Donnybrook take their namesake from a famous festival in Ireland that is notorious for its brawls. So taking that into account, it isn't a surprise that the California outfit plays a variation of tough-guy hardcore. However, on the band's debut full-length, Lions in this Game, Donnybrook attempt to break the stigma that there is nothing more to a tough-guy hardcore band than ridiculous breakdowns and antagonistic lyrics.
"Read Em and Weep" is either an album intro made into full song or just a really short song. Regardless of what it is technically considered, the song sets the stage for the twelve tracks of Death Threat-and-Terror-akin hardcore that comprises this album. Rather than relying on predictable breakdowns - oh you know when they're coming - something fairly typical to bands of their style and zest of hardcore, Donnybrook derives a more traditional style of hardcore reliant on fast-paced drum work and blistering guitars, with the occasional solo thrown in for good measure - see "Get Real."
The band does mix things up, venturing into the more mosh-driven hardcore realm over the course of the album. Tracks like "Purify," "Techno-logic Kill," and "Down for the Core" each make use of heavy-as-hell breakdowns, up-tempo spots perfect for two-stepping, and gang choruses for the sing-along kids.
Donnybrook again gives the listener a taste of something different on the track "Word is Bond." Toward the end of the track vocalist Dre Stewart throws in a little rhyme, a possible homage to local legends Downset, perhaps. The band follows it up with a cover of District 9's "Victim." The song fits in with Donnybrook's style quite well and demonstrates where the band takes a good portion of their influence from.
For the final two tracks, "Get Your Mind Right" and "Fist Over Fist," the band returns to what they do best: hardcore moving at a good clip with that brash ferocity that makes hardcore such a virulent style of music.
Outside of the music contained within, I felt it important to touch on the artwork used for this release. Depicted throughout the pages are graphic novel inspired - no, not comic book - drawings of a brawl at a hockey match done by artist Mike Bukowski, whose artwork you might recall from Comeback Kid's debut effort. His style is unique and I think the subject matter compliments the intensity of the music.
With Lions in this Game under their belt, Donnybrook will no doubt find their way into the hearts of many a hardcore kid. One thing that made me appreciate this album more than I normally would is that Donnybrook made attempts to distinguish themselves from the every increasing crowd of hardcore bands. For this I applaud them.