Australian metalcore giants Parkway Drive have been heading toward world domination since their formation in 2003. Though they’ve played to ridiculous crowds all around the world, the Byron Bay quintet have never done a tour as big as this on home turf. Their Australian tour celebrating the release of their diverse and adventurous album Reverence sees Parkway Drive playing the biggest venues they have ever graced, including Margaret Court Arena.
Personally, Parkway Drive were one of the bands that got me into heavy music, and I was thrilled to be attending this show at all let alone getting the chance to review it. Since seeing them in 2013 at an under 18s show at the Palace Theatre, and seeing their continued growth since has been insane. Their ridiculous production for their international shows, and the huge crowds they were playing to in Europe and USA amped up the excitement to be present at this show and see what kind of magic Parkway could produce in their home country.
A noticeable buzz was in the air as punters headed toward Margaret Court Arena. Parkway shirts were draped across peoples backs as far as the eye could see, similar to the line to get in, which was understandably huge. Getting inside the venue I could already see how massive this was going to be.
The show was opened by Thy Art Is Murder (a sentence I didn’t expect to be writing). With people slowly streaming in, their crowd started small, but that didn’t stop them from bringing the heavy with brutal tracks like “Dear Desolation”, and “The Purest Strain of Hate”. CJ McMahon’s vocals were on point from the start; hitting his highs and lows with flawless execution. Although the Sydney band’s energy wasn’t as high as it could have been, the crowd more than made up for it; the room began to fill and subsequently moving more and more.
Heads were banging, limbs were flailing, and throats were hurting, as people moshed and screamed their way all around the floor of the Margaret Court Arena. Flashing lights illuminated the crowd, putting a blinking spotlight on their intense movement during an old favourite in “Holy War”. During this song, someone managed to throw a cute straw hat up on stage, which CJ proceeded to put on and heel n toe his way through the breakdown. The pit continued to flourish, and Thy Art’s musical brutality already had the audience good and warmed up.
Consistently instrumentally and vocally tight, Thy Art’s crowd involvement peaked with “Reign Of Darkness”, as the battle cry-like statement of “YOU WILL SEE THE TRUE FACE OF PANIC” seemed to come out of the mouth of everyone in the building. At this stage, seated fans were turning rabid; moshing and head banging in their chairs, and releasing all the energy they could without getting kicked out of the venue. Thy Art’s set ended on this incredible high, as a massive start to the night.
Next up was Killswitch Engage, who gained a huge cheer simply from stepping onto the stage. It became immediately clear that the Killswitch fans were out in droves. Each band member had a smile planted on their face as they launched into their set, and brought an incredible energy to the room as soon as they started playing. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was jogging on the spot, as fellow guitarist Joel Stroetzel seemed to run constant laps up and back of the stage. Bassist Mike D’Antonio looked like he was risking injury with how hard he was banging his head, and the drummer played with fierce intensity to fit the occasion.
Vocalist Jesse Leach was a big stand out, and was a huge part of what made me enjoy this set so much. His ability to transfer between clean and harsh vocals was a treat to witness, and the way he did so while maintaining impressive stage presence and movement was mesmerising. The fans obviously agreed, as they clamoured and climbed over each other in a desperate effort to get closer to Jesse so they could sing with him. Rough screeching guitars and hard fast drums complimented this excellently, and consistently sent the pit into a frenzy throughout the entire set.
Killswitch fans showed their appreciation by proudly pumping their fists in the air with devil horns on display. With this gesture it was smiles all round. Between the band, and the fans, there was a ridiculous amount of love in this room. Jesse put on his “best” Australian accent (between you and me, it was pretty rough!) to compliment the crowd and express his appreciation, before launching into “Alone I Stand”. After the call of “Sing with me” the audience happily obliged, and they serenaded Killswitch Engage and surely made them feel like they were at home in Melbourne. They offered a shoutout to Thy Art Is Murder, the “handsome gentlemen” of Parkway Drive, and finally “Youngy from King Parrot“? I haven’t had much to do with King Parrot, so clearly Killswitch Engage are more in-touch with the Australian scene than I am…
“Hate By Design”, “My Last Serenade”, and “My Curse”, closed the set with some more grooving heavy tunes, and were clearly the three most sought after songs of the evening. For each of them the singalongs were deafening, and the movement from the crowd was unrelenting. After I witnessed this I caught myself thinking, “Shit I need to listen to these guys more”, and boy do I feel silly now for not doing so beforehand. With one final song after those three (“In Due Time”?), Killswitch Engage ended their set with smiles on their faces, and certainly planted one on the face of every fan that attended. They were incredibly tight instrumentally, and vocally, and I consider myself quite lucky to have seen them.
