Having ruled the Australian heavy music scene for over a decade, metalcore giants Parkway Drive are here with their sixth full length album Reverence. Parkway Drive have been arguably the most impactful and successful band in Australian heavy music, since the release of their debut album Killing With A Smile. Since then they have gone on to tour the world, touching down and playing shows in every small corner of the Earth. Due to this huge amount of previous success Reverence was greatly anticipated, and as it is the sixth full length album they have released, it is no surprise that it is something a bit different.
Parkway Drive are made up of Winston McCall on vocals, Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick on guitar, Jia O’Connor on bass, and Ben Gordon on drums. The five veterans of the scene have expanded their musical creativity with Reverence; altering their sound and style with more metal vibes, while keeping with the traditional Parkway Drive metalcore brutality.
Reverence opens up with the first single released off the album, “Wishing Wells.” Starting off with some slow guitar work and echoing slow vocals, it is almost reminiscent of an old country sort of song. This is of course only for a short amount of time, as it quickly kicks off and brings the heavy, with the brutal battle cry from Winston McCall.
“Until I’m Done”
These harsh screams are a great way to wake up and prepare you for what is about to come. The fast guitars come off as ridiculously technical, as the opening riffs are hard and heavy, while still having that admirable and unique Parkway Drive enjoyability about them. The first heavy parts of the track are simply brutal, and while listening I can picture the crowd opening up and going nuts to this part in particular. The verses of the track keep the energy high, as Winston’s vocals reflect a raw sense of anger.
Lyrically “Wishing Wells” appears to be about rage, and how it can brew inside you. Whether this rage is directed at some sort of a higher power or a person it is fierce, and is taking over. The feeling around this track is certainly anger, as every screamed word by Winston sounds as if it is some sort of personal release for him as he expresses the rage that has built up inside him.
“Ask me how I’m coping, and I’ll smile and tell you I’m just fine,
while down inside I’m drowning in the fucking rain.”
Track two is the most recently released track off the album, “Prey.” Featuring very enjoyable riffs and a different tone of vocals by Winston, “Prey” has a much more straight down the line metal sound to it than Parkway songs previously have had. Slower verses focus more on the vocals, as Winston does something different and appears to be singing rather than screaming at times. The chorus is a good amount of fun, as the singalong with the enjoyable instrumentals will no doubt be a treat live. The guitar is as always a stand out, as are the drums, as ridiculous and technically sound fills are aplenty.
“Prey” appears lyrically to be referring to society as a whole, and describing them all as victims of conformity, and the human condition. It is suggesting that we are all shaped by societies norms, and that we are all the ‘prey’ of the higher ups who set the norms. It also condemns the government, and suggests that we are ridiculous for putting up with their shit as well. This is a very metal track for Parkway, and features a good amount of catchiness and can be appreciated, although it is not one of the best songs off the album.
“Our new gods are empty like the holes in our heads.”
“Absolute Power” is a slower, yet equally as heavy track. The word heavy has been used a lot, but it is simply the only word to describe it. The verses are slow, with the gravelly voice of Winston setting up perfectly for the big instrumental sections in between them, all of which absolutely shred and are each more brutal than the last. This song gives the sense of release. If you’re holding something in, that is reflected in the slow verses, whereas the loud instrumentals are the release; a sense of relief, as you move in time with the music and all your frustrations leave you. Through the powerful screams and the ripping ferocious guitar, bass, and drums, everything is released from you, as for that one section of music all you can concentrate on is the uncivil, slow, metal riffs.
“Cemetery Bloom” is a very odd one indeed. With slow unique instrumentals and the vocals coming through as not much more of a whisper from Winston, this creates a very mysterious vibe. These are met with some kind of chanting, which almost sounds ritualistic. The chanting is mesmerising, and is appropriately matched by the theme of the song, which appears to be from the perspective of some kind of higher power, as it rains despair and destruction upon the Earth. It could be seen as a hate filled message to a higher being, describing whatever it is as a ruthless killing machine, destroying everything and killing millions as it attempts to take care of the planet.
“I am natural disaster.”
The chanting makes out that they are trying to contact this being through some sort of ritual, as Winston reflects the role of the being, constantly threatening and raining destruction upon everyone. It is quite the narrative they have created, as well as a realistic look at what could be the case if there is a higher power watching over. This is a slow but interesting sort of interlude track some would say, and there is also a spicy bit of violin thrown in at the end which is very enjoyable.
