Review Summary: Metalcore Masterclass
Parkway Drive are one of the most popular metalcore bands on the planet today. Their brutal yet melodic style is considered highly original, and their catchy riffs and aggressive breakdowns are perfect mosh-fare. But is the latest by Byron Bay's metal kids any good?
After the runaway success of the first EP and the two studio albums that followed, Parkway were in an odd place. They'd already quashed any misconceptions people had about the band by creating highly original music, touring relentlessly, and building up a massive fanbase in the UK and beyond. But they had to up the ante yet again, and craft another album to follow up the excellent Horizons. They came out with Deep Blue, which vocalist Winston McCall describes as, 'The search for truth in a world that seems to be devoid of that'. Honourable intentions, surely, but is the album just philosophical hokum and more of the same chugging guitars and angry vocals? Not a chance.
Like all great albums, Parkway Drive have improved on their formula tenfold and have created a very well written and truly groundbreaking album, that'll please longtime fans as much as new ones. Deep Blue feels superior to previous releases in every way, with battering harmonies and such pitch-perfect melody it's almost impossible to deny how phenomenal the album is. Unlike the rest of Parkway's back catalogue, Deep Blue is far more accessible than either Killing With A Smile
, and rather than containing gloriously gruesome lyrics or cleverly written (if somewhat out-of-character) crowd pullers, it makes it's mark with plethora of distinctly sounding, yet totally unique, 3-minute Bohemoths.
The album opens with the quietly considered 'Samsara'. A smooth, crisp little introduction that sets the tone rather well, starting rather quietly and ending up with a heavier crescendo when the guitars and drums come in. Next is the short and snappy 'Unrest', which is a perfect opening to the brutality that's set to follow. Featuring Winston's trademark angst-ridden vocals and a sing-along section that crowds are sure to dig, the song feels like a Parkway stomper in every sense. After this is 'Sleepwalker', which was released as the first single from the album with a very imaginative video. The song itself is no 'Boneyards', but it features some excellent riffing and some truly amazing solos at the end. 'Wreckage' comes after this. Somewhat more calm by comparison, the song is simple jump-number fare, but as always with Parkway, it's laden with little touches, including a tapping section that's simply mesmerising. The punchy 'Deadweight' chips in at track number 5, and it's more of a tune driven track, with soaring guitars and very well incorporated vocals. Alone is the 'Idols And Anchors' of Deep Blue, blending sing-along riffing and an inspired, if somewhat unorthodox, slow section in the chorus. Meaningful, certainly, but also a little strange. 'Pressures' serves as a companion piece to the third track 'Sleepwalker', featuring a very similar style of songwriting and a just-as-catchy that's what you'll most probably remember better than any other feature of the song.
'Deliver Me' is a brutal and simple shout-along tune that has already become a crowd favourite. Somewhat more superficial than the rest of the album but by no means any less energetic, it's a definite goer, especially at live shows. Following very closely is second single 'Karma', which undoubtedly one of the albums very many high points. Incorporating some excellent riffs and a stupendous solo that's both technically astounding and aurally asphyxiating, the song builds up to a mosh-friendly breakdown that's every bit as memorable as anything off of the first full-length album. Emotionally draining power anthem 'Home Is For The Heartless' is up next. Echoing the same purpose a song like 'Carrion' served on Horizons, the song has a sing-along chorus that crows simply adore, and a very anthemic 'woooo-ooooh, wooooo-oooooh' section that is a nice aside to an already immaculate song.
The first of the last three songs is 'Hollow', which recycles a song from the original EP ('Hollow Man') and makes it sound like a new piece with improved production and an angry chorus. Criminally underrated, the song is a super and memorable moment on the album. Next up is undoubtedly the albums best song; 'Leviathan I'. Supremely anthemic and yet inexplicably, never played at live shows. Superb musicianship and an absolute stormer of a chorus make this a winner in anyone's book, with Winston sounding better than ever before, and the percussion sounding particularly immaculate. Finishing up the album with a somewhat wispy bang is the slightly throwaway 'Set To Destroy'. Not a bad song by any means, but it does represent something of a lapse, especially after the 12 powerhouses that preceeded it. Half-baked riffing and somewhat un-PC songwriting make this an interesting effort, but ultimately rather meaningless.
It's interesting that for such a likeable bunch as Parkway, reception was mostly mixed until this album, which received critical acclaim from most sources, and it isn't hard to see why. The songwriting has matured, along with the musicial merit of the songs and actual sound itself. If metalcore is a genre that's going to be around for any length of time, it needs to buck up its' ideas, because this is simply phenomenal stuff. Not for everyone, certainly, but if you like your songs heavy and don't mind unintelligible vocals, this is definitely a winner.