ALBUM REVIEW: Parkway Drive – Reverence
Photo Credit: Kane Hibberd
Parkway Drive have been sitting near the very top of the modern day metalcore pile for some considerable time now. Since the band’s debut full length release Killing With A Smile a staggering thirteen years ago, the band have tinkered and changed their original format of being a straight forward metalcore band to something very unique, culminating with the adventurous and diverse 2015 release Ire. The band have been steadily growing in stature with every album, to the extent that they now have the potential to be selling out large arenas around the globe on their upcoming tours, and will be hoping that their latest offering Reverence will provide the perfect platform to solidify their place amongst the metal elite.
Prior to the release of Reverence the band dropped the single Wishing Wells, which opens with a spoken word passage over the top of a tranquil acoustic guitar part. The stark contrast to the calm sound at the outset is the lyrics, which speak about calling out God and The Devil and burying them in pre-dug graves. After the introduction the guitars from Jeff Ling and Luke ‘Pig’ Kilpatrick kick in with a heavily distorted bang, along with a hellacious drum fill from Ben Gordon and its business as usual for the Aussie veterans. The energy is as high as ever and vocalist Winston McCall sounds like he may reach through your speakers and kick the living daylights out of you at any moment with his guttural, almost demonic vocal delivery. As always the melody throughout this track is not found in the vocals, but with the well written lead guitar parts of Ling and Kilpatrick; when this is thrown in with the stomping rhythm laid down by Gordon and bassist Jia ‘Pie’ O’Connor there is something for everyone to sink their teeth into.
The other two lead singles for this release are an entirely different kettle of fish. The Void is unlike anything that Parkway Drive have released before. Rather than relying on fast tempos, heavy metallic riffs and crushing breakdowns the band have placed their faith in their ability to write bouncy, infectious riffs that sound more akin to Five Finger Death Punch than the As I Lay Dying-esque stylings that the band are known for when it comes to their guitar work. The vocal lines from McCall are split between harshly spoken and half-sung/half shouted moments, which includes the monolithic chorus that is going to serve brilliantly when the band plays to festival and arena crowds and wants to gain the biggest singalong possible. Another thing of note for The Void is the outstanding and revolutionary music video that was created to support it, pushing the boundaries further visually than Parkway Drive ever have before. If this is what the band have to do to garner more radio play across the board then this will not be a hard pill to swallow for the diehard fan (internet trolls may have something else to say but their opinions never hold any water).
Prey however, seems like more of a failed experiment. The song has a recycled lead guitar part that sounds like it has been pulled straight from an early Alestorm album (honestly, it sounds like something that should be played aboard the Jolly Roger) and the guitar riffs that continue throughout the verses are very plain and unimaginative. The vocal approach is strange on this one as well, being reduced to an exaggerated whisper for the most part, sounding closer to a Rob Zombie tribute act than the instantly recognisable voice that McCall has been associated with over the years. The song plods along in the middle lane until it hits three minutes and thirty seconds and then BOOM, the audience is thrown into old school Parkway. The ferocity gets thrown up to 11, almost to make up for the previous few minutes and leaves the door open for what is to come on the album.
This can be salvaged…
And salvaged it is with tracks such as Absolute Power which throws the album back into more familiar territory. The dirty, thick sounding bass tone rumbles away from the outset, before the rest of the instruments kick in and give the listeners something to bang their head to. The vocals are spoken word again, however this time out McCall speaks with a real snarl in his voice and gravel in his throat, as he works his way through the verses. The riffs are as groovy and heavy as ever before, but the old formula for metalcore has been replaced with something a little more refined. Of course, this will upset some but it can’t be denied that this is a band growing into a new form to keep the material fresh.
Cemetery Bloom is a fascinating interlude with the kind of choir singing and atmospherics that you would expect on the introduction to a Dimmu Borgir song, with Winston once again laying down some poetic verses to add to the dramatic effect and showing the ongoing growth and maturity that Parkway Drive are displaying in their art.
I Hope You Rot and Shadow Boxing will keep fans of the old school Parkway Drive happy (even with the latter including the debut of Winston’s singing vocals). The staccato guitar parts work fantastically well and add to the piano and string instruments to give the track a much larger sound. The heaviness is still there throughout this album, but rather than taking the form of the worn out and overused method of pummeling the audience with breakdowns and two-step beats, Parkway have opted for heaviness of an emotional kind. The lyrical content and overall mood of the album is almost overwhelmingly heartfelt and raw, which is sure to connect with the die-hards on an emotional level.
All in all you could say that Reverence is a massive step in a different musical direction for the band. The reservoir of ideas does not seem to be showing any sign of running dry and the quality shows no sign in dropping (for the most part). If the lads are looking to pave their way in to the mainstream world of arenas and radio air time then this album shows that they are more than capable of doing so. It is with heavy hearts that we declare that the days of Killing With A Smile, Horizons and Deep Blue are well and truly gone, and whilst that is a shame as Parkway Drive were particularly good at creating monstrously heavy metalcore tunes, what the band have now become is something entirely different and shows the limitless potential they possess.
A divisive, but brave release from a band that refuses to stand still.
For Fans Of: Bury Tomorrow, I Killed The Prom Queen, The Ghost Inside
Standout Tracks: Wishing Wells, Chronos, Shadow Boxing
Written by: Richard Webb