Friday, 26 October 2012

Review: Parkway Drive - Atlas

 You may have noticed by now that it's been a hell of a year for metalcore. Whether it's the return of the British contribution to the genre setting new standards courtesy of my unending favourites While She Sleeps and Bury Tomorrow, the best in the world of American electronic metalcore bands unleashing their best bands courtesy of Adestria and My Ticket Home or the return of some old school heavy hardcore favourites from Vision of Disorder, the whole pounding breakdowns and high melody methods have finally been making a real name for themselves. And now it's time to see a contribution come from one of the most consistent bands in the genre, Australia's own Parkway Drive.

 You may know Parkway Drive to be the main band that have allowed metalcore to be viewed as respectable in it's darkest of times and prove that just because something's been done before, it doesn't mean it can't be executed with any kind of class and pristine brilliance. Well, that's what fourth effort Atlas is all about, only the ambition has been upped even more. This isn't just about making a great metalcore album. This album is about injecting listeners with a real vision of misc, a real vision of life and through this a real vision of the world like an atlas.

 It means that this album isn't just about big riffs and breakdowns and why should it be? The band have proved themselves to be premier songwriters of this modern age of metal, but the kind of grand soundscaping on this album takes things to a new level. The album opens with the first notes of Sparks which sounds like the backdrop for a proper blockbuster film complete with a fully mournful atmosphere, while the beautiful melodies that form interludes of The River and grand closer Blue and the Grey have a less brutal more angelic quality within their graceful passages.

 But you know as well as I do that these moments are the calm before the storm and man, what a storm Parkway Drive unveil here. As a band cited by many as the figureheads in making the perfect metalcore album, they even outdo themselves here with Luke Kirkpatrick and Jeff Ling's powerhouse riffage creating the perfect hardcore rushes on the likes of Swing and Sleight of Hand with much abrasive fury, while Jia O'Connors bleak basslines makes breakdowns in Old Ghost/New Regrets and Dark Days form a new level of darkness and excitement that also shows Parkway Drive to be figureheads in being heavy now especially with the drumming of Ben Gordon completing the rhythm section with a new craft in playing blast beats formed. With this, the band form themselves as one of the most real metal bands in the world, even across the albums moments that some would look at cynically, from the grand symphonic backdrops of the album's title track to the decision on The Slow Surrender to characterize the moment of bleakness with an out-pouring of Sid Wilson-esque DJ scratching, a fearsome sign of nu metal influences.

 And then there's the growling. The violent screams of one of metalcore's most engaging and entertaining frontmen Winston McCall have never been anything less than genuine but this is a chance to hear him at his most visceral and most real. And just as the power of the vocals can be identified as he bellows over the band at their hardest, it can be identified in the recording of the vocals amongst the album's softer sections. The extent of the realism of genuinely shocking and surely beyond the expectations of the band's hardest fans.

 Parkway Drive have never been shy of delivering the full package to listeners but with Atlas we have a full package that goes on to think outside the box. Relentless amounts of chaotic brutality presented through bleak soundscapes is enough to make a full album but for a band to constantly come up with new ideas with this combination sounding refreshed with every new song allows the band to leave most of their contemporaries in the dust is a truly awe-inspiring feat on any account even if you already expect them to deliver the goods. All this makes Atlas Parkway Drive's most accomplished release to date and finally launches them into the land of the big leagues, without any hope of coming back down. And in a year where metalcore has been at it's A game, that's the perfect way to round things off.

Parkway Drive's Atlas is out now via Epitaph. The band will tour the UK in November with Emmure.

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