Review Summary: A step back in the right direction
Parkway Drive have never had it easy. Starting off in Australia, the group had to overcome many challenges to escape the confines of the Australian coastlines, with their energetic, but not exactly original music. Now, the Australian metalcore band are back with a record with flashbacks to Killing With a Smile
. As a whole, most of the issues that plagued Deep Blue
have been removed, but there are still some consistency issues. Can this record hold up in the modern climate, without following the rest of it's contemporaries?
For the most part, yes it can.
Like any Parkway Drive record, most of the songs are focused around a chug-orientated breakdown. However, this effort feels less like the band is making music to please the masses, and more like they are trying to discuss issues that are important and relevant universally. One blaring problem is the insistent 'Blah!' that Winston shouts after finishing verses in songs such as "Dark Days", "Swing" and "Old Ghosts/New Regrets". Hearing it once created an interesting feel, but once this carried over a multitude of tracks, the frustration set in.
The lyrics are mostly a step up from those of deep blue, with the exception of the pre-breakdown vocals, such as 'Behold the Pale Horse!', a line which is sure to guarantee a multitude of responses from fans and critics alike. However, instead of taking the usual surf-life inspired take on lyrics, this album contains a focus on the environment, which is a nice change in pace from the usual metalcore genre subject matter. 'Dark Days' probably has the best focus on this, basically condemning the actions of humanity and the way they have used the earth, a tried and tested thought. Some of these lyrics do feel a bit out of a place, with a good example being the phrase 'There is no god!' being repeated during "Sleight of Hand" in the lead up to the breakdown.
Winston McCall is regarded by many as an extremely versatile vocalist and he lives up to his reputation on this record, not holding back, changing range with frequency. Some times, it does feel like he is straining to reach certain vocal parts, but mostly we're sitting in his usual vocals, with their powerful strength and anger. The spoken word sections on this are, mostly rather bland, as is expected when dealing with this band. It sounds as if he (Winston) did them rather quickly, roughly, to try and add them in for the sake of them being there. In addition to this, some of the vocal effects being used are on the cliché side and are not really needed to add to the song as a whole.
The guitars as a whole are a step up from the previous offering, Deep Blue
with less lacking moments and more powerful riffs. Yes, they do have their segments of chugging, but overall the riffs are better, the leads are more interesting, and the tone is much better than that used on Deep Blue
. Notably lacking on Deep Blue
were the clean guitars, which have returned on Atlas
and add that extra dimension to the music. Songs such as "The River" or "Sparks" are a huge improvement over the clean guitar work seen in "Alone". Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bass guitar which becomes audible for brief periods of time, but for the most is buried behind the wall of guitars and drums.
Bizarrely, there are several songs with violins and "The River" features a first for Parkway Drive, a female vocalist. These elements help create a new level of interest and help break the boredom that sometimes comes around at the midpoint of the album. Not only this, but the lead guitar work is a lot more melodic, leaving less room for dullness and irritation.
As a whole, this record feels a lot more authentic, less digitial and static than the previous record.. Yes, the occasionally boring breakdowns are still present, but the music is so much more interesting than it previously was, there is little fault to be found. However, not all of this is good. 'Dark Days' and "Old Ghosts/New Regret", both previously released, are some of the worst songs on this album. "Old Ghosts" actually goes so far as to rip off an old Parkway Drive riff, and "Dark Days" has some bland, flat riffing.
Parkway Drive may not be the most original band ever, but what they have created in Atlas
is a well crafted, melodious record that is sure to bring in new fans and keep old ones pleased for a long time.