Review Summary: What could have been a fantastic record falls short, but still remains better than average.
Oh what could have been... The boys from Byron Bay gathered a huge following with their albums Killing with A Smile, and Horizons, and rightfully so. Both albums were enjoyable listens that displayed a good balance between decent musicianship, and sheer brutality. However with Deep Blue, it seems as if Parkway tried too hard to create an album that would really hit the listener with it's intensity. Each member has obvious talent, and distinct styles, but it seems that they stumbled with the instrumental chemistry that was present on the first two releases.
Parkway Drive have always had the ability to play fast, to be heavy, and to play music that appealed to fans of every metal genre. What I find aggravating is that they can show glimpses of magnificent songwriting, such as Carrion, It's Hard to Speak Without a Tongue, Five Months, and Horizons, yet they consistently revert to fast and heavy, breakdown-centric songs. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy Parkway's music, but I feel that this album was the pedestal to show that they've grown into a more mature band, and they took a step back. While they again show glimpses of great songwriting, they produced another fast, heavy, breakdown ridden record, that has melodic guitar passages tossed into almost every song.
Undoubtedly, Parkway's two most successful songs, Romance is Dead and Boneyards, contain climactic one-liners. Almost every song, and every breakdown on Deep Blue contains an attempt at one of these stick-in-your-head lines, relying almost entirely on climax. While I admit that upon initial listen the preceding vocals got me excited for them to unleash hell, the music that followed left me saying, “Well that was.... okay...”
While the first few listens may seem like somewhat of a disappointment, this album has grown on me. It's not groundbreaking, but it's not bad by any means. The members still display their individual talents with some great drumming, audibly impressive bass, and some good lead and rhythm work. Winston's vocals remain phenomenal, and are the high point of the album. Simply put, the man is a beast.
Amidst Winston's deep screams, and the pummeling drum fills and double bass are a few visions of where Parkway will hopefully take themselves one day. Home is for the Heartless was the album gem for me, stepping away from the fast paced, relentless onslaught of the album. The song starts off with some cheesy “Whooo-ohhhs”, which I could have done with out, but then opens up into the best songwriting, best musicianship, and best lyrical content on the album. A good lead tapping line, a catchy and deep chorus of “Mother mercy, take my hand. /Follow me through this forsaken land. /Father time, return what's mine. /The innocence you stole from these eyes. /Because I just feel, I just feel numb.” and impressive drumming show what could have been.
As I've said, where the album suffers is the songwriting, for the most part. Before the addition of lead guitarist Jeff, Parkway was a punk band. This influence is completely obvious as they essentially use fast, de-tuned power chords, while throwing in some melodic leads and heavy breakdowns. The album does what the band wanted, taking away the musical “journey” that was Horizons, and providing heavy, blood pumping music. And after a few a listens, without Horizons in mind of course, the album really shows it's teeth, while bringing to light little musical intricacies that you may not have noticed before. Before you dismiss the album, give it the chance to grow on you. The album is enjoyable enough, and better than a lot of the music out there.