Review: Parkway Drive – ‘Reverence’
For over ten years, Parkway Drive have not only led the ever-thriving Australian metal surge, but have cemented their names on the worldwide “metalcore Mount Rushmore.” Rising to prominence in the scene with 2005’s Killing with a Smile, and 2007’s more-refined cult classic, Horizons, the boys from Byron Bay have been a model of consistency for over a decade. Four albums of perfecting the formulas that made their early work such a launching pad, 2015 brought a stylistic shift in the form of Ire, a record with singles so massive casual metalheads everywhere jumped on the Parkway bandwagon. On the flipside, it divided the band’s core fanbase: while half appreciated the development, the other half was just as vocal in dismissing it. But there’s no denying the success Ire brought to the band. They seemingly usurped UK metalcore darlings Asking Alexandria, headlining a run of several British shows with Asking as their direct support, they booked tours with their largest headlining venues in the states, became a mainstage act at rock festivals worldwide, and generated singles “Vice Grip” and “Crushed,” which became their two most viewed music videos and passed all the classic Parkway hits on streaming services. So how would they follow it up? Enter Reverence, which, on just about every level, is a very worthy follow up to the explosion that was Ire.
Right from the needle drop, lead singles “Wishing Wells” and “Prey” kick off Reverence in impressive fashion. Each track packs a significant punch in their own right; the former taking a slow burn approach into a sonic explosion which will likely succeed “Wild Eyes” as their go to live set intro, while the latter takes an absolute earworm of a power metal-infused guitar hook paired with an arena-ready anthemic chorus for another obvious live setting staple. On each, the traits that have always embodied Parkway Drive music are ever present: intriguing lyricism complimented by captivating subject matter and impeccable delivery by Winston McCall, impressive instrumentation, and unquestionably infectious energy, but they continue the evolution from Ire in that the tracks sound absolutely massive.
“Absolute Power” feels like a successor to Ire’s fan-favorite “Crushed,” taking cues from Rage Against the Machine in both political subject matter, song structure and overall huge audible product. A screeching guitar lead precedes a captivating build into a “Bottomfeeder”-esque neck-snapping (pun intended) breakdown.
The catchiest song on the record is without a doubt “The Void,” which, being released as a single prior to the record dropping, already is climbing American rock radio charts. A few years ago, a statement like that would have been out of the question, as Parkway Drive’s singles were a little too hard-hitting for most rock radio. But it is easy to see why “The Void” has hit the charts today, with a soaring, memorable chorus and head-bang-able guitar riffs and an accessible yet driving, energetic song structure. “The Void” is this album’s “Vice Grip,” and is sure to incite mass singalongs at future shows.
“In Blood” and “Chronos” follow much of the same formula of the album, yet definitively fall on the heavier side of the spectrum and could please many old school fans of the band. On the other hand, “I Hope You Rot” and “Shadow Boxing” do bring new elements to the table, the former featuring a Ghost-esque (think “Year Zero”) Latin gang vocal chorus whilst tackling a difficult religious issue, while the latter introduces Winston’s clean vocals for the first time. That’s right, clean singing (and even rapping) can be found on “Shadow Boxing,” which surprisingly uses each somewhat effectively.
Unsurprisingly, the two dull moments of the ten track album are the slow songs, “Cemetery Bloom” and “The Colour of Leaving.” While both include heartfelt lyrics, neither really shine in their own right. “Cemetery Bloom” features a hauntingly catchy choir, but the gloomy vibe fails to induce much of a listening experience. “The Colour of Leaving,” the album closer, unfortunately does not bring the record to a fitting end sonically, something Parkway Drive have excelled at previously.
The circle-pit inducing hardcore riffs and blast beats of the Horizons age may have diminished, but the unparalleled energy fit for live shows and massive mosh pits remains. Unfortunately, this alone will not be enough for the thousands of [extremely] vocal metalcore purists who have shunned Parkway Drive since the first listen of “Vice Grip” on the Ire album cycle. This album, nor this review, is going to change the close-minded opinions of that demographic unfortunately. It’s a shame, really considering Reverence (and Ire, for that matter) is an excellent modern metal record. It’s the next natural evolution of the Parkway Drive sound, combining their legendary metalcore roots with power metal and stadium rock for an absolutely massive sound. Artists are not close-minded individuals, they’re not satisfied with churning out the same product with a different, glossy sheen every two years, nor can they be expected to. Parkway Drive realized they had pigeonholed themselves, likely during the Atlas album cycle, and made the risky decision to inject other influences into their sound moving forward. Objectively, the development of the band is pretty natural: this is not a sellout situation. The lyrics are still honest, the vocals still rip, the instrumentals are still head-bang-inducing. Parkway Drive are still the same five surfer dudes from coastal Australia who picked up instruments and wanted to play metal for fun. Its been nearly 15 years since their first release; they’ve grown up, expanded their horizons as artists, and developed their art beyond the once one-dimensional foundation and created something that’s still extremely fun, lyrically thought-provoking and an overall tremendous aural metal experience. And, now that the success of the band has led to it becoming their full time jobs, its important to continue to show that growth to stay relevant. Stagnation results in lost momentum: evolve or die. For those unwilling to grow with this band: Horizons and Killing with a Smile will always exist, but you cannot expect an artist to continue to make the same product for years on end. Parkway Drive have taken their sound to the next level over the past four years. They are here to progress, they’re here to stay, and Reverence states just that.