Good lord, it was then time for the main event and the main reason everyone was there: Byron Bay five piece, Parkway Drive. The room was completely full at this point, and it was difficult to spot an empty seat. On the floor area everyone was squeezed in tightly, almost shoulder to shoulder. As the lights went out to begin the set, the screaming of appreciation from the audience began, and I don’t think it actually stopped until their set ended.
The set opened with darkness. Crickets and crunches of gravel bellowed through the arena speakers, and immersed the audience in an overpowering sense of awe. “Wishing Wells”, began, and the place fell silent as Winston McCall’s vocals serenaded us with the opening verses of the song. The heavy started as the lights came on with a literal bang, and small fireworks blasted up in perfect sync as the band kicked in. Instant intensity from Winston set the tone for the rest of the band as they followed suit. Banging their heads and letting themselves flow around the stage, each member moved in near perfect synchronisation. Surprisingly too, as they seemed to be missing a member as regular guitarist Jeff Ling was absent, and playing in his place was Thy Art Is Murder’s very own Andy Marsh.
Parkway Drive belong on a stage as big as this, that is for sure, as the incredible light show and flame based production took everyone’s breath away with every single song. “Prey” got everyone jumping and singing in an absolute mess of human movement. Frantically bouncing, moving, and yelling, this evidenced the love that the people in this room have for Parkway Drive more than anything. That determined drive and adrenaline that every single person in this room had; that’s what Parkway represents, and it was easy to see that everyone was there to express that. Already sporting massive grins on their faces, the band expressed their immense appreciation for the fans: “Fucking hell, this is absolutely mental”.
Busting unexpectedly into “Carrion” had the room SHAKING. Winston could have gone the entirety of this song without singing a single word and it would have gone just fine. Every word he screamed was thrown right back at him from the audience, and as everyone jumped and jumped and moshed and moshed, it was already clear that we were witnessing something special. “Vice Grip” had the flames flowing, as the massive flamethrower machines on the stage spat out a seemingly neverending flow of fire in perfect timing with the song itself. People were on each others’ shoulders all through the standing area, and were throwing their fists in the air, overpowered with energy. The battlecry of “RISE! RISE! RISE!” sent them into meltdown, launching the pit into a frenzy and continuing the ridiculous intensity that the band was producing. Flames lit up the arena, making Parkway seem like gods. They looked down on us from behind the flames, and had this entire place in the palm of their hands.
“We’re only just getting warmed up Melbourne”; a dangerous statement from Winston, but we would all find out later that it was the absolute truth. “Dedicated” turned the heaviness to eleven, and allowed Parkway to show just how hard they could go. With guitarists Luke and Andy, and bassist Jia (Pie) perched up on metal platforms, they shredded through the harsh start of the song. They sent goosebumps flowing through me, and pumped adrenaline through the blood of the punters on the floor. As it got to the chorus they walked down from the platforms in perfect unison, and as the flames sprayed from the cannons it was like they were being greeted back to stage by Satan himself.
“Absolute Power” was a big fan favourite, and a good chance to flex their pyro, as the scream of “The Truth Drops Like A Bomb” released in perfect-sync with several explosion like blasts from the fireworks. “Cemetery Bloom” sent intense dark vibes throughout the room, and plunged the arena into darkness aside from two gigantic splitting fluoro lights. Everyone left the stage except for Winston, and he serenaded us to the tune of the “Cemetery Bloom” opening. It felt like it was just us and him, stuck in this world together, with nothing else mattering except for that exact moment. It was overwhelmingly powerful, and the intensely bright lights darted around the room like wartime spotlights. The rest of the band returned to finish the song by bringing the heavy, before launching into “The Void”.
Flames ensured the crowd was still awake, and were a gorgeous forefront of the glaringly beautiful background of blue and gold being shown from the lighting. Another unexpected one, “Idols And Anchors”, planted a smile on every face in the arena, as we all sang our very best “woahhh”s towards the stage. It was near deafening, and as the song got faster and harder every hand not being used for moshing purposes was firmly in the air. Three or more circle pits sprouted up throughout the pit, and the mosh was going wild. Gorgeously glamorous guitar solos played by Andy sent the riff finger wiggles up into the air, as is Parkway Drive tradition, and had everyone in awe of the breath-taking flawless execution of riffs, that aren’t even his.
