Here’s the setlist from Parkway Drive’s U.S. tour
Parkway Drive kicked off their long-awaited Darker Still U.S. headline tour at Los Angeles’ Wiltern on January 31 – here’s what they played.
From Don’t Close Your Eyes to Reverence, we rank Parkway Drive's heaviest hitters in order of greatness...
Metalcore has come a long way in the last decade-and-a-half. On the British Isles alone, Architects have ridden triumph and tragedy to ever-greater realisations of the genre's traditional template, Bring Me The Horizon have aggressively pushed the boundaries, and a whole host of next-gen upstarts have striven to make their own mark. Stateside, old hands like Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed and Converge remain the gold standard, while the likes of Code Orange, Knocked Loose, Wage War and Year Of The Knife take us in strange new directions.
Nowhere has the subgenre found more concentrated quality, though, than in Australia, with killer collectives like Northlane, In Hearts Wake, I Killed The Prom Queen, The Amity Affliction and Alpha Wolf all on the very cutting edge. Raising that scene up on their well-sunned shoulders are Antipodean scene-leaders Parkway Drive.
Five surf dudes from Byron Bay in the far north-east of New South Wales, in a band near-farcically named after the street on which their rehearsal space/home was located, Parkway might just be the unlikeliest heavyweights in the history of heavy music. Having struck paydirt with their hard-edged – yet relatively populist – original formula without any concessions in fashion or sound, however, vocalist Winston McCall, guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke "Pig" Kilpatrick, drummer Ben "Gaz" Gordon and bassist Jia "Pie" O'Connor built themselves into an outfit capable capable of straddling the metal mainstream, commanding the biggest stages and crushing the most diverse crowds.
We thought we'd rank the 20 landmark tracks that've carried them this far. That bangers like Dark Days, The Sound Of Violence and Gimme AD didn't make the cut is an indication of just how incredible their back-catalogue has become. Let us know which tracks best soundtracked your last decade-and-a-half in the comments…
Debut LP Killing With A Smile was the moment Parkway emerged, properly, from Australia’s East Coast onto the world stage. Recording over a hectic two weeks in Westfield, Massachusetts, with Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, they lived up to the hype with a record that catapulted them to the front of the metalcore pack while also laying the groundwork for the evolutions they would help precipitate in the decade-and-a-half to follow. It’s Hard To Speak Without A Tongue was an early showcase of their dynamic potential, emerging from a haze of glassy guitar with a pit-stomping riff before fully sparking into a blaze of searing savagery. Winston’s furious promise of ‘We're apparitions that stalk your every turn / We're death incarnate to cleanse you from this world’ was a guarantee that these weren’t simply the laid-back beach boys many had mistaken them for.
The first song written in the wake of Ire’s breakout success, Shadow Boxing is the sound of Parkway realising they can get away with whatever the fuck they want. An epic composition that weaves together weeping strings, tinkling keys, near-rapped verses and explosions of unabashed bombast, it was, by the band’s own admission, an almost antagonistic stylistic departure. Thankfully, it also boasts some of their hookiest-ever individual moments. That vibrant sonic statement that fits well with the song’s deeper meaning, that the struggle to get this far has taken a greater toll than even Parkway’s most ardent fans might imagine, and that they’re consequently entitled to make whatever music they damn well please.
Although K! loved Parkway’s fourth LP, heaping on the praise with a full 5/5 rating on release, it proved somewhat divisive amongst the hardcore fanbase, failing to deliver the (anticipated) definitive evolution that would eventually materialise across their next two LPs. Swing was an undisputed stand-out, though. With lyrics like, ‘Strip back the utopian rhetoric / And you'll find a sickness at the core,’ Winston proves their ability to handle philosophical ideas every bit as heavy as their riffs, challenging listeners to buck the self-satisfied societal stasis of the early-21st century. Its dive-bombing, 100mph delivery and tectonic breakdowns are the uncompromising soundtrack for taking down a system designed to stifle creativity and shut down open minds.
Although it would take a further five years to reach its ultimate realisation, third album Deep Blue felt like the turning point where Parkway began to transcend the simple, serrated metalcore of their scene and embellish their songwriting with the sort of infectious choruses that would see them infiltrating arenas and owning festival main stages. There are moments of outright heaviosity on standout tenth track Home Is For The Heartless, but it felt like their most affirmative cut to date, with its wiry six-strings building climactically to its ‘woah-oh’-imbued pay-offs, boasting input from legendary Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records owner Brett Gurewitz.
Parkway Drive’s ground zero. It might’ve cropped-up in re-recorded form on Killing With A Smile, but Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em truly made its mark as the stand-out on 2004 debut EP Don’t Close Your Eyes. A modern proverb that says one should always make the most of one’s means, the track’s title is like a mission statement for the teenage upstarts, who hold absolutely nothing back. Throwing in blastbeats, tremolo-picked guitars, gouging riffage, semi-melodic vocals and some of the most neck-rending breakdowns the genre had ever seen, it was a gleefully unrefined concoction, but the raw materials were on show from one of the new millennium’s most promising outfits, deployed with an energy and urgency they’ve hardly surpassed since.
