Parkway Drive, still the GOAT.
Parkway Drive are one of those rare bands that only come along once in a while. Since forming around 2003, the Byron Bay five-piece have gone from playing small hardcore shows at their local youth centre to being one of, if not the biggest metalcore bands in the world that routinely see themselves atop the high bills of European summer festivals and consistently selling out headline tours right here at home and far abroad. Through sheer hard work, good albums, and smart decision-making, the band are still sitting at the very top of the pile. Over ten years ago in 2007, they released their second record, ‘Horizons’. For many fans that found the band in this earlier part of their history, this collection of songs is often considered their best. While it’s not quite my favourite record from start to finish (that goes to 2010’s ‘Deep Blue’), the influence ‘Horizons‘ has had on Australian bands is undeniable; while it might not be my favourite it’s the most important Parkway record hands down. So when the band announced they were touring this record start to finish, fan anticipation went through the fucking roof. But the question is, did it deliver? I went to Melbourne’s Forum Theater to find out, to see one of my favourite bands live yet again.
Opening up the night was Melbourne’s own Alpha Wolf. If I’m being completely honest, when I first saw Alpha Wolf around the end of 2014, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the band. Sure, their aesthetic was unique and interesting but they just didn’t have the songs to match. I’ve seen them subsequently and they’ve since released their album ‘Mono’ which is a gigantic step up from their old material and it’s definitely struck a chord with fans (go and watch their brilliant live set at 2017’s Invasion Fest for proof of this). Tonight they were also on fine form, with vocalist Aiden Holmes showing off his diverse vocal delivery during songs like ‘#104’, ‘Ward Of The State’ and ‘Golden Fate, Water Break’. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting a band that have a very Sworn In influenced sound to appeal so well to an Australian Parkway Drive crowd, but they definitely had a good amount of the floor singing along, especially for a local support. (More so than Thornhill the night before too). Case in point, I spotted a guy easily in his late 30s wearing their merch after the set.
A job well done, guys.
Polaris were the main support for this tour, and after witnessing their staggering set, I can see why. Since I first saw this band live a little under three years ago, the rate of growth they have displayed is simply unbelievable. When I saw them on their headline tour back in 2016 in support of their previous EP, ‘The Guilt & The Grief’, they sold out Wrangler Studios and I distinctly remember feeling that this band would only grow from that point. I got the same feeling watching them at this show because, with a crowd of people that you never see at those smaller, local shows, they inspired some huge singalongs and pit action. With this loving, excited reception coming as a result from the band performing tracks from their ARIA storming debut album ‘The Mortal Coil’, such as ‘Consume’, ‘Lucid’ and ‘Relapse’, even with older favourites like ‘Regress’ and ‘Hold You Under’ getting played as well.
Often at times, bands that get a lot of this attention look like they don’t fit on a big stage at venues such like The Forum, but these Sydney guys looked right at home, with frontman Jamie Hails commanding the audience with ease and sounding on form vocally. It’s no secret that the instrumental section of this band is incredibly tight ludicrously good at what they do, and tonight was no exception. As I noted in my review of their debut record, bassist and vocalist Jake Steinhauser has improved markedly in his vocal performances and seemingly displays a great deal more confidence as a result. If this band can win over a crowd of Parkway Drive fans with this much ease, who bloody knows where they’re going to be at within another three years? Headlining The Forum? Most likely!
The main event was always going to be the real highlight of the evening and from the word go, Parkway showed the room why they’re still the measuring stick for all other heavy bands in this country. After the lull intro of ‘Begin‘, ‘The Sirens Song’ got the room moving very quickly with a circle pit, as did ‘Feed Them To The Pigs’ with its absolutely gigantic first breakdown still being one of my favourites in the band’s catalogue. Hearing the band playing ‘those’ Adam D inspired riffs again is truly something to behold and you often forget just how fast and punishingly heavy these older tracks can be. Hearing fan favourite ‘Carrion’ so early in the set is a little weird these days in their career but you wouldn’t know it based on the crowd’s massive reaction. It’s definitely also cool to hear a song like ‘Five Months’ in the set, even though it’s completely dwarfed by ‘Boneyards’. It’s not my favourite song that the band has put out, but it’s definitely still packing a punch and the mammoth closing breakdown with it’s iconic “There’s blood in the water” pit call is still inspiring some huge reactions.
Following this, the band dropped into ‘Wild Eyes’, one of the few ‘Atlas’ tracks I properly enjoyed and followed it with ‘Vice Grip’. While it’s simplistic and a little cheesy, it’s one of the most fun songs in the band’s set and the chorus is just so infectious live. ‘Idols and Anchors’ (the original blueprint for ‘Wild Eyes’ in many ways) and the savage ‘Breaking Point’ follow, with the latter including guitarist Jeff Ling’s “moment in the sun” alternate picked guitar intro (which he pulled off as well I may add).
After playing ‘Dead Mans Chest’ (and pulling me out of pit retirement I may add), the band followed it with two classic album tracks in ‘Frostbite’, which I’ve heard a good few people say is their favourite song from the record, and the titular closer ‘Horizons’, which is definitely my favourite from the entire album. Throughout this entire set, frontman Winston McCall was commanding the audience with ease and he was sounding as good as ever for a guy that’s been doing this for the better part of a decade and a half. The encore consisted of the almost-nu-metal ‘Crushed’ and the ‘Bottom Feeder’ which inspired one of the biggest pits of the night.
Tonight’s show was about two distinct things: the future of the Australian heavy scene with Alpha Wolf and Polaris, as well as the undisputed leaders of said scene, Parkway Drive. There was one part in the set in which Winston very clearly made it clear he fully supports Polaris, and it almost feels like a passing of the torch in some ways.
In any sense, this was a truly special show, one that I’ll remember for a long while yet.
PC: Owen Jones (Digital Beard Photography). Read our retrospective review of ‘Horizons’ here. Check out more photos from the night below: