“It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.” – Winston McCall The River ‘Atlas’ 2012.
Parkway Drive’s third documentary Viva The Underdogs is not quite in the autobiographical context of Parkway Drive: The DVD (2009) or Home Is For The Heartless (2012); however, it is still a deep and profound insight into the infinitely hard working lifestyle these five surf-rats navigate with their new mission as a globally adored and esteemed heavy metal band. This Byron Bay quintet have achieved world domination: They have developed, challenged and restructured their version of metalcore and broadened the formula so expertly that it has transcended generations and “scenes” – most impressively they have accomplished all of this through mostly their own management. So what is PWD’s next pursuit? It has become brazenly transparent the band live to set themselves a higher aspiration, that has been their motto since their initial success; remembering that it has been and is repeatedly told that the five-piece exist to perform for their adoring fans and travel – therefore utilising this motivation, Viva The Underdogs acts as the traveller’s journey for the band to achieve their goal of headlining the world’s largest metal festival, Wacken Open Air in 2019.
There is no denying this is a “Cinderella Story” and as any passionate follower of the outfit will know, PWD achieved their goal in the latter half of last year. It must be revealed that this mission was not an easy accomplishment, matter-of-factly it almost became an impossibility and these painful moments are not shaded at all through the film, they are highlighted when exposed. The viewers’ witness the failures, the risk (the band actually utilised almost the entirety of the money they were going to make from this European tour just for the stage production) and even the suffering of knowing that some of the catastrophes that occur are from people they love, trust and work with and have since nearly day one. But, this is a story of underdogs and as Confucius once graciously bestowed upon the human race: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – for Parkway, the challenge is theirs to destroy.
For the most part, their European tour is an immense success, sold out crowds time after time and even in the dreaded London, a location where it is difficult to impress the most committed music fans, the band comes out victorious. However, it becomes painfully clear that this metalcore juggernaut want and demand near perfection and the smallest hiccups divide the closest friendships adding a tension that is difficult to ingest. Spain is a disaster mostly due to the weather and poor technical personnel (a very hilarious scene is captured of the blunder in pyrotechnics), although amongst the heartache, it is justified that Parkway Drive have some of the craziest and most committed devotees in music. California is worse, but each band member spends time with the audience to make up for the catastrophe that transpires and the observers see that these are still the same grounded men who love to play music for people who love to hear it, that and of course, the ocean.
A return holiday to Australia to gear up for the grail that is Wacken Open Air gives an incredible illumination of Winston McCall, Jeff Ling, Luke Kilpatrick, Ben Gordon and Jia O’Connor’s home life which includes surfing, fatherhood and the general antics these surfers are renowned for; the hilarity of Jeff Ling should certainly be highlighted, he is more than a character and beyond entertaining. Everyone who is involved in the colossus that is Parkway Drive is at this point refreshed and here comes Absolute Power.
It wouldn’t be a PWD story without some mishaps, Jia basically breaks his knee days before their return to Europe for the esteemed headline slot the band are awarded with at Wacken; this time it is a different member of the quintet riding a wheelchair – but the show is unquestionably phenomenal. This is of the scale of Metallica or Slayer and describing the performance as “inspirational” and “spell-binding” is still selling it short with cinematography that breaches upon a Hollywood scale in its grandest moments.
The editing does become slightly tiresome, the rotating turning and burning globe to capture where the band is at whatever point in the documentary is a bit overdone. However, it does uphold the “dystopian” theme the five-piece are utilising with their newest releases (suitably and brilliantly considering the state of the world) and this is a metal band who are summoned to be the next calling of festival headliners, very deservedly so – therefore the theatrics of their headline show are more than necessary and undoubtedly, they are extraordinary.
Ultimately this documentary feels like another chapter for Parkway Drive, in the best way possible. For this scribe, I could re-watch it over and over to find a sense of self-assurance and happiness and more importantly, inspiration and genuine thankfulness that PWD have become such a vital part of my life and modern music. They have achieved this almost unattainable goal, so one has to wonder what will come next? Also, without giving too much away, they still very much love their mums.
“It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.” – these lyrics are speaking louder than can be deciphered in every context.
Film Review by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
Pre-Order the band’s newly announced Viva The Underdogs soundtrack right here