Review Summary: A bland sophomore album that is overshadowed by its predecessor,and does not add anything new to the hardcore/metalcore genre.
Parkway Drive are one of the leading bands in Australian hardcore (probably the leading band?), and have really set the level needed to be a success in the hardcore scene. Unfortunately, this isn't very high. I have had Horizons since its release and have listened to it quite extensively. I have also listened to Killing with a Smile, Parkway Drive’s previous effort extensively. I mention this because I think it necessary to compare Horizons with Killing with a Smile in order to produce a fair review. I concluded that Horizons is no better than Killing with a Smile, perhaps even worse. It also shares most of its strengths and weaknesses with Killing with a Smile; Horizons is basically more of the same stuff, albeit a little differently executed. I have seen the band live several times, and in terms of a live show, and making good, standard heavy music, they are a very strong outfit. In terms of originality and breaking away from mainstream hardcore, I think the band does not really achieve anything at all. In general, this album is a good effort, but it’s nothing new, nothing amazing, absolutely nothing to go crazy about. To those who give this album a 5, please give me a break. And readers, please keep in mind that I am writing this from the view of someone who does not ‘live for the breakdown’.
The biggest strength of Parkway Drive is their vocalist, Winston McCall. He was what attracted me to the band in the first place, and he is the only reason why I still continue to listen to the band. I don’t think I’ve heard any hardcore/metalcore vocalist who is better than him. He has a huge diversity in his voice, and can go incredibly low (listen to the breakdown at 2:51 on the track Boneyards, or the 1:50 minute mark onwards on Idols and Anchors) as well as screech to his heart’s content. He performed well on their first album, and in my opinion, his vocal delivery is as good, if not better, on Horizons. To any wannabe growlers, take a leaf out of Winston’s book.
Moving onto the actual album, Parkway Drive has maintained its sound from the previous album, and perhaps built upon it. However, there is just something about Parkway Drive’s sound which is all too familiar, like you have listened to it before, which doesn’t help the band from being labeled generic. Horizons sounds very similar to Killing with a Smile. It also sounds very similar to a lot of mainstream hardcore. There is not much differentiation involved with this album, which eventually makes it boring to listen to. There are some moments on Horizons which I thought were a tad original and inventive however. An example of this would be on the track The Siren’s Song, around about the 2:20 mark. The bass just sounds delicious.
Now on to the topic of breakdowns. As you’d expect, Horizons is full of them. I know this probably keeps all the hardcore moshers happy, but eventually you realize that every song is just based around the breakdown. I remember when I used to listen to Killing with a Smile, I actually got to the point where I would skip most of each song and only listen to the breakdowns, or the heavier and/or melodic parts. With so many breakdowns, the rest of the music gets quite dull, and in the end the breakdowns just get dull too. I listened to Killing with a Smile quite a lot, it was an exciting album to listen to, and for a short period of time really had me hooked. Once I was finished though (after maybe one or so months), I completely stopped listening to it. I haven’t listened to it at all in the past 12 months. Why am I ranting on about Killing with a Smile? Mainly because Horizons follows the exact same formula as Killing with a Smile. I’ll say that it definitely sounds better, but is not really that different. I am already getting a tad bored with the album. I don’t doubt that most people will enjoy it for some period of time, but it only has any real longevity for those who are really into the band. On the other hand, on a pick up and go basis, and for lovers of breakdowns, Horizons has everything you’d want.
Other then the breakdowns, the other important point about the music is the moments of melody that Parkway Drive have incorporated into their music. There is definitely a melodic-death influence, but frankly it pales in comparison to leading melo-death bands of today. There are melodies dotted throughout the album, that provide a notable balance with the brutal moments on the album, which is generally done well enough. As with the trend of this album though, every good thing is countered with a bad one, and the melodic side of the album is plagued by quite bad lyrics. I think there might be a little improvement over Killing with a Smile, but generally follows the same sort of trend: lyrics that my girlfriend calls emo. Lines like ‘they can’t wipe the blood from her eyes’ and ‘every scar still bares your name, every scar still bares an angel's face’ don’t really do it for me. I don’t think I came across the word suicide however, but please correct me if I’m wrong.
Instrumentally, the album is good and bad. The drumming is very good. I won’t say it isn’t, because for any band to be good in this genre the drumming has to be decent. I think it’s vital for the style of music being played. On the other hand the guitars and base are very standard, and very simplistic. The riffing on the guitars especially is so very samey. It sounds like other songs on this album, it sounds like Killing with a Smile, and it sounds like songs from other bands in hardcore. I think that many hardcore bands share this problem, and it is one of the reasons I am not such a huge fan of the genre. I think that metalheads who aren’t into hardcore will not like the genre mostly due to this reason.
Overall, Horizons is a standard, perhaps even average, hardcore album. I think that in terms of its own genre it is relatively decent. In a wider scope of metal however, Parkway Drive doesn’t really break any new ground or give us something new and exciting. I’ll use the example of the recent release Hangman’s Hymn, by the Japanese band Sigh. It’s good to know that there are metal bands who are willing to try something different, even if it means that it could result in making a poor album (don’t think that Hangman’s Hymn is a poor album though, it’s one of the best albums I have heard). I don’t think Parkway Drive will be changing their sound anytime soon, because in the hardcore scene there are plenty who like them just the way it is. But for general metalheads, I doubt Parkway Drive will remain in your CD players for long periods of time.
I have tried my best to this album justice without bagging them too much or making them sound better than they are. Looking back, the review really reflects how I feel about the album: There are certain things I like about it, but there are definitely parts on it which really bother me. However, as said before, a decent effort by Parkway Drive. I recommend it to anyone who liked Killing with a Smile, or likes the sound of Australian hardcore or hardcore in general.