||SCOTT ADAMS: TERROR AUSTRALIS
In which Byron Bay’s finest take the plunge and take the first bold steps away from their Metalcore kingdom in search of new lands to conquer…
That at least, is the impression you’d have got from listening to the early worried musings of longtime Parkway Drive fans who’d been sniffing around on the internet for clues about the rumoured change in direction the band were considering undertaking in the run up to Ire’s release.
The reality is not quite as startling – you can take the Metalcore out of the boy, etc – but this album will still come as a hurricane of fresh air for those who feel the Metalcore genre is running out of steam and in need of sprucing up a little.
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Like distant cousins Bullet for My Valentine and Trivium, the ‘Drive seem to have been seeking solace in old records as they searched for inspiration for ‘Ire’, a fact evidenced by opening track ‘Destroyer’.
As good an album starter as you’ll hear all year, it roars in on the back of a riff The Scorpions wouldn’t have turned their noses up in 1985 before Winston McCall unleashes the first in a series of mightily impressive vocals and it’s on for young and old. If this is the shape of things to come, for Parkway Drive, I’m sold…
This is stadium Metalcore, for sure, but it’s none the worse for that. That the album is bookended by that other stadium rock staple – the big ballad (although’ Deathless Song’ isn’t quite up there in terms of lighter-apps-in-the-air suitability it’s heading in the right direction), perhaps gives the nod to all those ‘going soft’ rumours, but really there’s absolutely nothing for long term fans of PD to fear in either track.
As if to emphasize that fact, second track ‘Dying to Believe’ is a roistering, bottom-ended slab of hate that would have fitted right in on, say, 2006’s ‘Killing With a Smile’, McCall again proving he holds all the aces as far as Metalcore vocalising is concerned.
But then the record veers sharply to the left again in the shape of the quite superb ‘Vice Like Grip’, which again takes up eighties riffage and yeah-yeah-yeah gang vocals in an effort to spice up the mixture of hammering bass and drums and McCall’s from-the-depths roar.
That it works perfectly shows just how good this band is; melding disparate styles is never easy, especially in the genre-obsessed world that is Heavy Metal in 2015 – but when McAll screams for ‘hope for the hopeless’ as guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick pull their best Richie Sambora shapes everything, somehow, makes sense and you won’t fail to be swept along in the tide of spandex-testing euphoria it all creates.
Crushed crawls along in sinister style, featuring some neatly clipped rifferama, huge drums from Ben Gordon and an absolutely coruscating vocal from that man McCall again. Despite its overt simplicity, the track works superbly, prompting my good friend Mick Strong to comment that "this is what Papa Roach would have sounded like had they been (a) a Metal band, and (b) any good".
I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I know what he means. ‘Fractures’ starts off as more of a straightforward, melodeath chugger – although the band manage to shoehorn some more whoah-oh-ohs here as well – while ‘Writings on the Wall’ is clearly the song that stern faced, I-Only-Listen-to-unforgivingly-Metal-Metalcore denizens of darkness will have the most problem with.
A slow-burning, unashamedly rabble-rousing drum tattoo backs McCall’s half-spoken, half rasped call to arms, the “put your hands up” refrain sounding all the while like something purpose written to raise the roof structures of arenas worldwide.
That the song never really erupts as you’d expect it to shows how much in control the band is – and how well they avoid the pitfalls of cliché that this more simplistic style of music can be fraught with- although live you know this will absolutely go off, never fear.
Next up is Bottom Feeder, perhaps the first track on the album to just fall short in terms of what’s around it; The rap Metal interlude in the middle of the song just doesn’t gel in this brave new world of pop Metal frippery and hard-edged melodic death crunch and although McCall screams his lungs out for the cause again, it just fails to make the cut.
No such fate will await the aptly named ‘The Sound of Violence’, however, which rumbles along nicely and is another tip of the hat to the band’s early sound.
It’s perhaps the most unalloyed nugget of pure Metalcore on the album, but the band work hard to make it fit in the overall scheme of things well. By no means a classic, it will still sit well with the Parkway veterans.
Next track ‘Vicious’ doesn’t really deserve such a violent title, being another synthesis of melodic guitar work and guttural-yet-catchy vocal fireworks with a chorus that, in stripped-down form might well have been born around the same time as Alice Cooper’s ‘Trash’.
In fact penultimate track, the spitting, baleful ‘Dedicated’ would probably have worn the name better as it hammers its brutal way through three and a half minutes of take-no-prisoners all out assault that’ll leave your ears in dire need of some comforting balladic noise – which, as luck would have it, is where ‘A Deathless Song’ comes in…
Enough people were willing to take the punt on ‘Ire’ – whatever the chattering classes were saying about it – to give the band their first Australian number one album; whether they like what they heard after buying the album of course comes down to how open minded they’re willing to be, and how much change they are willing to take from a band that’s become a byword for integrity-laced bludgeon down under.
But whatever those reactions were or are, one fact is inarguable – ‘Ire’ is one hell of an album.
More Scott Adams right here.