Defining an artist or a band’s sound can be very tricky in such a bloated industry. Especially now, where post-hardcore can be mistaken for post-rock, metal for metalcore and genres going as far as ‘straight edge vegan hardcore’ (seriously). This is why it is so refreshing to have a band like Parkway Drive on the scene. The Aussie five-piece return on their fourth album Atlas a little darker and slightly more experimental, but does this take anything away from their no nonsense sensibility?
What is clear on the first listen of the album is that Parkway still retain what they know: massive melodic lifts and crunching breakdowns. There is still a sense of change and variety on the album, but this is not evident straight away. This album is a grower. Included on the album are hooks that are less obvious but a tighter sense of musicianship and progression as a unit.
Opening track ‘Sparks’ does exactly as the title would suggest, kicking off with a string section and accompanying acoustic guitar. This crashes into Winston McCall’s distinctive guttural vocal and onto the tracks ‘Old Ghosts/New Regrets’ and ‘Dream Run’, which are both very similar and unmemorable.
The album truly begins to pick up with the track ‘Wild Eyes’. Starting with a fading in of gang chants, the song rises to a crescendo of grandeur reminiscent of stadium rock bands, and as a band who are known for brutality, the song still manages to work in that same vain. ‘Dark Days’, the first single release of the album, represents the theme of the entire album: the environment.
As a band and outside of it (they are all keen surfers), Parkway are appreciative of their surroundings and in particular, nature. Where their third effort, The Deep Blue focused on the oceans, Atlas looks at climate change and our responsibility to try and change that. This doesn’t mean the album is preachy per se, but it could possibly be seen as such and in the process could put people off – especially if individuals are unfamiliar with the bands style. This style is only cemented on the closing track, ‘Snake Oil and Holy Water’. It’s rapid blending of blast beats and cohesive guitar, leaves you slightly dazed and wondering if it really was the ending, but weirdly, it works incredibly well.
There’s a reason why Parkway Drive are as popular as they are among the metal and rock community. They are a no nonsense band. There are no gimmicks, there’s plenty of passion and this is evident on Atlas. Even with one or two tracks that seem to meander or just aren’t as memorable as expected, which in turn slows the beginning of the album somewhat, Atlas will only allow Parkway to continue to raise the bar for any band on the hardcore and metal scene.