The last couple of Parkway Drive records have seen the Byron Bay quintet branching out in several different directions. Although these experiments have been largely successful the band have found themselves lacking the coherence shown on their early releases, and it’s felt for a while that what they’ve been sorely lacking a clear sense of direction. It would seem, however, that journey has come to an end. For, if Atlas (2012) and Ire (2015) represent a journey of self-discovery and reinvention, then Reverence is the final product—constituting both a solidification of their new sound and the best record they’ve delivered in over a decade.
Reverence is a surprisingly diverse effort, effortlessly blending the band’s traditional metalcore template with stadium rock sensibilities, folk-tinged euro-metal crusades and plenty in between. The brooding, rhythmic menace of lead single and album-opener “Wishing Wells” wouldn’t sound at all out of place if you were to slot it into the running order of Chimaira’s The Infection (2009), only to be followed up by “Prey”, which comes off more like a lost Dropkick Murphys anthem. The biggest surprise on the album, however, has to be “I Hope You Rot”. The track is built around a blistering folk-melody that sounds like it was ripped straight out of the new Kalmah record, and boasts a chorus that sounds like Sabaton or Powerwolf or if they dabbled in black metal. It’s also easily one of the standout moments on the record, and the way all of its seemingly dissonant elements come together so coherently and complimentarily provides a perfect microcosm of the album as a whole.
If there’s one constant to be found about Reverence (apart from all the great songwriting), it’s that all sounds absolutely enormous. The band’s profile has increased considerably since the release of Ire, and the songs and production on Reverence is tailor-made to fill the kinds of spaces they’re likely to find themselves playing off the back of this record. The sheer enormity of the record can be felt in the opening bass notes of its most titanic offering: “Absolute Power”. Taking a break from all the euro sensibilities for a second, the record’s third track sounds more like a throwback to Rage Against The Machine, and though you can see its colossal closing breakdown coming from a mile away, it’s no less effective by the time it rolls around and it’s likely to be at least twice the size you were expecting upon first listen.
Along with branching out in new directions, the band have refined many of the experiments they’ve tried their hand at over their last couple of releases. By remaining more or less constant, the orchestral elements that have been creeping in since Atlas sound more essential to the record; “Chronos” is everything “A Deathless Song” and “Blue and the Grey” wished they were, with guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick truly coming to life during its final harmonized burst; while the mournful, almost-spoken word number “The Colour of Leaving” rounds the record out in a truly striking and unexpected fashion—providing it with a thematic capstone, without granting it resolution. Likewise, “Cemetery Bloom” feels like a refinement over the forced-sounding and overly serious “Writings on the Walls”. Rather than drag things out before an inevitable build-up, the track offers a brief, contemplative respite before “The Void” kicks in and does all the heavy lifting for it. This later offering boasts a cool ZZ Top-style swagger to go along with its immense Five Finger Death Punch-size chorus, and rightly forms the centrepiece of the record. Oh, and, if you haven’t seen it already, the video clip for it is off the fucking chain. (seriously, Winston lights himself on fire at one point, it’s nuts).
Reverence is a record unabashedly made to fill stadiums and win over festival crowds, yet it’s also the most daring and expansive record of Parkway Drive’s considerable career. It definitely feels like a more mainstream offering, yet somehow the band have achieved this effect by adding a ton of orchestral and melodic-folk elements into the mix. Yet, while it’s certainly eclectic effort, Reverence is far from a contradiction. The sheer variety on offer is one of its greatest strengths, and each of its many aspects is delivered with a degree of consistency and refinement not found since the early days of the band’s career. If you were ever wondering how Parkway Drive managed to rise to the top of one of the most vibrant heavy music scenes in the world, then look no further. Reverence is the best thing Parkway Drive have put out since the days of Killing With a Smile (2005) and Horizons (2007), and one which only goes to show why they’re the kings of modern metalcore, both in Australia and the world over.
Reverence was released on May 4th. You can head on over to Epitaph Records to grab it.