The film-buffs among us may recognize the name Mallory Knox as Juliette Lewis’ character in the 1994 Oliver Stone movie Natural Born Killers, however in recent years the mantle has been co-opted by a post-hardcore quintet from Cambridge. Forming in 2009 and to date having released the Pilot EP in 2011 followed by their debut LP Signals in early 2013, they continue with their histrionic, emo-informed rock sound on this month’s latest record Asymmetry.
The thing about Mallory Knox is that they’ve possibly arrived a decade too late to make any real waves with music like this. Not to infer for a second that they aren’t great at what they do; it’s just the context in which Asymmetry falls is one that hasn’t really been thriving in recent years. It seems every other day that the internet is proclaiming the “death of rock” and while we all know that this is nothing but hyperbolic clickbait, it seems like the “rock bands” who rise to the top in 2014 have either been around for decades (Try to imagine a world without Dave Grohl: It’s an unpleasant thought isn’t it) or do something so wildly different that it’s impossible to ignore (I’m looking at you Cage The Elephant and Tame Impala).
Mallory Knox would’ve packed stadiums with gleefully salivating fans in the mid-‘00s heyday of Fall Out Boy or Funeral For a Friend but today, despite its best intentions Asymmetry has a bit of a pre-emptive nostalgia feel to it that just doesn’t quite gel. It isn’t the production – heavyweight producer Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, The Pixies, AFI) does a great job throughout of capturing the band’s energy and translating it to the studio with a competitive, hyper-compressed sheen. Tracks like opener and lead single Ghost In The Mirror and the skittish riffing on Dying To Survive or The Remedy each tick every box of pop-punk infectiousness and lyrical honesty, but still somehow feel either a little dated or ahead of the curve in terms of popular music’s usual 15 to 20-year trend cycle.
The 7+ minute centerpiece of She Took Him To The Lake sees Mallory Knox stretch their prog-rock wings a little for the album’s most intriguing and dynamic outing but it’s still the fist-pumping arena-hooks that keep Asymmetry afloat. Getaway, Fire and current single Shout At The Moon all showcase the impressive melodic range and power of frontman Mikey Chapman’s voice whereas tracks like Heart & Desire and Dare You aim squarely to hit you directly in the feels and more or less succeed in their mission.
Overall, Asymmetry is the kind of record that reminds you what a regrettable idea that Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo you were considering in 2006 would have been. While it’s great to be able to unabashedly invest in something emotionally, it’s important to stay mindful that trends tend to come and go. It seems as though emo-rock has had its day for the time being, yet hopefully if the cyclical nature of the music industry continues on its current timeline, Mallory Knox will be poised for world-domination by about 2020.