Once the party-starting surfer bros of modern metal, Parkway Drive have been forced to grow up fast on ‘Reverence’. Plagued by a multitude of close-to-home deaths and faced with grief for the first time, the Byron Bay five-piece retreated into the studio to work on a follow-up to their arena-baiting last record ‘Ire’, hearts weighing heavy in their chests. The result is a defiant release that finds Parkway’s horizons expanding like never before – one that should see them topping festival bills and filling enormo-domes in months and years to come.
Emerging from the gloom with the spoken-word intro to ‘Wishing Wells’, frontman Winston McCall takes to the foreground to weave a tale of looking to the skies for answers in the wake of a huge loss. Make no mistake – this is McCall’s record first and foremost, as the model-handsome singer-screamer showcases a newfound vocal range that would make most metal frontmen weep. From brooding spoken passages to grizzly-bear growls, and of course that throat-shredding scream which made Parkway masters of the metalcore scene in the first place, he switches between styles on the fly, each one imbued with the rage and confusion of his grief. Before ‘Wishing Wells’ is up, he’s purging his demons with a declaration that he’s “killing Gods” in a voice that would make even Zeus tremble.
That Renaissance-esque, cathedral-ready painting that adorns ‘Reverence’’s cover is no red herring – for the first time, Parkway Drive wrestle with religion throughout. ‘Cemetery Bloom’’s gloomy choir could soundtrack a Medieval funeral, while the symphonic passages of ‘I Hope You Rot’ feel lifted straight out of an orthodox church service. It’s a move that proves there’s several strings to Parkway’s bow in 2018, though for every move towards melody, there’s the Rage Against The Machine-esque clatter of ‘Absolute Power’ or the horns-in-the-air anthemia of ‘Prey’ to keep the Download Festival crowds on side.
It’s closer ‘The Colour Of Leaving’ that best wraps up Parkway’s latest bold step into the unknown, though. A sombre, Nick Cave-channelling lament, it still hits as hard as any chugging breakdown or frantic solo. Not unlike latter-day Slipknot and their move into more atmospheric territory, it’s evidence that Parkway are moving swiftly away from the juvenile metalcore of their earliest incarnation. ‘Reverence’ is a record for arenas, and Parkway Drive have finally – and perhaps unexpectedly – become the modern metal band who deserve to fill them.