Parkway Drive has had to deal with their fair share of grief. In the last few years their close friends in The Ghost Inside were involved in a life-altering bus crash that claimed the lives of two drivers. Their good friends and Metalcore cohorts, Architects, lost a brother and founding member, Tom Searle, and Parkway frontman, Winston McCall lost his best friend and faithful companion Monty, his beloved dog who died in his arms. Grief is a powerful motivator, and goes some way to explaining the stylistic shift seen on Parkway’s latest album, Reverence (Epitaph).
Fellow Australian export, Thy Art Is Murder, kickstart the night with their punishing brand of Deathcore, and battering through fan favourites like ‘The Purest Strain Of Hate’ early in the set pays off for the quintet as the audience is wholeheartedly on side. CJ McMahon strides around the stage, imposingly growling and pig squealing his way through the band’s arsenal of skull crushing material, all the while referring to the audience as “sick cunts”. This is met with some bemusement at first, but the Australian vernacular is explained away as he tells those who don’t like it to “fuck the fuck off”. As they annihilate the venue with finale ‘Puppet Master’, it’s clear that the band is right at home in larger venues, and can more than hold their own against the heavyweights of the genre.
Metalcore is a bit of a funny term due to its duality. For some, Metalcore ended in around 2002, for others, that’s where it started. We’re certainly a long way from the blueprint laid down by the likes of Integrity, Poison the Well and Vision of Disorder, but you cannot deny the influence Killswitch Engage has had on the modern incarnation of the genre. Ever since their debut album, Alive Or Just Breathing (Roadrunner) they have been a bastion of the sub-genre. Tonight they rattle through hits across select moments of their often patchy, but usually brilliant career. ‘End Of Heartache’ being the second song sends the mighty crowd wild, with a singalong deserving of headlining status alone, before ‘My Curse’, ‘Rose Of Sharyn’ and ‘My Last Serenade’ see things home in ludicrously joyous fashion.
Jesse Leach stomps around the stage with an imposing verve, and as he steps onto the riser he looks every bit the hero the crowd perceives him to be. It’s a deeply personal set as Leach states “It’s nights like tonight that remind [him] why [he’s] alive”. Meanwhile, Adam Dutkiewicz treats the venue as his personal playground, waggling his bum at the audience and pulling silly faces while peeling off those addictive riffs. The band plays with professionalism and vigour, and pull off a very impressive set. As finale ‘In Due Time’ comes around, the attendees are moshing and crowdsurfing like their lives depend on it. Killswitch end their set with all the grace and nous one would expect of a now veteran act, heralded as champions.
The lights dim. Fire starts exploding from the stage and the sound desk. A low, drawling voice speaks mystical words into the aether. At this point, people realise that Parkway Drive are taking to the stage from within the crowd, escorted by flaming torch-bearing security. It’s a very Rammstein move, but one that helps to build the anticipation sky high. By the time they actually begin the first song, the room is fit to burst with unbridled glee, and ‘Wishing Wells’ gets an explosive audience reaction. This is followed by hit single ‘Prey’ that sees the entire crowd jumping for joy at Winston’s whim, screaming the words with desperation throughout.
The production on this tour is spectacular. Whenever a band introduces a more intricate, and most importantly, flammable stage set, comparisons to Rammstein are inevitable. Guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick are elevated high into the skies on hydraulic lifts during ‘Wild Eyes’, sparks rain down upon the band during ‘The Void’ and the stage is engulfed in flame following Winston’s Molotov cocktail to the back of the room during the encore of ‘Crushed’ and usual suspect, ‘Bottom Feeder’. It doesn’t have the same level of awe-inspiring madness as Rammstein, and it may not be as innovative a stage set up, but you’ll be damned if it isn’t a ridiculously impressive spectacle.
While fan favourites and older material such as ‘Vice Grip’, ‘Karma’ and ‘Idols and Anchors’ get the most fervent reactions, it’s in the newer and more sonically ambitious material that Parkway really shine.’Writings On The Wall’ has three violinists play along live, bringing a touch of class to proceedings that shows that Parkway aren’t looking for the easy way out of playing anything through the PA. Songs like ‘Cemetery Bloom’ that take as much influence from Tom Waits and Nick Cave as they do Killswitch, are genuinely intriguing, and the main set closer of ‘The Colour Of Leaving’ sees Winston stand alone in a spotlight with a cellist for accompaniment. It’s a delicate and emotionally harrowing way to end the bulk of the performance, and really highlights the inner turmoil and sorrow that went in to creating Reverence.
Parkway’s set is an explosive and emotionally mature affair. The songs themselves are all infallible, as are the performances. The level of detail and care taken in creating the stage show is a marvel, and Winston McCall stands out as a hero of the genre. A textured and multifaceted show that screams Festival headliner, they leave the stage to seemingly endless applause. They have well and truly made the jump into the upper echelons of the Metal world, and there’s no way in hell they’re coming back down.
Viva the Underdogs!
WORDS BY SAM SAVIGNY
PHOTOS BY LUKE DENHEM PHOTOGRAPHY