‘Destroy, destroy, destroy, destroy destroyer…’ The pounding intro to the opening track from fifth album Ire felt like the dawn of a new era, as the Byron Bay boys left behind the narrow metalcore constraints of old and branched out with a style of songwriting that was simultaneously simpler and far more massive-sounding than anything fans had heard before. ‘We scar the earth to spite the sky,’ rings out a poignant, fiercely environmental message. ‘Then burn the trees to feed our fires / We are the blind leading the damned / A wrecking ball In the hands of a mad man…’ Simultaneously, this more direct sound lifted their righteous message onto a grander stage than ever before.
Even amongst their bulging catalogue, the closing, five-and-a-half title-track to Parkway’s third album feels like a real landmark epic. The culmination of their two-album collaboration with Adam Dutkiewicz, its shapeshifting transformation from acoustic near-ambience to bludgeoning savagery comes together like a gathering storm. ‘Your words not worth the air / Your life’s not worth its weight in flesh,’ Winston sings, ruminating on the transience of existence and the difficulty in leaving a worthwhile mark. ‘To hope for something more / To dream of substance / Like a million before us / Waiting to die / Like a billion before us / Waiting to die.’ A masterpiece of beauty at its bleakest.
If the title-track is Horizons’ grandstanding crescendo, Idols And Anchors is its hammering heart. A gnashing, unhinged four minutes of sonic fury punctuated by flashes of that signature singalong guitar motif, it was trademark early-era Parkway, fuelling a thousand mosh-pit beatdowns while tugging at the heartstrings with its deceptively desolate melodies. ‘Can you hear it?’ Winston begs. ‘Can you hear the sound? As our broken idols / Come crashing down…’ Challenging listeners not to fixate on their heroes and to blaze a trail all their own, it also feels like Parkway at their most powerfully affirmative.
If there were any questions over whether Parkway might be softening their attack album-on-album, the opening track to Reverence quickly laid them to rest. ‘I spoke a vow today and asked if God would come and play,’ pulsates a bold, breathy intro. ‘I've dug a shallow hole for him to sleep / But I swear he just won't answer me / I call on out, is he afraid?’ Escalating from there, it explodes into one of their most neck-wrecking latter-day cuts, fixated on killing gods and driving forward on more human terms. “This is where I channel the anger of grief. This is the song where I put that feeling of fucking screaming at the sky,” Winston told K! on release. “Not just for the loss of someone, but the loss of the sense of understanding.”
A showcase of the underrated contributions of drummer Ben Gordon, Deep Blue’s ninth track is a riotous highlight. Hitting pace like a tornado making landfall, Karma has become notorious for inciting outright chaos in the live arena in the years since release. Hopping back and forth between searing metallic influence and more blunt-force hardcore inflection via a selection of razorblade melodies, it is the ultimate accompaniment to an uncompromisingly cathartic message. ‘This is a strength born in misery / A focus cut of this insanity / I fight my way from the gates of hell / I hold on.’ What goes around comes around, after all.
When the lead single from Deep Blue appeared on Parkway’s MySpace on May 18, 2010, it felt like an(other) immediate step up for the band, their collaboration with renowned rock producer Joe Barresi streamlining a metalcore attack that felt leaner, though no less forceful than what had come before. An increasingly mature reckoning on the war within was a huge part of that, maintaining the emotional heft to make a truly deep impact as waves of overwhelming riffage and poignant vocal delivery crashed into our ears.
There’s fuck-all skeletal about this Horizons highlight. Bursting into life with a hail of buzzing riffage before piling through a whole range of tempo-shifts, it feels like a showcase of just how many ways Parkway have of stoving in our skulls. The gut-lurching breakdown that hits around the 1:50 mark rocks listeners off our axis before another 60 seconds later finishes us off with all the subtlety of being hit by an 18-wheeler. With a sentiment that’s by turns cynical and stark, it’s also one of the band’s darkest-ever compositions. ‘To be buried / Beneath the waves / A sailors grave it's all I crave / Bury me (bury me) / 5000 fathoms deep!’ Hold on for dear life.
Where Wishing Wells felt like a promise that Parkway hadn’t left their metalcore roots behind, the second single from Reverence was a flip-side showcase of just how far they’d come. Originally adjoined as part of previous track Cemetery Bloom, that gargantuan main riff was singled-out as “some fucking Mastodon meets Metallica kinda thing” deserving of a song all its own. The finished article is perhaps the greatest example of Parkway’s arena-rock ascent, delivering an infectiously simple idea with world-class heft and conviction.
