Reinvigoration is a weird thing. Bring Me the Horizon recently did it, leaving their bruised metalcore past somewhat unscathed. Asking Alexandria are currently in the process of it too, alongside a whole host of other contemporaries. The big question, is, though, whether or not Aussie metalcore legends Parkway Drive can pull it off too. New album Ire has been described by frontman Winston McCall as ‘divisive’, something which comeback track Vice Grip did more than enough to demonstrate. The record comes out on Friday (25 September), but it’s already streaming online in advance. Read on for our full opinion on the album.
The record opens on Destroyer’s hazy guitar intro, which is backed up by a pounding percussive beat. As the intensity builds up, faint chants shout “DESTROY” in a hauntingly massive tone which sets the scene for the song. Parkway Drive’s former brutality has been forgone and replaced by chugging hair metal guitars and 80s vocals. McCall’s trademark growls and guttural vocal tone are both still present, although this time round his lyrics are actually decipherable. “The hearts beat faster and our heads hang low” he sings ahead of the chorus, one which is equal parts ferocious as it is anthemic. The chant of “DESTROY” appears multiple times throughout the track, subsequently helping to pull the whole song together and form one coherent whole. The heavy Dying to Believe follows, seeing the band head down a very accessible metalcore path akin to bands like Of Mice & Men and new crown holders Beartooth. McCall’s urgent vocals ring out loud during the hard hitting chorus, before a chugging, catchy riff underpins the whole affair. The percussion on Dying to Believe is fierce and fast, something which drummer Ben Gordon deserves plenty of credit for. “Die, die, dying to believe” proclaims McCall during the chorus, before Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick’s guitars intertwine magnificently. Comeback track Vice Grip follows, encompassing a heroically victorious intro, more fierce vocals and the most anthemic chorus on the whole record. An epic “yeah, yeah, yeah” chant holds the track together and ultimately becomes its strong point, before the chorus itself cranks everything up another notch. “Hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness” shouts McCall furiously, before it becomes very evident that the guitars are taking the helm on this track. A special mention should also be reserved here for bassist Jia O’Connor, whose tight rhythms are the perfect accompaniment to Ben Gordon’s percussion.
Following the natural high presented on Vice Grip, new single Crushed proceeds to have a stab at demolishing everything in its path. It’s definitely one of the most divisive songs on the record, with McCall spending the verses almost rapping in places. This gives the song an extremely huge resemblance to Rage Against the Machine, particularly when the guitars start to chug in time with McCall. The chorus is massive and brutal, with Crushed the perfect track for plotting world domination one arena at a time. Fractures follows, making use of more 80s sounding guitars during the intro, guitars which don’t even bother speeding up once Gordon’s percussion enters at full force. The chorus is extremely anthemic, and it’s sandwiched between fierce verses which utilize the best of McCall’s growls. Fractures is, for the most part, an upbeat speed metal track that covers topics such as religion and money; these topics are both put in such a negative light that the brutal accompanying sounds are a fantastic combination. On Writing’s on the Wall, an opening string section gives the record a chance to breathe slightly. Queen-esque percussion (think We Will Rock You) enters the frame, with McCall subsequently ‘speaking’ over the instruments. His vocals are nowhere near menacing here; rather, they sound encouraging and hopeful for once. “Put your hands up” he declares as the track builds up, before the second verse decides to go back to the original format. “We take one step forward and two steps back” declares McCall as the verse once again builds up, this time incorporating more grisly guitar lines and chugging riffs during the breakdown. During the aforementioned breakdown, McCall slowly but surely starts to sound somewhat infuriated as his vocals increase in urgency. “What’s it gonna take?!” he screams, with the string section returning to add a sense of glam rock etherealness.
The remnants left behind during Writing’s on the Wall are followed up by Bottom Feeder, which picks up each remnant and throws into a hair metal-infused blender. The song chugs along nicely, speeding up and slowing down at different moments as it accompanies McCall’s nasty vocals. The chorus is yet again extremely anthemic, something which we’ve now started to expect from Parkway Drive. By now the band have started to discover their ‘sound’ and created a record which is equal parts brutal as it is anthemic and refreshing. The Sound of Violence keeps the pace up to speed with fast-paced riffs and double bass drums courtesy of Ling and Gordon respectively. “Seasons come and go” declares McCall during the first verse, before the chorus heads down an extremely ferocious, riff-laden path ready to let any pit erupt. Vicious, on the other hand, has another go at relaxing the mood on the album by incorporating 80s styled, Metallica-esque intro guitars. These guitars are subsequently morphed into a whole other being, namely one which could’ve been the child of any Metallica and Bon Jovi song circa 1986. Vicious is another highlight on Ire, joining Vice Grip as one of its most anthemic as well. Ire’s penultimate track, Dedicated, opens with a bout of feedback and McCall’s hellbent reaffirmations, before being taken on a huge journey by some powerful riffs. “You better listen up!” shouts McCall during the chorus, before a fierce declaration of “you can’t break me” makes for some vicious riffs and menacing growls. Ire eventually comes to a close on A Deathless Song, which utilizes acoustic guitars and the odd harp flourish during its intro. It may sound absolutely nothing like Parkway Drive, yet at the same time it bears all the hallmarks of a Parkway Drive track. Once the whole band enters the frame, it’s become a “lighters in the air” anthem which sees McCall shy away from too much intensity. The chorus is one of Ire’s heaviest, and it helps the record come to a memorable ending.
Let’s face it, Parkway Drive have changed. Some say it’s for the better, whereas some have already completely disowned the new direction. However, this is unlikely to affect the band as they’ve consciously made the decision to go down this path knowing what kind of reaction it may receive. Ire is a perfectly fine record which has perfectly demonstrated Parkway Drive’s desire to change. Who knows, this might just be the first step in the evolution of Byron Bay’s favourite metalcore outfit. Like McCall sings on Vice Grip: “keep the flame alive”.
Ire is out on 25 September via Epitaph Records.