Parkway Drive: A Retrospective Look At The Rise of Australia’s Next Big Metal Export

Our bossman said it best in his Virtual Hangs with frontman Winston McCall: “the greatest Aussie export since AC/DC”. The release of Parkway Drive’s first full blown power ballad, the title track from the forthcoming album Darker Still, moves them beyond comparisons to the Young brother’s legendary band but has the potential to open up PWD to a whole new audience and bring metal to the masses in a way no other Australian band has ever done. 

Let’s be honest too, for a moment there it looked like we might lose them, as the band suspended touring to focus on their well being. So the announcement of not only more gigs but a new album is more than welcomed, especially when it promises to be as ground shaking as Browny’s review indicates. 

Only a fool would accuse Parkway Drive of selling out. These are the same dudes who released Killing with a Smile in 2005, but they have grown and matured as people, musicians and a band. Killing… hinted at their ambition, as they headed off to the USA to work with Killswitch Engage mainman and producer, Adam Dutkiewicz. The bands they toured with in those earlier years: Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, Comeback Kid, Every Time I Die, would in time find themselves opening for Parkway Drive by the release of Reverence in 2018.

As captured in their killer tour doco Viva The Underdogs, the band had graduated to headlining arenas and festivals as prestigious as Wacken Open Air. They have done so by being themselves, not by following trends but by stretching their -core sound beyond that of their peers. 

So how the hell did we go from ‘Romance is Dead’ to ‘Darker Still’? Let’s take a trip back through their discog and see how we got here. 

Part 1 – “Master of the darkness”

‘Darker Still’

I just want to know whose idea it was to start with the whistle? Immediately captivating and unlike almost anything they’ve done before, it builds on the slower moments of songs like ‘The Colour of Leaving’, even down to the strings, except that this time Winston actually sings. It’s a haunting melody that brings a lump to your throat, and Jeff’s leads are gorgeous and will prompt Iron Maiden style singalongs once it debuts at festivals. 

‘The Greatest Fear’

Organs and a choir hey? The second single that announced the arrival of Darker Still was instantly familiar but also more progressive that punters might have expected. It’s a chunky riff fest that will cause mosh pits to explode. It’s an incredibly dark lyric too, as McCall grapples with death and grief. 

Part 2 – “It’s alive, can you feel it?”

‘Wishing Wells’

A different kind of album opener for Reverence, with a distinctly slow and epic build as McCall calls out god and the devil to a fight. It certainly noted a progression from the immediacy of IRE’s opener Destroyer, offering a slow burn and proving to be a real grower, especially the winding, almost synthy riff. Oh and then it goes fucking hard with McCall barking the verses and growling the chorus. 

‘The Void’ and ‘Prey’

Reverence builds on the arena anthems of IRE without using guests to provide clean vocals. McCall does it all himself and both these tracks have massive hooks that even reluctant audience members would find themselves singing along with. Both highlight the continued value of a good pre-chorus bridge too, demonstrating their continued growth as composers. 

‘Writings on the Wall’

IRE is predominately banger after banger but ‘Writings on the Wall’ almost grinds it to a halt. It’s backed by strings, with Protest The Hero’s very own Tim Millar providing piano accompaniment and a massive drum sound from Ben Gordon. Winston raps and talks his way through a poem that continues the underdog theme of earlier songs. Whilst he eventually unleashes his scream, it is at this point they officially leave metalcore behind and head for bigger stages.

‘Crushed’

The opening chant leads into an absolute hammer of a riff and continues into the verses. A bludgeoning track that perfectly matches music to lyrics. A call to arms that dares to defy preachers, zealots and politicians. Not a new theme but serves as Parkway’s contribution to the cannon of political anthems. 

Part 3 – “We blaze our path through darkness…”

‘Wild Eyes’

When they wrote this they knew it was going to be massive live. The crowd chanting along with the riff didn’t need to be played from a tape for long because every PWD fan knows this one and can sing it back to them from the pit. It’s an environmental anthem that represents the belief of a generation that they were robbed of their future and need to fight to take it back. 

‘Dark Days’

A slower burn than ‘Wild Eyes’ but no less impactful, ‘Dark Days’ features Ling’s melodic riffing with a particularly savage vocal performance that captures Atlas’ concern with the end of the natural world. 

‘Karma’ and ‘Sleepwalker’

One of the great metalcore albums of all time. 2010’s Deep Blue pushed the band from fan favourite to an act that critic’s started to notice as it won ARIAs, was nominated for the J Files Australian Album of the Year and rock publications listed it among the year’s best releases. They lost none of their heaviness, ‘Karma’ is a continued live favourite as a thrashing mosh starter, with a killer melodic bridge. ‘Sleepwalker’ on the other hand has an irresistible groove that induces violent body movements, hinting that the band were nearly done as a support act as they would be hard to follow on stage.

Part 4 – “There’s no hope for the weak”

‘Carrion’ and ‘Idols and Anchors’

It just hits differently. The slower riff into the call of “Carrioooooon”, with McCall in full growl mode, Gordon kicking hard and the Ling/Kilpatrick guitar duo locked in. It’s almost too heavy to end since it inexplicitly fades out. ‘Idols and Anchors’ on the other hand is much more melodic, owing some debt to the likes of Killswitch Engage but also getting its death metal on. It showcases an expanding metalcore palette across Horizons and made them the breakout band to watch. 

‘It’s Hard to Speak Without a Tongue’

Another one rooted in Ling’s melodic leads backed by Kilpatrick’s rhythm guitar. It’s menacing and threatening with a touch of emo in the lyrics. Rivals the aggro of IRE’s biggest moments. 

‘Romance is Dead’

A ferocious track of blistering metalcore. Breakdowns that include anarchy. Compared to the majesty of ‘Darkness Still’ it is almost quaint but is also essential Parkway as Winston targets a former lover with his demand they “Cry me a fuckin’ river”. Ling gets fiddly with his fingers during an instrumental section before using the same tapping as the band closes it before a prog guitar section serves as a coda. The epic you weren’t quite expecting. 

‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’

Pure unrivalled aggression from their 2004 EP. I’ve included it here because it serves as a comparison between McCall’s early hardcore style vocals with what he can pull off on Darker Still. Notable because it was still designed to make pits move and wouldn’t be totally out of place doing the same if they played it at Wacken

Part 5 – “After all the years I’m still the voice you can’t destroy”

‘Bottom Feeder (Live at Wacken)’

Their version of ‘Highway to Hell’, ‘Seek and Destroy’, ‘Number of the Beast’ or ‘Angel of Death’. A clear live favourite and a phenomenal mic drop. I dare you not to bang your head. 

As you can see and hear, the boys from Byron Bay have come a long way since their youth centre/club show days and that first EP. With Darker Still out now, they will take another step forward towards world domination and cement themselves, not only as Australia’s biggest metal act ever, but as one of the world’s truly great bands. They once sang of “waiting for the sky to fall” but the future is bright as it has ever been and I can’t wait to stand in the pit and watch them fire all their guns once again.

Viva and forever the underdogs.

Words: KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram)

Stream Darker Still here

parkway drive darker still album cover tracklisting

Parkway Drive – Darker Still tracklisting

1. Ground Zero
2. Like Napalm
3. Glitch
4. The Greatest Fear
5. Darker Still
6. Imperial Heretic
7. If a God Can Bleed
8. Soul Bleach
9. Stranger
10. Land of the Lost
11. From the Heart of the Darkness

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