursting through the doors of the mainstream industry to alight the new age of rock and roll, Dead! dominate as the main support act – immediately blowing the roof clean off the Mama Roux’s. Bordering between alternative/punk rock, Dead! omit the typical nonchalant, wild and chaotic personality of 70’s rock in their performance. Whilst screeching guitar riffs burn through every strum of the finger, heavy kick drums create a low thumping rhythm to head bang to – alongside Alex Mountford’s enthralling vocals that cling to every corner of the room.
Dead! strategically play slower verses that intensely build into high energy, fast tempo choruses, with mosh pits opening up left, right and center. Pandering to the crowd with fan favorite songs (as Sam Matlock shreds his guitar solo to ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’ whilst balancing on Louis Matlock’s drum kit, in true rock and roll style) I feel that their set list underwhelms their talents. Their performance tonight is perhaps mellowed out for Mallory Knox’s crowd, but songs like ‘Off White Paint’ and ‘Enemy’ hold an evident absence during the show.
But now it’s time for the headline act, playing one of their first live shows since the departure of vocalist Mike Chapman in February this year. And there’s no messing about from tonight’s crowd, with fans practically diving onto the stage as Mallory Knox kick in with their new single, ‘Black Holes’. Bassist and now vocalist, Sam Douglas, captivates the room as he rushes onto the stage, blaring his gnawing bass riffs with every burning strum. Moving as one body, the room responds and elevates into chaos, as everyone jumps around and seemingly quite literally loses their minds.
Bouncing around the room, Mallory Knox perpetuate boundless stage energy, with guitarist, Joe Savins, leaning into the crowd to sing along with fans. Radiating a humble nature, Douglas and the rest of the band thank everyone for coming out – with the now front man even delving into his personal life, to openly admit he is struggling but the fans are helping him through.
As off the wall moments of insanity among the audience sway through the show, including lots of crowd surfing and mosh pits, the momentum of the set moves like a rollercoaster. And whilst their track list tonight also features fan favorites, including some of their best hits such as ‘Beggars’ and ‘Better Off Without You’, upon reaching the forth song the show mellows out almost too drastically.
The pace set by their lively start takes a seriously low drop as Mallory Knox reach the middle of the set, picking up with a few newer tracks towards the end. But the ball begins to properly (rock and) roll again when they brake through with ‘Wake Up’, sending the Mama Roux’s back into uproar once more. Since the departure of Chapman, Mallory Knox appear to be shedding their 2013 alternative rock cage – one that has arguably overshadowed their sound for years – and are advancing into heavier rock, incorporating lower riffs and fast tempo beats. It does feel that Mallory Knox’s newer singles, ‘Livewire’ and ‘Black Holes’, gain popularity from the audience as they drive the band’s creative direction into new horizons, possibly paving an exciting future for the band’s sound.
It’s clearly been a tough time for Mallory Knox since the recent departure of their long-time vocalist, Mike Chapman. And whilst they power through their performance tonight, I’d argue that the band are still not fully rehearsed or together since this event. Moments of vulnerability, unknowingness, and confusion peak through their performance – as microphone stands fall over mid-song, off-time rhythms weave through their guitars, and Douglas’ voice strains itself to reach the capabilities that Chapman could.
I respectably applaud Mallory Knox for continuing with this tour despite all odds, and there are clear moments were their talents shine through. But perhaps a more sensible response would have been to postpone the tour until the band were fully ready to perform without Chapman. In fact, their unsparing mistakes tonight only emphasise the absence of Chapman, leading some including myself to think ‘would this happen if Mikey were here?’
Reflecting on tonight’s show, Mallory Knox are clearly trying as best as they can to make ends meet; plunging into a year-long hiatus would realistically have only tarnished their popularity and most likely upset fans, so the band have pushed through despite their recent loss – one that has clearly impacted their live performances.
And whilst they may still be finding their footing as a four piece, shreds of their former glory did flutter through their set, especially with Douglas’ heightened confidence when performing new tracks. I feel that with time this band will be back on their feet again.
Mallory Knox @ Mama Roux’s 24.04.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Mallory Knox, visit www.malloryknox.com
Dead! – supporting Mallory Knox @ Mama Roux’s 24.04.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more Dead!, visit www.theinternetisdead.co.uk
JUDAS – supporting Mallory Knox @ Mama Roux’s 24.04.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on JUDAS, visit www.wearejudas.com
For more from Kilimanjaro Live, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.kilimanjarolive.co.uk
For more on Mama Roux’s, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.facebook.com/mamarouxs