REVIEW: PARKWAY DRIVE – “Ire”
The boys from Byron Bay are back with a brand new long-play record. I got into Parkway Drive after I saw their DVD titled ‘Home is for the Heartless’, and I was blown away by the accessibility and the attitude that this band has. They have come a long way from the sun and surf of NSW North Coast, Australia to being one of the major players in the metalcore scene. The story-telling maturity of this band has seen mostly highs. Their first LP ‘Killing With A Smile’ had all the brutality that one could hope for. Their follow-up effort ‘Horizons’ reached new heights, with anthems like “Carrion” and “Idols and Anchors” being the true gems of their catalogue. ‘Deep Blue’ was a heavier record and an excellent evolution in terms of sound for the band. The follow-up to that album, titled ‘Atlas’, was a natural progression from where they had left off. However, by this time, the themes had begun waning down in effect. The lyrical themes of brotherhood and self-improvement were not having as much to offer as they did a few LP’s ago. It all felt like a comfort zone for the band – the quintessential Parkway Drive formula.
At this point in their career, they needed to reinvent themselves while still sounding like them. This is what usually happens to bands, four or five records down the road. They go out and they experiment, and sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires. One can’t really blame the band, because first, it is an artist’s expression of his/her own ideas and it is open to acceptance or rejection. Second, not everyone ends up liking the same sound while others love it. It’s hard to find that amazing balance. Well, it seems to me Parkway Drive have hit that balance dead-on, and it shows on their most recent LP titled ‘Ire’.
Before I get into writing about the contents of this record, I want to point out it has reached out into the tectonic plates of my soul, which not a lot of bands can do. Somehow, Parkway Drive for me have the same honesty that I find in Radiohead’s lyrical themes; they are simple, direct, dynamic and honest. Winston McCall is pouring his life out, and it is reaching the masses with as much sincerity as he can bet his life on. ‘Ire’ is brash, fresh and innovative, brutal and beautiful; terms I usually reserve for Opeth’s releases in the 90’s and 2000’s. If you ask yourself about how a band can evolve from Metalcore’s generic hardcore and melody influences, ‘Ire’ is what you have to look at. The influences on this are so varied and vibrant and fused in such a cohesive way that you almost know that there is a subtle nod to the bands you listen to and an indicator that these are just five simple, regular surfer dudes from Byron Bay who like the same stuff you do.
The opening track “Destroyer” has got a grandiose edge; you could see in your mind Winston pumping his arms and asking the crowd to join in. Laying down the aural assault of the harmonized guitar riffs are our resident axe-men, Jeff Ling and Luke Kilipatrick. If you need proof of their passion for their music, I highly suggest you take a look at their performance of “Deliver Me” off their album ‘Deep Blue’ at Sonisphere 2011 on YouTube. Lyrically, this song explores humanity in what we have grown to become.
“Dying To Believe” is the second track on this record, and I actually started moshing out in my apartment, much to my neighbor’s chagrin. This is an absolute brutal assault that has death metal rhythms written all over its intro, then segueing into Lamb of God territory. I also dig the heavy guttural renditions.
The band’s first single, “Vice Grip” was a clear indication that this isn’t your average Parkway Drive record. It’s got dimensions to it. This track in particular reminded me of Bon Jovi and some hair metal bands of the 80’s, but still with a brutal and aggressive edge. The guitar harmonies return here with a vengeance, and the sky-diving video is pretty cool.
“Crushed” was the band’s second single, and it starts off almost meditative. As if to “crush” the calmness to bits, the song opens with that foot-stomping intro breakdown. There is an obvious nod Slipknot, Korn and some other notable nu-metal acts from the early 2000’s. The most influence is derived from Rage Against The Machine in terms of vocal delivery.
“Vicious” and “Dedicated” follow up their usual Metalcore sound and translate pure aggression to the sonic sensibility. However, these are tracks that are easily accessible superficially, but need multiple listens to get the concepts well defined.
This brings us to two absolute double-cheese-filled extra paprika pizza-style tracks that are good in all aspects and are guaranteed to be live favourites. “Bottom Feeder” and “Sound of Violence” showcase Ben Gordon’s handy wrist work on the drums, absolute foot control on that double pedal, and the reason why he’s such a boss. His partner in crime, Jia O’Connor keeps the bass riffs on point and complements the sound in a more unified direction. “Bottom Feeder” is a song about the scum of the planet that feed off the downtrodden, the burdened and helpless. “Sound of Violence” is the customary headbanger track, and along with chorus hook on “Fractures”, take all the credit of being the unifying factors which can be easily compared to the Killswitch Engage style of writing.
The heaviest experimentation can be seen on “Writings On The Wall” and “A Deathless Song”, which both feature classical instrumentation, piano, complex arrangement, a shift in vocal style for Winston, and a welcome departure from the usual frenzy of the sound. On “Writings On The Wall”, Winston asks all of us to “put our hands up” with an almost poetic narration of his passions and thoughts on humanity and our life in this world. It’s going to end up being a crowd favourite chant song, and yes, it does feature a good nod to Rage Against The Machine. The album ends with the nylon strings-fueled anthem, “A Deathless Song”. This song for me is by far the best off the album as it spoke to a lot of my sentiments, especially the chorus and solo. It has beauty, wonder and aggression; a fitting closing track drawing some influence from Iron Maiden.
I found the production, the level of experimentation, the willingness to try new sounds while not alienating their core fan base, and the sheer honesty on ‘Ire’ to be a master-class. It’s hard for me to see a downside to this record personally, but I did find it bothering that they could have added in a more melodic and toned-down sound, because most of this record sounds really brutal, and one expects to find a bit more variation in sound. 77% of this record is bone-crushingly angry, and I could ask for more chill sounds on this LP. That being said, I highly recommend you listen to this LP and watch them live.