Parkway Drive – Atlas
Record Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
Metalcore is a genre that I haven’t listened to a lot of in the last couple of years. It’s not that I’ve grown tired of it, it’s just I’ve expanded my horizons a bit. Regardless, Australian metalcore band Parkway Drive is a band I’ve always kept my eye on. I picked up a copy of 2007’s Horizons about three years ago, and that was my first introduction to the band. I was quite new to them, but for some reason, the album didn’t stick with me. It was enjoyable, but it just didn’t stick that well. In 2010, I picked up the band’s third full length, and it showed a more mature side to the band, which I liked quite a bit. Despite not being a hardcore fan of this band, I still was eager to listen to this, because of some reviews I read that praised it. Well, I was glad that I picked it up, because it doesn’t disappoint. The gist of this album would probably be this – it’s straight to the point metalcore with a few twists and turns along the way. There aren’t many of these twists, but the ones that do show up are quite interesting. For instance, there’s a bit of record scratching in a track that appears during the last half of the album, and it’s really cool. But if you’re a fan of growling vocals, and breakdowns, this is a good album to listen to.
The album starts off with “Sparks,” and it’s a very slow intro, which is pretty cliché at this point, because almost every metalcore album has an intro that starts off really slow. Regardless, this one is really interesting, and it really keeps the listener on their toes, so to speak. Eventually, vocalist Winston McCall’s unique vocals kick in, and it’s rather slow, but it’s really interesting. This track leads into second track “Old Ghost / New Regrets,” which is insanely ferocious; honestly, it’s one of the best tracks on the record. It shows off the best of Parkway Drive. Guitarists Luke Kilpatrick and Jeff Ling immediately show off their skills when the song starts. About a minute in, vocalist Winston McCall says, “We’re born with nothing and we die alone” in a very chilling way. His scream is more of a growl, and while he doesn’t have a lot of range, his voice is one of the more distinct ones. In a way, this track is what you can expect from the whole album. There are more twists and turns, but this is a fairly straightforward track. Second track “Dream Run,” continues this assault of metalcore, and it’s another straightforward track. While the instrumentation is very impressive throughout most of the record, there aren’t many points where it’s really unique. I did say there are some very interesting moments, but those show up few and far between. For the most part, the record sounds quite similar. If you love metalcore and breakdowns, like I mentioned earlier, you’ll enjoy this record a lot, because that’s pretty much what it entails. Anyway, “Dream Run” does feature some very nice guitarwork, but that’s really it. Third track “Wild Eyes” has one of those twists that I was talking about earlier. The intro is really interesting. It features a very cool guitar riff, and some gang vocals of just some simple “Oh’s” for the first thirty seconds or so, and it slowly becomes a metalcore juggernaut. This track is another one of the best tracks on the record. It’s hard to be truly unique when you’re a metalcore band, but it can be done.
Fifth track “Dark Days” is another one of the tracks that starts off interestingly, and surprisingly, this track is solid all the way through. This is one of the more heavy songs on the record, but that’s not saying too much, since every song is quite heavy. There’s also a cool guitar solo towards the end that makes it even better. As the rest of the record goes on, there isn’t too much to write home about, aside from a few rare moments here and there. Next track “The River” is the second longest track on the record, but also one of the more interesting. It manages to deliver despite not featuring a lot of breakdowns, in comparison to other tracks on the record. In about the halfway point, it slows down to an interesting guitar riff, and it’s one of the more interesting moments on here. One of my favorite lyrics on the record also appears on this track that go, “It's not the years in your life, it's the life in your years.” I’ve heard that phrase before, but no matter what, it’s always refreshing to hear. This track isn’t too heavy, but a bit more experimental, which I really like. Seventh track “Swing” is a pretty ferocious song, but there’s nothing that makes it stand out. It’s entertaining, but it’s rather generic. I will admit, though, that there is a cool moment when McCall growls “SWING!” over and over for a couple of seconds, and it sounds awesome. It’s followed by a really cool breakdown, so it definitely wins for most aggressive song on the record, definitely. Eighth track “The Slow Surrender” is the one that features the record scratching and it kind of sneaks up on the listener. It’s only for a few seconds, but it’s really interesting, because it’s nothing I’ve heard before in a metalcore record. Other than that, the track is okay, but nothing too unique. The title track appears next, and this is another standout song; the introduction is really slow, and even has an acoustic guitar. This is a track that really shows Parkway Drive are trying to step out of their comfort zone. I did say that there are a lot of breakdowns in this CD, and in the whole 48 minutes, that’s true, but there are moments that are more experimental. This track is definitely one of them. If I’m not mistaken, this track features some violins towards the very end. There are a couple more tracks after this one, and while they’re enjoyable, the last track is the most important. Twelfth track “Blue and the Grey” is the longest track on the record, at almost 6 minutes long. For metalcore, this is an amazing feat. For being 6 minutes, it’s quite a monster of a track.
Overall, the album is a monster, essentially; this will probably top metal fans’ album lists at the end of the year. It’s a great CD, but it’s not exactly the best I’ve heard all year. It does conform to the generic metalcore stereotype a bit, but there are tracks like the title track, where it strays from that sound, into something more. Those few flourishes make it much more interesting, and worth the 48 minutes.