Featuring one of the greatest mosh calls of all time (‘So cry me a fucking river – BITCH!’), Romance Is Dead is the song above all others from Parkway’s nascent, developmental stage that forged the bond between band and fans that would endure across the 15 years to follow. There are plenty of raw edges on show here, but the energy and rabid exuberance on show mean there’s no standing still for long enough to really notice, while that chugging riff remains the stuff of mosh-pit nightmares all these years down the line.
‘Brothers, my brothers is this all that we are / Sisters, my sisters we've been crushed by the fists of god!’ From the weird Aboriginal sounds of its opening through that iconic introductory couplet to half-rapped politicised verses – ‘’Cause if you can’t see the chains tell me what use is a key / It’s cash, blood and oil, in the age of the refugee’ – owing as much to Rage Against The Machine as any metalcore contemporaries, Crushed was another watershed as Parkway stepped up to heavy music’s big leagues. Delivered at a far more deliberate pace, it was also confirmation that these one-time speed-freaks weren’t reliant on frenetic pace to maintain that sense of, ahem, crushing heaviosity.
With Prey, Parkway Drive set out to write an anthem and, boy, did they succeed. Built of six-strings that feel alternately sinister and swashbuckling, and featuring perhaps the biggest (and definitely the most swaggering) chorus of their career to date – ‘Prey, we are all prey for the sorrow / Prey, we are all prey for the sorrow, our sorrow’ – it was the kind of track to maintain what seemed like an impossible upwards trajectory. Condemning the modern obsession with worshipping self-destructive behaviour, its message is just as hard-hitting. “Everything about celebrity is so fucking toxic these days,” explained Winston at the time. “We’re attracted to toxicity. But it’s also seen as the thing to strive for, because apparently if you reach that status, that’s success, and it’s crazy.”
Vice Grip was an outrageously divisive cut on release. Slower, less aggressive and more unashamedly commercial than anything that had come before, it was greeted by many closed-minded fans with cries of “sell out” and barely veiled derision. What it lacked in technicality, severity and darkness, however, it more than makes up with bombastic power, screw-turning catchiness and downright life-affirming lyrics like ‘One life, one shot, give it all you got!’ Oh, and the incredible music video – featuring the band ramping-up their Point Break-alike reputation with a group skydive – is one of the most genuinely thrilling of all time.
Parkway have undeniably come into their own in the second half of their career, building on and broadening out that metalcore template into something capable of taking the whole world by storm. Carrion still feels as bloodthirstily fresh as the day they dragged it loose, however. Maxing out the melody and heaviness, its cathartic lyrical content might feel a little over-egged (‘In a moment I’m lost / Dying from the inside / Her eyes take me away / Tear me apart from the inside out…’) but the finished article is close to metalcore perfection, brilliantly distilling a moment in time and etching it permanently into that generation of mid-’00s metalcore fans’ minds.
‘The greed of man has devoured this earth until there was nothing left. We watch as time eats us alive. A generation born to witness the end of the world…’ With its doomily atmospheric opening monologue, and undulating vocal chants influenced by the trademark stadium singalongs of South American fans, Atlas’ outstanding second single is another absolute epic. Focused, thematically, on the increasing imbalance of power as western civilisation progresses, with the passing generation holding up the progress of the next, it could have been something of a dirge. Instead, it’s presented as a last chance plea for today’s youngsters to take back our destiny while there’s still time. Viva the underdogs, always.
If Parkway’s ascent to the fringes of heavy metal’s top-tier is best measured by their ascent to headline status over festivals as esteemed as Bloodstock and Wacken, then no track has proven more pivotal than Bottom Feeder. Custom-built to get crowds bouncing, from the tense six-strings and perfectly-judged percussion that get us underway to the spring-loaded main riff, Winston’s concussive vocal delivery and that fist-pumping chorus, it is 100 per cent banger. ‘Bow you'll be the one to / Drown, with the rats and the snakes / Bow, you'll be the one to drown / Bottom feeder!’ That overall lyrical feel might be somewhat pessimistic but the lasting impression is one of overdriven optimism, which is particularly fitting from a bunch of Byron Bay surf bros who’ve pulled themselves by their bootstraps to the brink of superstardom. ‘No mercy, no peace, you can't escape this beast…’ We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Parkway Drive kicked off their long-awaited Darker Still U.S. headline tour at Los Angeles’ Wiltern on January 31 – here’s what they played.
Parkway Drive, Trivium and more join the two-day Knotfest even in Japan this April
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From Carrion to Crushed, Dedicated to Darker Still, Parkway Drive aren’t messing around with their UK setlist…
From run-down youth halls to sketchy deathtraps to the biggest, flame-filled stages on the planet, Parkway have done it all and then some. Frontman Winston McCall takes a look back at some of their most memorable moments and some he'd maybe rather forget...