Track five is the second single released off Reverence, which is “The Void”. Metal vibes dominate this song, as this continues the slow verses and catchy choruses. Focusing more on slow technicality with the guitars, and less complicated but still heavy drums, this is certainly a much more metal song than Parkway Drive would normally produce. The chorus vocals are yelled almost as battle cries, and are followed up by ridiculously complex guitar riffs.
“In your mind all your demons are rattling chains.”
Lyrically the track is about keeping the voices in your head under control. It speaks of the dark thoughts, and the dark places you can go when they take over. This is described as “The Void”, as the demons begin to dominate your thought processes, and you get stuck in a cycle of pain and suffering in your own head. With very catchy choruses and thoroughly satisfying guitar work “The Void” is certainly a very solid metal track, and is one of the highlights off the album.
Beginning with echoing distant vocals and jumping straight into some of the most musically pleasing and technical instrumentals I’ve heard this year, “I Hope You Rot” is merciless. From start to finish it is fast, heavy, and catchy, all at the same time, and easily the highlight track so far. Violent screams timed perfectly, and the guitars impossible to not mention, the riffs are near inhumane with their undying beauty, slipping in to the rest of the song ever so sneakily and increasing its quality even more so.
“It’s a shallow fall straight down.
I see their wings are burning.
There are no halos to be found.”
This is a ridiculously enjoyable track, and I’m having a severe amount of trouble describing how much I love it. It has everything. The pace and technicality of a traditional Parkway Drive song is here, and is better than ever, whilst it is being built upon by the discreet metal type additions to their sound.
Winston’s vocals are ridiculously prominent, as the genius that is Jeff Ling on the guitar coincides with Luke Kilpatrick to set the tone throughout the whole track. That tone being ridiculously energetic and unrelenting. Not once does this song get boring, and as I repeatedly listen I constantly have a smile on my face, as the brutal screams and almost harmoniously relentless instrumentals just make one want to jump around and move.
Ben Gordon’s endless talent on drums is also on display, as the complicated and technical fills and rhythms make it even heavier and impactful. Each hit of the cymbals goes straight through you with the effectiveness of a freight train running you down, as the drums as a whole pull the track together. As I close my eyes I just feel like I could go into battle to “I Hope You Rot”, and its very rare that I’m heading into any battles, so this is a fairly rare occurrence for me. The sense of anger is evident here, yet it still has a vibe of victory to it, as if it is in the name of a personal triumph of some kind. “I Hope You Rot” is without a doubt the highlight track so far for me, and is already one of my favourite songs released this year. It is the perfect encapsulation of everything Parkway Drive have to offer. With the ridiculous technicality instrumental wise and the still ferociously heavy vibes to it, it is an absolute belter.
After that I almost feel like I need a second to recover, and I get this with the slow start to “Shadow Boxing.” Winston displays his talent for singing here, and does this before it breaks down into very fast instrumentals and the screams emerge. It continues to go back to the slow verses, as it definitely has the feel of some sort of metalcore ballad (if that exists). The pace is very all over the place, as it feels just when it is going to properly slow down it jumps straight back into the fast lane and doesn’t let you breathe.
Despite this, both aspects of the song are solid, and the conflicting pace and changing energies actually creates quite a fun and hard hitting song. The verses cause the heavy parts to be even more effective, as it builds up slowly and perfectly so that when it kicks in it feels like you’re getting kicked in the stomach, but in a good way. The violin makes a strong sexy return, as Winston’s singing goes with it perfectly towards the end of the song, and the mental image of Winston standing on stage playing violin whilst screaming is one I will enjoy for a long time, even if it is impossible to ever occur. Instrumentally the song gives the feeling of trying to get yourself out of a rut, and constantly being pulled back by something or someone. The changing in pace reflects the battle, as finally towards the end of the song when it breaks down on the line:
“No one will save you.”
It is then as if you have broken out and are off on your own. Moving forwards like a machine full of fuel, the energy of the song propels you forward into the unknown ready to get past whatever is in your way.
