by Quentin Singer
Over recent years the rock and metal community has been dominated by anthemic stadium bands from the likes of Bring Me The Horizon to Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold. All of these bands appeal to the heavy metal masses just as much as they do regular radio listeners, and this trend in music production is anything but over. Australian natives Parkway Drive are among recent acts that have taken a swing at the more commercial sound. In fact, their newest release Reverence dethroned Post Malone for the number one chart position in Australia. That alone is evidence that the band is reaching new milestones of success, but how does this album stand out?
At first listen, this album is easy to criticize, especially for long-time fans aquatinted with Parkway Drive’s earlier records. Every song on the album points to the band’s new direction: a combination of their old metalcore sound with anthemic stadium rock. Being a fan of the band’s earlier work, this new direction was foreshadowed in their previous albums, especially in their last 2015’s IRE. Reverence is hit or miss. Some songs execute this new style with the sheer brute that the band is known for, while others take a complete nosedive and cease to come across as anything more than cheesy.
Again, if you’ve been listening to the group for any length of time, complaining about this is almost intuitive, but over half the album genuinely surprised me from both a lyrical and songwriting perspective. The opening track, entitled “Wishing Wells,” kicks the album off with a bang and showcases the vocal prowess of frontman, Winston McCall. This song really illustrates its subject manner, talking about the pain of not only loss, but the struggle to find answers in moments of loss and grief. Following the opening track, “Prey” is Parkway Drive’s most anthemic song on the album. At first listen, I was really not a fan of this song, and felt it was attempting to take the band to a more “easy-listening” platform, given the catchiness of the overall song.
After dozens of listens this song ended up working for me, despite its radio friendly vibe, but it is also a clear example of why some fans might not appreciate parts of the album. One thing the album does rather well is balance old Parkway with new Parkway. Songs “Absolute Power” and “I Hope You Rot” are the band’s nod to previous albums Deep Blue and Horizons, with both tracks featuring the same intricate breakdowns and guitar work of the band’s past.
The first half of Reverence is remarkably satisfying, but it’s the second half of the album where it manages to fall flat. “Shadow Boxing” is the band’s attempt at incorporating clean vocals (non-screaming) and rapping into one song, and it never comes across as pleasant to listen to. It might just be too drastic of a change from the band’s staple sound, or it’s just simply a bad song. Either way, I found this song incredibly out of place on the album. The final track on the album “The Colour of Leaving,” has clean vocals throughout the entire song, and relies mostly on orchestral strings and Winston’s very ‘okay’ singing talents. Footsteps and other ambient sounds are even heard in the background of this track, making it sound almost like a music video without the video. This cinematic end to the album just felt out of place in my opinion, and the song seems like less of a song and more of an outro to a movie or television show.
Reverence is a bold, and at times, very good album. The band has elements that reference their discography in this album, while also experimenting with new musical and lyrical approaches. For the most part, it seems to all work, and 7 out of the 10 tracks are absolutely worth listening to for any casual metal head or long time PWD fan. Whether you love or hate the band’s swing at clean vocals, it’s definitely admirable when bands write the music they love rather then the music fans love, and Parkway Drive clearly made that a point with Reverence.