Parkway Drive at Marquee Theatre
February 1 @ 6:00 pm - 11:30 pm
In the kitchen of the Byron Bay home of Winston McCall stands a refrigerator, adorned on one side by a quote from Tom Waits: “I want beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”
This, the Parkway Drive vocalist says, is a pretty good summation of himself. It holds true, too, as one of the guiding principles behind Darker Still, the seventh full-length album to be born of this picturesque and serene corner of north-eastern NSW, Australia, and the defining musical statement to date from one of modern metal’s most revered bands.
Darker Still, McCall says, is the vision he and his bandmates – guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick, bassist Jia O’Connor and drummer Ben Gordon – have held in their mind’s eye since a misfit group of friends first convened in their parents’ basements and backyards in 2003. The journey to reach this moment has seen Parkway evolve from metal underdogs to festival-headlining behemoth, off the back of close to 20 gruelling years, six critically and commercially acclaimed studio albums (all of which achieving Gold status in their home nation), three documentaries, one live album, and many, many thousands of shows.
“When Parkway originally started out, we all were trying to push ourselves to do more than we possibly could,” is how McCall explains it. “The better we got at it, the more comfortable we got, to the point where it became all comfortable. That is when we chose to acknowledge that just being comfortable was not necessarily doing justice to the skills and the creativity that you have grown over the years. What you hear on Darker Still is the final fulfilment of our ability to learn and grow catching up with the imagination that we have always had. These are the kinds of sounds we always had in mind. This is the way we always dreamed.”
To understand that growth is to understand Darker Still, both musically and thematically. Those who thought they had Parkway Drive figured out – the unrivalled energy, the high-octane breakdowns, McCall’s trademark bark – need reconsider everything they know about Australia’s masters of heavy. Not that anyone truly paying to their recent evolution should be surprised, though. “This is a journey we began with Ire, and which grew further still on Reverence,” McCall says, referencing the band’s preceding 2015 and 2018 works, respectively. In that context, it is easy to view Darker Still as the curtain-closer on a transformative trilogy that has seen Parkway reach new heights of creativity and success by eschewing the restrictive, safe conventions of genre and abandoning their own self-imposed rules in favour of a wide-eyed appreciation of bold new horizons. “There are compositions and songs that we’d never attempted before – or, to be more accurate, which we have attempted in the past, but not had the courage, time or understanding to pull off,” McCall reveals.
The vocalist would be the first to tell you that in order to grow, you have to let go of the past; a mantra Parkway embraced tighter than ever before when it came to blueprinting Darker Still. McCall describes how “we wanted to make a record that stood alone from the records we hear at this point in time”; one that delivers on “a more expansive sound, which allows a new weight to fall into the music.” Gordon, meanwhile, says it features “some of the heaviest moments we have ever created, but it is a different kind of heavy: an emotional catharsis that you can feel in every cell in your body.” The drummer is brutally honest in his reflection that, between “the ever-changing COVID lockdowns, government mandates, travels restrictions and tense personal relationships within the band”, Darker Still was the most challenging moment of the band’s career. Ling offers agreement, admitting that the three-year journey of writing and recording – which commenced as far back as April 2019 and would conclude in February 2022 following three months in the studio with producer and engineer pairing George and Dean Hadjichristou – “broke me by the end” as he juggled lockdown family life with the “daunting task of trying to stick everyone’s ideas together” in his downstairs home studio.
“When writing songs, we have a few questions that we ask ourselves that helps define our creative path,” he explains of the gruelling process. “‘What will this song achieve?’ ‘Why does this song deserve to be on this album?’ ‘What emotional response will this song provoke in the listener?’ If all these points check out, we know we are on the right path.”
“We are very much a collaborative band when it comes to song writing,” says Gordon. “Each song goes through several layers of scrutiny and refinements before the final version emerges. Some songs are completely unrecognisable from the first rendition to what ends up on the record.”