“In Blood” opens with a powerful drum beat, belting on the toms and setting up for the upcoming guitar riffs that absolutely shred. Leading perfectly into echoing gut wrenching screams from Winston, this song is fairly similar to several others off the album. Going between slightly slower verses and catchy yet heavy instrumentally driven choruses, there is a slight formula that applies to multiple songs off this album. This isn’t to say that these songs aren’t enjoyable, its just a lot of them are structured very much the same, and “In Blood” is very relevant to that.
In spite of that though it is also very enjoyable, and appears lyrically to be about a mental battle inside your own head which pits yourself against the demons that lurk in the darkness of your mind. It speaks of the losses that can occur, and the lows you can feel, but eventually comes out on top. It speaks as if it is an open letter to the demons themselves, as well as society as a whole, telling the listener that they too can defeat their own demons, whilst still telling the demons that they will never win.
“We’re all saviours. We’re all saints. We’re all martyrs, and we don’t need saving.”
There is certainly a feeling of success that comes with this song, as the higher pitched guitars and fast paced instrumentals towards the end and during the choruses reflect the high points of life when battling the demons. The last twenty seconds of this track are also filled with the most violent and aggressive vocals from the whole album, with Winston really letting loose vocally. With that part comes the feeling of letting the demons go for good, and moving on whilst releasing all your darkness at the same time.
The ninth and penultimate track off Reverence is “Chronos,” which is the longest song off the album, going for over 6 minutes. This is a fairly standard track for the first half of it, until it gets to roughly 4 minutes in where it kicks into gear instrumentally. Fairly basic up until the near end, when it starts going it really goes. Taking a slower and more metal approach to it, it is technically stellar for the second half, as the instrumental focused part of the track is very enjoyable. Catchy riffs and the returning use of the violin gives you something to dance to rather than to mosh to, and is a welcome change to begin to finish off the album.
The closing track is titled “The Colour of Leaving,” and is the most unique song off the album. The slow string work of the guitars and soft vocals of Winston create a harmonious vibe, as the backing tracks of crickets and the sounds of nature create a distant and mesmerising feeling. I’m hanging off every word sung, as in my head I am taken to the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the violin and guitar as Winston sings. Surrounded by crickets and trees, the wind strongly blowing through the night I feel as if I’m there.
Lyrically this song appears to be about loss, particularly about losing someone or something that you took for granted. It touches on grief, and how after such an event one can feel like they are completely alone, and question the pointlessness of it all. You don’t know where to put your faith, and question everything after losing a loved one. There is also a sense of shock to this song, and you can certainly hear the grieving in Winston’s singing. This is somewhat of an emotional ballad, and is the softest song ever created by Parkway Drive. It is particularly emotional and enjoyable and demonstrates a particular strength of straight up singing for Winston, as opposed to merely screaming.
With the sound of Winston walking away, dirt crunching and twigs snapping, the album comes to a close. Beginning with the frustration and passion of “Wishing Wells”, hitting its high point of heaviness and technicality with “I Hope You Rot”, and closing with the emotional and regret filled “The Colour Of Leaving,” Reverence is a very solid album. The combination of the greater yet softer metal influences with the band’s traditional fast and heavy sound has freshened Parkway Drive’s sound and resulted in something special in Reverence.
Parkway Drive continue to get better and better which each release. They have done very well not to get stale like a lot of bands do with age, where they end up making the exact same album several times in an attempt to maintain the sound that brought them their success. Parkway have recreated themselves almost, and have built upon their previous releases with this. Parkway do not have one album that is the same as another, and this is how they have maintained their longevity.
Reverence is a reflection of trying something new, and keeping the music fresh so that they continue to enjoy what they do. It may not be for everyone, but Reverence is certainly a very enjoyable album that displays uncanny levels of musical talent as well as the desire to make music that they like, which is what it is all about.
With ridiculous instrumentals, powerful vocals, and a noticeable amount of passion behind it, Reverence is certainly going to be one of the highlight albums of the year, and will be enjoyed by literally anyone. Seriously. Go outside and play it as loud as you can so everyone can hear it because everyone needs to hear it as soon as they possibly can.
Combines elements of hardcore, metalcore, and straight metal perfectly. Ridiculously technically attractive instrumentals. Powerful vocal performance. Hard hitting lyrics.
Several songs have the same sort of structure.