Lions In This Game
posted on 6/2005 By:
Let it not be mistaken by the general public that Donnybrook takes its hardcore seriously. The short bio on the band’s website contains a terse statement of intent that, with a minimum of background knowledge, can be used to extrapolate the majority of the band’s sound: “This is a hardcore band, made up of hardcore kids, playing for the love of the hardcore scene. Period”. It’s clear from the outset that there will be no twin guitar harmonies or acoustic breaks on this record. This is hardcore; not metalcore or spastic shrieky Converge worship, but chest-thumping, circle-pitting ‘core of the variety that has been coming out of the New York area for the past fifteen years.
Certainly nobody will fault Donnybrook for a lack of conviction. The Southern Californian (and notably un-SoCal-sounding they are) act spend the appropriately brief 25-minute running time of “Lions In This Game” employing, with great vigor and aplomb, every single ‘core convention and cliché that has ever been devised. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the NYHC scene will know exactly what to expect from this record; Donnybrook plays it just like Madball and Death Threat did (and still do). Their two-step parts are pissed off and speedy, and their choruses are nasty and full of finger-pointing, basement-ready gang shout segments. Vocalist Dre Stewart, now solo where the band once had two singers, has perfected the Freddy Madball/Scott Vogel one-tone shout, and he delivers his indictments of backstabbers, fakes and what have you with passion and vehemence. The double-bass breakdowns are there too, of course; while their more Hatebreed-esque jun-jun ventures seem slightly out of place, their throwback NYHC dance parts are full of old-school menace and rage. Even the production is appropriately punchy. In short, Donnybrook pulls it all off in the truest style of their forefathers.
And ultimately, this is the band’s downfall. For all their sweaty machismo and intense hero study, Donnybrook cannot escape the simple fact that it’s been done before. This type of slightly metallic hardcore has, as previously mentioned, been around for a very long time, and it can only be rehashed so often before becoming redundant. Even within the album’s short playing time, the music begins to sound samey. Dre Stewart’s unchanging shout grates by the fifth or sixth track, and the one-chord-one-key playing of guitarists Martin Stewart and Pat Burgess make the riffing sound interchangeable and cut-and-paste from song to song. The lone exception is much punkier “Victim,” during which the guitars adopt a distinctly more melodic style and Stewart even sounds like he’s singing a bit at times (albeit against his will), but it’s not nearly enough to bail out the entire album, and Donnybrook ultimately fail to emerge from the long shadow of their influences.
All of this said, “Lions In This Game” effectively accomplishes what the band intended; it is a competent and well-played specimen of an old and crowded genre, and as such can be counted a victory for the group. Largely thanks to that intent, however, Donnybrook do not bring anything new to the table, and this album will not make hardcore fans of anyone who did not have an affinity for NYHC in the first place. The discerning metal fan’s money is best spent elsewhere.
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