The surprises just kept coming as “Karma” got going. Winston called for a gigantic circle pit, and after roughly 20 seconds of the song they stopped playing. He said that that was pretty decent, but they can definitely do better. Pumping them up with a motivational speech that had me wanting to jump the stairs and get amongst it, this was seemingly all they needed, and what happened next was something special: THE ENTIRETY OF THE MARGARET COURT ARENA FLOOR WAS ONE GIGANTIC CIRCLE PIT. There is no other way to say it, that is what happened. As I wrote in my notes, “fjcked up, this id fjvked”. That sums it up quite well I feel (typos and all) – it was insane. Like a incredibly metal violent clock, the entirety of the floor (surely three or four thousand people?) circle pitted in perfect synchronisation. Everyone at this show was there for the same reason, to celebrate Parkway Drive, and it appeared that everyone was on the exact same page for the entire set.
Then they sent us back into darkness, as four orchestra instrumentalists walked out onto stage with their various string instruments. Taking this already incredible atmosphere and making it even more special, the stringwork of these four musicians, combined with Winston standing over them on a high platform, made for a powerful performance of “Writings On The Wall”. Winston’s vocals were better than I’ve ever seen them, and added to the overarching sense of awe that was clearly leaking throughout the room. The combination of the piano backings, the orchestral additions, and Winston’s melodies, was all incredibly powerful. It was amazing to see Parkway Drive making this a ‘performance’, rather than just another show.
The orchestral performers remained on stage, and helped the band out as they kicked everyone back into gear with “Shadow Boxing”. This was my highlight of the evening. One of my favourite songs off Reverence and seeing it for the first time, this song made me want to move. I actually untied my hair just so I could excessively head-bang in my seat. The line “No one will save you” had me struggling to comprehend how insanely good this was, as the instrumental section of this breakdown combined with the incredible production combination of lights and flames was almost too much to take in. So heavy, and so intense, Parkway executed “Shadow Boxing” to unreal perfection, and I’m already buzzing to see it again soon. Goosebumps were everywhere at this stage, and gee I was having a good time. Ear-numbing singalongs were up next with “Wild Eyes”. An echoing chorus of “woahhhhhh woahhhhhh woah” repeated through the arena like a mantra. A call to war, everyone was out of their seats and fully lost in this performance.
As Parkway stepped off stage they claimed it was the end, but everyone knew better. “One more song” chants echoed, until finally fire sprouted from every corner of the stage. It lined the front, the back, and the sides of the stage, as well as the entirety of the drumkit. It was as if they had emerged from hell itself in order to return. As they stood completely still on stage, illuminated and surrounded by fire, they were Gods. “Crushed” began, and from the first note being played, the drumkit immediately began to spin. In time with the ridiculous displays of fire and fireworks, it spun left, right, and upside down, as drummer Ben Gordon was strapped firmly in. This didn’t trouble him at all, and he continued to shred his ridiculously heavy parts of the song with ease, whether he was upside down or the right way up. An incredible display of skill, the crowd rewarded this by continuing to keep the energy flowing. With this being one of the heavier songs of the night, they moshed as hard as they possibly could considering how tired they must have been, and opened the pit right up to match the brutality of the music. The drums continued to spin throughout the entirety of the song, and the fire didn’t seem to relent from its endless attack on the stage for a singular second. As “Crushed” came to an end, all I could think was “wow”.
“Has it been alright Melbourne?” Winston asked. Met with overwhelming cheers and enthusiasm, a massive smile was firmly glued to his face. He discussed the bands history, and said how amazing it was that they’ve been able to be a band for 15 years. He was also stoked that they were finally able to bring this crazy production to Australia so that everyone could enjoy it with them. After taking a second to compose himself, he begged that we all keep it going for just one more song.
“Bottom Feeder” closed the evening, and shit what a choice. Fists were raised again, and bounced up and down in unison with their enthusiastic owners passionate air-punching. Flames flew from every angle, and strong electric green lights set the dangerous tone for the especially heavy track. The pit opened up yet again, and for the last time of the night everything went crazy. “You can’t escape so snap your neck to this” kicked everyone in the stomach, and got them moshing fiercely. Exhausted and satisfied, everyone in attendance went home with a huge smile on their face, and knew damn well that that was one of the best shows they would ever seen. With a final goodbye and a final bang of pyro, a gigantic Reverence banner fell from the ceiling, and left everyone wondering if what they had just seen was even real.
Seeing how much Parkway has grown, even in the time I’ve known them, is incredible, and watching them like this had them in their element. They had a ridiculous amount of people attending, ridiculous levels of production, and all of this was just complimenting factors on the actual sick musical show they always put on. Anyone at this show will say how special it was, and I can comfortably say Parkway Drive played the best set I have seen all year.
[All photos by the mighty Albert Lamontagne]