Call me pessimistic, but rarely these days does a new album from a metalcore band make me stand up and take notice. Fortunately for Parkway Drive, pessimism is a mood that takes their latest release Deep Blue more than a step above their two previous and criminally overlooked releases. Killing With A Smile sported some great metalcore sounds, and Horizons allowed the Aussie quintet to explore and experiment with less riffing – although it is still heavily present – and more song writing, sporting bigger choruses and vocal hooks than ever before. Deep Blue takes this progression one step further, and allows the guys to express their feelings towards humanity to the point where it makes this album become progressive, whilst at the same time being incredibly hardcore.
Frontman Winston McCall explained the narrative for Deep Blue as being ‘…about the search for truth in a world that seems to be devoid of truth’. The ‘story’ is about a man who wakes up only to come to the realisation that his entire life is pointless and everything he believed in was a lie. As a result of this, he goes on a journey to the bottom of the ocean and back again to find some form of truth about himself. Having been raised in a surfing town on the Australian coast, you would think that Winston and the gang would have little to complain about – but the band have more to them than the ‘surfer dude’ look they portray. Underneath lie pained hearts of darkness that come across both in their onstage presence, and especially within this work of metalcore genius.
Atmospheric opener ‘Samsara’ starts with calm, slow building guitars, and screams heard faintly in the distance, as if underwater. This is followed by a tone-setting growled lyric of ‘Existence is suffering’. Just as you relax into a slow pace, an abrupt end and a vicious blast of drum beats ‘settles’ you into the next song, fittingly titled ‘Unrest’. From that point on Parkway Drive do not let up on their speed and heaviness. Luke Kilpatrick and Jeff Ling’s riffs lay waste to any peaceful mindset you were in, while Winston growls like a wounded animal, filled with anguish and pain that will make you want to let out that primal scream which is inside you. The songs switch from crushing metalcore blast beats to heavy guitar melodies. Tracks such as ‘Deadweight’ and ‘Deliver Me’ create massive chugging drum beats from Ben Gordon that cause your heart to vibrate in your chest from their intensity, alongside Jia O’Connor providing some vibrant and haunting bass lines. Whereas ‘Karma’ and ‘Leviathan I’ sport gang-vocal style choruses that make you want to sing until your throat is raw. Not forgetting the vicious ending track ‘Set To Destroy’, 1 minute 34 seconds of pure unsanctioned brutality that will give any avid headbanger whiplash, but in a really good way. The stand out moment on this album has to be the extremely powerful ‘Sleepwalker’. Starting from a small ripple to a raging tidal wave, Sleepwalker truly shows Parkway’s darker side with an instantly memorable guitar riff that is as melodic as it is savage, tormented lyrics and a brutal beatdown towards the end that makes your gut rumble and leaves your brain blown. However, ‘Hollow’ and ‘Wreckage’ did take me a few listens to really appreciate them as much as I did the other songs but once I was in and looked at their lyrical content and truly appreciated the musicianship behind them, I was completely sold.
Parkway Drive have put forward the best album of their career that will become the measuring stick for all future metalcore artworks and it will be hard to find one that will challenge it. This is what metalcore has been working towards and Deep Blue has become a massive milestone for the genre. Parkway’s tiny surfing waves have been building and building and finally erupted into a tsunami that will shoot them to the top of the metalcore mountain. In their mind, humanity is a lost cause, but if it all does go down the bog appreciate this music while you can. It may not be your sole reason for being but it should be one of your reasons to mosh.