As the sun sets on Digbeth’s gorgeously eclectic Mama Roux’s, the tension piles into the venue as thickly as the crowd. Tonight, Cambridge alt-rockers Mallory Knox will grace the stage in Birmingham as a quartet for the first time, as new and old fans alike wait with baited breath to make their judgement on how their new line-up affects the dynamic of their performance. As three-hundred people stand with their eyes glued to the stage, there’s an unmistakable sense of it being ‘make or break’ time – how will Mallory fair against this seemingly insurmountable pressure?
Prior to the headliners, two excellently selected support acts win over the crowd in no time. JUDAS (7.5/10) are somewhat reminiscent of Lower Than Atlantis; new single ‘Big Mouth’ is promisingly catchy, and one can hope there’s more where that came from. Dead! (8.5/10) appear out of nowhere with enough energy to level the whole city, and their cult following is more than apparent at the front of the room, where a pit breaks out like a wild uprising.
When Mallory Knox (8/10) finally storm the stage, waving and smiling in their typically humble manner, the cheers go up in their hundreds. The elephant in the room, of course, is the absence of former frontman Mikey Chapman, who - after nearly nine years of serving as the vocalist - left the band in early 2018. All eyes are on Sam Douglas now, who stepped up from his position as solely the bassist and took the microphone from Mikey’s hands.
Anyone doubting Sam’s ability to be a dedicated frontman is instantly silenced by the first few bars of new single ‘Black Holes’. Starting the set with their first song as a quartet is a statement to anyone who had underestimated the new Mallory Knox’s prowess, and as Sam’s voice fills the room while the floor starts to shake, you simply can’t dispute the magnitude of the atmosphere of a night like tonight.
Yet somehow, it only gets better, clearly still proud of their impressive back catalogue, Mallory expertly blend a set full of hands-in-the-air hits like ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ and ‘Shout at the Moon’, with newer unreleased tracks that serve as a taste of what’s to come. ‘Psycho Killer’ is almost punk in the way it demands your attention, and the reception of ‘Livewire’ by the thrashing crowd makes guitarist James Gillett crack an infectiously wide smile.
The only thing the performance seems to be lacking is a sense of self-confidence. Of course, Mallory Knox have come out swinging for their lives tonight as any band in such a position would, but Sam still seems to hide behind his hair and bass, admitting to the attendees he’s been struggling as of late. One can only hope that with time and experience he will settle more comfortably into the role of the vocalist, and shake off the pressure of the boots he’s been left to fill.
With that being said, the night’s highlight is undoubtedly set-closer ‘Better Off Without You’. A track that seems now to be more of a reclamation of Mallory’s future than anything, the energy from everyone in attendance simply soars through the roof – it is a beautiful moment to experience, as hundreds of voices accompany Sam’s in a euphoric call-to-arms. It’s the perfect way to end such an important night for the four-piece, and is hopefully powerful enough to give them the confidence they need going forward.
Mallory Knox will never be the same again. Yes, that is true. But bar a few blunders here and there, this show is indicative of what they were here for in the first place: purely incredible music, and a room full of people connected by it. The changes of this year have stripped Mallory Knox back to their bare bones, but if they take the spirit they showed here tonight and run with it, then they should have no issue in building up something even more astounding in no time.