Review Summary: Music changes, but Parkway Drive’s style endures.
Let me begin by saying I don’t like Parkway Drive quite much. Sure, they’re better than most other groups in their genre and sure, they know what they’re doing with their instruments but I just don’t like them like I like other groups. “Killing With A Smile” had some nice cuts on it but it was nothing to write home about, “Horizons” was the typical sophomore slump and “Deep Blue” had tracks on tracks on tracks of monotony. I find them to be quite bland and unoriginal; when they release new material I tend to not give a ***.
Now, I had this same approach upon hearing of their newest effort. Writing it off as “just another Parkway album”, I decided against giving them another attempt. I only reconsidered my initial opinion when a friend of mine trumpeted high praises for this work. I listened to it halfheartedly but then as the tracks went along I felt something come over me:
“I like Parkway Drive…?”
Surely, I had not finally been broken by this seemingly mediocre affair by a seemingly mediocre band of which I found no benefit in listening to, right? Wrong. Erase any preconceived notions or hasty generalizations you’ve ever had about these dudes; this record is DIFFERENT. Shame be the day I find a NEW SOUNDING record from a run-of-the-mill “core” act that doesn’t overindulge in being callous or overwhelm the listener with redundant breakdowns written ostensibly on a whim for Osiris-wearing, cigarette-bumming, dad-hating, "br00tal" teens with only 2 Washingtons on them and not enough of a reason to be cynical; let alone know what the word cynical means. Yes, I am proud to say that Parkway Drive has made some existential transformations in their trademark sound, and commendably so.
At the preliminary sweep of acoustic pinch harmonics I found myself recalling “Beneath the Remains” by Sepultura. Don’t get me wrong though, they’re not becoming a thrash act nor should this be even placed on the same list as that album; Parkway Drive is still as “core” as ever. From my first statement one can infer that maybe songwriting on this album is much more imaginative and genuine than previous efforts; the sudden chord change/breakdown in “Dream Run” attests to this fact. I can’t ever say that I’ve gotten goosebumps from a mainstream “core” album, yet alone a Parkway Drive album. Next cut “Wild Eyes” does very well. Opening with gang vocals, the band again asserts its dominance over the listener. Forced breakdowns of the past are no longer; this one appears and does so soulfully and melodically. Things are different this time around.
Inevitably so however, this album has its flaws; nothing is perfect. Lyrics have always been kind of a weak point for Parkway and plus they could’ve varied their sound from track to track a bit better. The title track comes off really cheesy and cliché with the reverberated, spacey guitar but it doesn’t bring down the album too terribly. At the ending stages of the album however, a listener can find the first hints of monotony. “Snake Oil and Holy Water” sounds like many of the other songs if not exactly like the other songs; although its closing motifs are nice, that doesn’t save the song from being a little too much like the other offerings. Regardless however, Parkway Drive’s “Atlas” is a great listen.
Ultimately, Parkway Drive explore a bit and create something original and cool to listen to. “Atlas” sounds different from their previous efforts and not in a bad way either; this is change for the better. Old Parkway fans, you’ll still love it; it’s got breakdowns, fiery solos and everything else their brand of sound delivered once before, perhaps even better with this document. Though flaws are present, they aren’t the end of the world or the album’s success for that matter. Every sign points towards a promising and very lasting future for Parkway Drive and hopefully they use this as a starting point in their experimentation. A great album.