ATLAS by Parkway Drive
Serious stuff from Oz' finest metal export - deep, thoughtful, developed, and of course, brutal as f*ck.
You only have to look at the themes of PWD's releases over the years to see how they've matured as a band - from the early days of Killing With A Smile that hated things, through existence and monsters in Horizons and exploring the concept of feeling lost in Deep Blue, we arrive at the end of the world in Atlas. Yet through all this they've grown into and maintained a status as maybe the best metalcore act in the world, and this new release continues that upward trajectory - as a group, they have really pushed the boat (surfboard? They are beach bums at heart...) out and created something special.
A stand-out aspect of Atlas is the ambition, in terms of both content and musicality. The message of the album is clear; we've got a screwed-up planet that needs fixing; "there will be no future if we don't learn from our mistakes" (Dark Days). It's a big message, and this underlying theme stays strong throughout the 48 minutes of top-quality metal, but never overrides the music. But that music...
The voice is as much of an instrument as anything else, and vocalist Winston McCall has the most powerful voice I've ever heard in metalcore - watch live videos of PWD if you don't believe me - and it's a voice on form here, ripping out deep growls and strong highs without difficulty, but also exploring the more mellow semi-spoken side of vocals when the music takes that turn. McCall also delivers the lyrical content of Atlas with fantastic force - it's a dream combo of anthemic, memorable and overall memorable lyricism sung with emotion and belief in the content.
As hinted at, we are treated to Parkway's more melodic side amongst the classic riff brutality that they're so good at. It is, in fact, one of the main ways that this album is so ambitious. The opening track to an album has to be killer and set the tone for the rest, and Sparks delivers with a quiet intro that builds into a grand, epic strings-fest that puts the whole album on a huge scale. Tracks such as The River and Atlas explore a more semi-acoustic vein, and darker, moodier riffs come to light on The Slow Surrender. But there is still the crushing heaviness that we know so well throughout, most evident on lead single Dark Days and album highlights Snake Oil & Holy Water and Blue & The Grey, the two tracks that see out the album, and these are as brutal as ever.
In Atlas, Parkway Drive have produced a record that I would go as far as calling a metalcore classic. It has power in abundance, anthemic songs as far as the eye can see, some truly epic goosebump-inducing moody moments (intro to Dark Days. Trust me) and explores a more thought-provoking side without diluting what the band fundamentally are. A triumph.