On the basis of their back catalogue, one would be forgiven for writing off Parkway Drive as a (admittedly thoroughbred) one trick pony. Though fourth album ‘Atlas’ did push into some previously unpushed directions, it remained rooted in low-end-driven mosh n’ roll metalcore. The scope of their songcraft has expanded as the band’s stock has risen, but there’s been little across the course of their career to suggest a sudden excursion away from their bread and butter musical ingredients – sledgehammer-heavy breakdowns in particular. But the winds of change are in the air and though Australia’s favourite sons have not totally abandoned their stock in trade, their latest single suggests their upcoming fifth full-length record ‘Ire’ will pack surprises.
“Vice Grip” is built not on half-time crunch and machinegun kick drums, but power chord riffs and big multi-tracked choruses that expand upon the gang chants of previous material but aim for more than acting as live sing along sections. It takes as many cues from 80s radio metal and Pantera groove riffs as it does Gothenburg or hardcore, and if it weren’t for a typically throat-shredding contribution from Winston McCall would be as accessible as anything in heavy rock. The lyrics are a typically positivist call to arms, and a breakdown does crop up in the track’s bridge but even then it’s far less gut rumbling and more ‘musical’ than the Parkway Drive trademark of old.
Perhaps more surprising than this transition is how well it comes off. The lead guitar weaving through a great deal of “Vice Grip” is hooky without overstaying its welcome; there’s a brilliant straightforward solo in its outro; and the simple underpinnings of the song shift regularly enough to keep the momentum rolling. Though the drums are perhaps the least interesting part of the track, a couple of thunderous fills show Ben Gordon is less slouching than settling into a groove.
If the first song taken from it is any indication, ‘Ire’ may represent a reinvention of the Parkway Drive sound akin to Metallica’s Black Album, or to take a more recent example Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Hail to the King’. The sound of “Vice Grip” is not a million miles from that latter comparison, taking the strengths of Parkway Drive’s classic material and reshaping it in a more mainstream-palatable, timeless framework. Only time will tell whether ‘Ire’ as a whole does the same – and if the rest of the experiments are as successful as this one.