Parkway Drive has always held a bit of a soft spot in my metallic heart. They were the first band I ever saw play live back in 2007. They had such a punishing set that had the crowd flailing and throwing themselves everywhere. Winston had vicious energy while screaming into the microphone, his vitriol reverberated through the speakers all the way to the back of the crowd. It wasn’t until after their set, when I actually got to meet Winston and the rest of Parkway Drive, that they were in fact quite the opposite off the stage and were genuinely nice guys who seemed more gracious that I came and watched them perform.
Over the next handful of years, the Byron Bay quintet were consistent in their music production. Unfortunately, in a genre like metalcore, which was inundated with mediocrity and xeroxed acts, their consistency was marred by an overarching malaise felt by many metal fans towards the style. Metalcore became stale as a lot of bands resorted to plugging and chugging their sound into the same formula over and over again. This turned a lot of people off to the genre, including myself.
Thankfully, with the release of Ire, Parkway Drive’s fifth studio album, they have realized that it was time to shake up their sound and explore other influences. Gone are the breakdowns and in its place are classic heavy metal riffs reminiscent of 80’s thrash and groove metal-a-la Lamb of God or Throwdown. Album-opener “Destroyer” wastes no time in opening Ire with a soaring riff that sets the tone for the album. In contrast to prior works from Parkway Drive, there is no low-key introduction track, “Destroyer” gets right to business showing off where the group looks to go with their new sound.
The following three tracks: “Dying to Believe”, “Vice Grip”, and “Crushed” form arguably the strongest section of the album, highlighting an array of groove, thrash, and hardcore influences that Parkway Drive looked to create for Ire. These songs feature some of the most memorable lyrics and choruses in all of Parkway Drive’s discography. “Crushed”‘s chorus has been stuck in my head since the song was released in late August while “Dying to Believe”‘s chorus has me moshing in public places that usually are not suitable for such instances.
The rest of Ire continues the trend of newfound, hard-hitting heavy metal. With the exception of “Writings on the Wall” (the spoken word, nu-metal subtleties don’t quite cut it for me on this song), every song throughout the rest of the album has a refreshing sense of unlimited energy. “Bottom Feeder”, “The Sound of Violence”, and “Dedicated” are another few standout tracks from the album. These tracks exemplify that Parkway Drive didn’t fully relinquish their prior sound in an effort completely reinvent who they are as a band. Instead, they use their some of their roots to add a nostalgic touch to their new sound.
Parkway Drive are on a new level of musicianship with Ire. They have transcended the slough of a genre bogged down by unoriginality, fended off career-damning stagnancy, and redefined themselves as a solid heavy metal band. Ire goes down as a welcomed breath of fresh air and the reinvigoration of one of Australia’s best bands. Hopefully I have the opportunity to see them live again soon!