Review Summary: Parkway Drive has always had the aggression, now they have gained the emotion.
As most bands progress in their career, especially metal bands, they usually discover the more melodic and progressive side of themselves. That is what Parkway Drive did. Parkway Drive could definitely be considered as a solid contributor to the modern metalcore movement. They have always been successful in their albums. Their first two albums showcased their young and ruthless style, the sound was crisp and Winston's screams and growls were ground shattering. Deep Blue was a turning point in the band's career, still following their usual style, but consisted of less progressive movement. In all three releases they lashed out like chaotic teenagers throwing their feelings out there. Atlas proves that the band has progressed and matured, learning that metalcore isn't all about anger.
The lyrics in Atlas focus mainly on how humans have corrupted the world we live in today. The lyrics are well thought out and portray very inspirational messages as compared to most metalcore bands now that speak about crappy relationships and death. They really make you sit down and wonder what the world has come to. One of my favorite set of lyrics is the chorus off of Blue and the Grey: "We both keep our secrets, we are both oh so blue. My heart is full of darkness, I know yours is too." Winston's vocals are the same as usual, great mid range and decent lows. In his high screams are pretty decent as well, but you can really hear his voice start to break or struggle as he doesn't seem to have the greatest of ranges. Now that is not that much of a bad thing, as he does a great job delivering his vocals. One thing that bugs me, and this has occurred on all Parkway Drive albums, so you may be used to it, but Winston's talking in some tracks. I understand none of the guys in the band are probably good singers, but I just am not a fan of the lyrics being talked through, I feel it ruins the flow. On the song, The River (which is one of the stand out tracks), Parkway Drive has put a female vocalist in one of their songs for the first time. It really is a refreshing and beautiful moment, as the contrast between the two vocalists work well and helps differentiate the songs.
Instrumental in this album has definitely moved away from the usual mindless chugs and overused breakdowns. Now there are obviously breakdowns in this album, as Parkway loves them, but they actually put some thought into them to spice them up. Probably the best breakdown in the album would be halfway between the song The Slow Surrender. The breakdown at the end of Dark Days is for sure a brain melter. A major thing that Deep Blue lacked was clean guitar, and it's back and better than ever. The guitar has a great mellow feel to it and is mixed in well. Technical work in the guitar isn't really bad, but it isn't mind blowing. Now many might agree that a handful of the riffs seem to be recycled, while some critics may not like that, it isn't something that majorly diminishes the rating of the album. Some of my favorite parts of the guitar are: the bridge in Dream Run, the opening riff off of Sleight of Hand, and the guitar in the chorus in The Slow Surrender. There are also some acoustic guitar parts which are quite nice like the opening of Sparks along with Blue and the Grey. The drums are fine in this release, the double bass isn't used as much it seems and feels lighter on the ears. Bass isn't very audible and doesn't really showcase any major parts to be in awe over, which is kind of a shame as I do like some good bass in metalcore. Also a new little touch that I feel is pretty interesting is the added in violins that help suit the atmosphere. They work really well in the title track Atlas and a few others. These little things help keep the album interesting.
Overall it took me multiple listens (about 6 full play throughs) to really appreciate what Parkway Drive has done here. The first listen it was different hearing their maturity and not hearing just full volume blast beats slamming into my ears. I'd recommend anyone who likes metalcore give this a listen, and I'm sure Parkway Drive fans, especially old ones will be pleased with the record. A few things could have been added and some replaced to make the experience better, but it really is a solid release.
Dream Run, The River, The Slow Surrender, Blue and the Grey
Parkway Drive is: Winston McCall - Lead Vocals, Luke Kilpatrick - Guitar, Jeff Ling - Guitar, Ben Gordon - Drums, Jia "Pie" O'Connor - bass