Review Summary: It's metalcore and it's not egregious. Seriously.
The hardcore scene of Australia has certainly grown over the past few years. From non-existent it evolved into something colossal. Several hardcore/metalcore bands emerged and waved the flag for Aussie land. Now, Australia and hardcore are two words that can be mentioned in the same breath without hesitation. At the forefront of the charge we have a band called Parkway Drive. Yes, Park-way Drive. Parkway Drive is actually the name of the street where they began practicing, which is situated in their hometown Byron Bay (thanks Wikipedia). Sometimes I’m slightly discouraged by all these “brutal” names you find in the world of metal. Parkway Drive just sounds… cute. Anyways, I decided to utilize my untrained ears and actually give this album a good listen, so that I could write an untrained review. Pretty cool, huh.
The gist of the following paragraphs will be melody and brutality. So, if you’re not someone who likes to read, what I’d like to convey is that this band has plenty of both, and they manage a healthy balance between the two. Right off the bat you’ll know what Parkway Drive is about
: no subtle, acoustic intro setting some mood. No, just a relentless onslaught of brilliant metalcore. The first track, Gimme A D, is a very accurate encapsulation of the Killing With A Smile sound, it consists of harmonized guitars that work really well, you’ll hear a very melodic lead backed by some heavier riffing that seems to be equally melodic. The bass is also present, lazily it follows the lead guitars around and gives the music a fuller sound. It serves its purpose. The vocalist has a very powerful voice and he’ll start punishing your ears from the start. His scope is pretty impressive, he’ll do some screeching and low growling (mostly during breakdowns). Sometimes he’ll even resort to spoken vocals, but this is just unnecessary really. The only track it worked well on was Romance Is Dead, as it was in harmony with a very melodic and emotional riff. I’m not the biggest fan of spoken vocals, and Killing With A Smile needed no more than was found on Romance Is Dead. On a track like Guns For Show, Knives For A Pro it’s just not necessary and falls flat. Overall the vocalist sounds really brutal and is just the injection Killing With A Smile needed. He isn’t a vocalist that will make you cringe like Lord Worm, but he is someone that will still make you bang your head and feel brutal.
The backbone of this album is the riffing. The lead guitar plays several captivating melodies on this album, but the second guitar plays heavy but equally melodic riffs. Smoke’em If You Got’em is a good example of this, it starts with a very melodic lead and is joined by the more downtuned chugging, yet it maintains melody and brutality. Romance Is Dead with it's explosive riffing and killer melody. Or how about A Cold Day In Hell, that leading riff is not something that has not been stuck in my head for months. Wow, that was confusing. I could go on and on about the great guitars, but let's leave it at that. I should also touch on the lyrics briefly. I’ve seen the lyrics playing subject to a lot of criticism. Well, there are some shocking one liners, but these are just minor blemishes. The lyrics are nothing special nor introspective, but they fit this brand of music like a hand fits a glove. Just that sort of I-hate-my-ex approach. It’s fun and works for this album. Just mute at 2:00 to 2:05 on Romance Is Dead, because he really, really hates his ex at that time. Mute and you'd be none the wiser.
Breakdowns? Oh yes, it’s metalcore after all. That ignominious “core” that’s added to “metal” to remind you of the hardcore influence. Well, Parkway Drive does a commendable job on breakdowns. While there are copious breakdowns present on this album, it’s certainly not an overkill. When a breakdown emerges, you’ll bang your head and enjoy it, instead of thinking how redundant it is. Basically what this means is that the breakdowns are well placed and isn’t an encumbrance at all. However, Guns For Show, Knives For A Pro might disagree with me, the aforementioned song is just one mindless onslaught of breakdowns. It’s still a decent track, however. What I’m trying to say is that when Parkway Drive does something wrong, they do it wrong well. Get it?
Wait, I’ve left something out. Oh, the drumming! This album actually has drumming? Wtf! The drumming is... there. It does its job. Nothing spectacular, a couple of good fills, fast beats, nice rolls. I only really noticed the drummer during Smoke’em If Ya Got’em, where the drummer showed some impressive speed. The drumming is solid and, like the bass, serves its purpose. But you’ll find yourself too immersed in the awesome riffing and vocals to really notice it.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Some songs on this album just feel a little unspectacular. That would be one of the scarce flaws of Killing With A Smile. The middle part of the album (track 5 – 7) feels a little bland. The album loses some momentum during these three tracks. They just lack that brilliance and bang of the other tracks. But again, this is just a minor flaw and negligible.
To conclude, Killing With A Smile is an album that could be described with one word, a very short word: fun. It’s heaps of fun. It’s melodic and brutal and it’s just… fun. No matter what mood you’re in, this album will entertain. Parkway Drive does just about everything right and produce a memorable metalcore album.