And so while Darker Still remains irrefutably Parkway Drive, it finds the band sonically standing shoulder to shoulder with rock and metal’s greats – Metallica, Pantera, Machine Head, Guns N’ Roses – as much as it does their metalcore contemporaries. “I wanted a classic guitar tone for this record,” explains Ling, who credits much of his inspiration to the connection his riffs have with a crowd in a live setting. “I’ve always been drawn to early ‘90s metal, so something along these lines with a modern edge was my jive. Creatively my goal was to write intricate and intriguing music that is also simple enough for everyone to understand and enjoy. We made a conscious decision to not go overboard with layering and soundscaping. This move would help reinforce our raw and classic album vision.”
“Production wise, we wanted to have a slight throwback to the ‘90s, leaning into some more real and natural sounding tones, which gives the record more character,” nods Gordon, whose work behind the kit on Darker Still – “Less about how much I could show off, and more about what will best compliment the song,” is his simple assessment – is emblematic of the record at large. “It took us a long time to learn about the importance of dynamics,” he says. “We now pick our moments much more and let the song breathe when it needs to.”
It is a revivified sound that provides the backdrop for some of McCall’s most personal and introspective songs yet. Exploring the concept of the ‘dark night of the soul’ – “The idea of reaching a point in your life where you are faced with a reckoning of your structure of beliefs, your sense of self and your place in the world, to a point where it’s irreconcilable with the way that you are as a person,” as McCall describes – Darker Still unfurls like the great rock concept albums, from Pink Floyd to, most comparably, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral.
Amongst ruminations on society’s fear of death, societal isolation and a loss of humanity, its 11 tracks play out in a classic three-act structure. Ground Zero opens its ‘setup’; a “reckoning with your own internal monologue, says McCall, which ominously speaks to “the fights, the falls, the scars and broken bones” and how “beneath it all, the cracks begin to show…” Its second act – its ‘confrontation’ – frames the album’s title track at its core: a classic rock epic about “love and time” that spans a near seven-minutes and which evokes Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. The album’s ‘resolution’, meanwhile, concludes with From The Heart Of Darkness: a brooding monster that opens with McCall’s contemplative searching (“There’s a war going on inside, nobody’s safe from / You can run, but you can’t hide / When it’s your soul you must confront”) before exploding with its mosh-call of “Fury be my victory!”
“I wanted the end of the record to mirror my experience to a degree of what this journey has been like for me,” McCall reveals. “I found that I was always afraid of showing defiance to be honest and true to myself, even if that meant sacrificing who I was to become a better version of who I could be. That has to be ripped from the darkest part of you, because the darkest part of you is what you are always afraid of in the first place. It’s the thing that you don’t want to shine the light on. It’s the element that you don’t want to show people, which you shy away from, which you’re too scared to embody.”
It is a closing statement that truly defines Darker Still. This is the Parkway Drive the band have been striving to be for two decades. Ling says it best: “I’m really proud of what we have achieved together, and feel that as musicians, we have really ascended to new realms of class and ability.” Emerging from the darkness of the past few years, this is the true face of Parkway: redefined and resolute, focused in mind and defiant in spirit.
Over the course of their career, Memphis May Fire have channeled a generation’s worth of angst, frustration, and pain, with a focused blend of gigantic melodic hooks and crushing aggression. Even after topping Billboard’s Hard Music Albums chart, having an album debut at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200, and breaking into radio’s Active Rock Top 20, Memphis May Fire refuse to sacrifice who they are or the people who made them.
A new season unfolds for the band, and it’s filled with revitalization and renewal. Stripping things down to their core elements, hearkening back to the days when they created the music their fans most cherish, Memphis May Fire rekindled the spark within to build an inferno of riffs and inspirational words. They have returned to their roots with the seasoned polish earned through years of touring and making music together. “Blood & Water” is proof positive of this fact.
Memphis May Fire have toured with a vast list of important rock and metal acts that include Killswitch Engage, Sleeping With Sirens, Black Veil Brides, Sevendust, and Atreyu. They’ve co-headlined with Yellowcard and The Devil Wears Prada, regularly appeared on Warped Tour, and at major rock festivals. The band’s previous six albums’ continued relevance is a testament to the energized connectivity between the band and their audience. Songs like “Miles Away,” “No Ordinary Love,” “Beneath the Skin,” and “Carry On” account for 100 million views and millions of streams.
Expect more anthems for the broken and beyond from Memphis May Fire in due course.
CURRENTS is the new standard for death-infused metalcore. This is emotionally fraught and impossibly angry music soaked in cold, depressive atmosphere. CURRENTS explore the forbidden realms of a tortured psyche, searching for meaning amidst uncertain chaos and venom.
Heartache, physical abuse, abandonment, trauma – no dark emotion is spared examination. CURRENTS also turn their gaze outward, offering no mercy to man-made catastrophes like climate change and animal abuse. An exploitative system that inflicts such harm upon humanity and the entire world will not be spared the wrath within this explosive, weaponized bombast.
Immediately upon the arrival of the first taste of the band’s second album, the comments section lost its collective mind. Shockingly devoid of the genre’s penchant for hateful trolling, the music video for “Poverty of Self” (a scathing indictment of the predatory industries taking advantage of the sick and broken) was met with an avalanche of praise. “These guys are breakdown scientists,” declared one commenter. “That intro wastes no time to smash you right in the face,” wrote another.
The best gem? “I would donate my organs to this band just to watch them live again.”
The Way It Ends, the second full-length from the Connecticut bruisers, is a thematic and spiritual successor to their dense, bludgeoning, and smartly constructed full-length debut, The Place I Feel Safest (2017), and a direct follow-up to the blistering and diverse EP, I Let The Devil In (2018).
Those well-versed in Meshuggah, Humanity’s Last Breath, Vildhjarta, and Architects have embraced CURRENTS with full-throated passion. A combination of their contemporaries and influences, channeled through unique perspective and personal experience, resulted in something revolutionary. It’s why they were handpicked for tours with August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying, We Came As Romans, Fit For A King, Born Of Osiris, and the Impericon Never Say Die! Tour.
CURRENTS is comprised of singer Brian Wille; guitarists Chris Wiseman and Ryan Castaldi; bassist Chris Pulgarin; and drummer Matt Young. A winding road through earlier incarnations culminated in a series of self-released EPs, leading to the band’s partnership with SharpTone.
Kerrang! put “Silence” from The Place I Feel Safest on a list of the 15 Greatest Mosh-Calls in Heavy Music, alongside bangers by genre leaders like Parkway Drive and Code Orange. Calling the song an “exploration of emotional torment, all blunt force riffage, wiry guitars, and spat vocals,” the rock mag summarized the track as “a narcotic blend of melodrama and madness.”
Album number two was produced by ex-For Today guitarist Ryan Leitru (Sleeping Giant, Your Memorial) and Wiseman, generating the kind of expansive and expressive performances best captured by producer/engineers who are also passionate musicians. Mixing duties were handled by ex-Periphery multi-instrumentalist Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Devin Townsend, Animals As Leaders). The Way It Ends was mastered by Kris Crummett (Dance Gavin Dance, Issues).
CURRENTS take special care to ensure each release serves a purpose, with a cohesive journey from start to finish, more in line with classic metal albums than today’s mere collections of songs. The lyrics are thoughtful yet accessible, skipping easy t-shirt ready sloganeering for actual depth. Blast beats, breakdowns, and a driving onslaught of riffs are tempered by stripped back, tranquil, ambient moments. There’s post-hardcore, punk rock dissonance, and even black metal esotericism.
“A Flag to Wave” is a CURRENTS anthem, a mission statement kicking The Way It Ends off after a moody intro, cascading with devilishly dynamic riffing and intense, rapid fire rhythm. By contrast, album tracks like “Kill the Ache,” “Split” and “Origin” introduce slight electronic elements, keys and synths, that actively drive the songs forward. A significant portion of The Place I Feel Safest was about abandonment. Building to a crescendo, “Let Me Leave” serves as a narrative mirror image, from the opposite perspective, a first-person account of the one who walks away.
The raw emotion on display in CURRENTS is the key to the deep connection the band has made with its ever-widening audience. They’ve proven themselves a consistent, determined, and reliable entity that will always challenge themselves and move forward, without compromising their core.