There is a moment in the song “Boneyards,” (about 2.53 minutes into it), that you realize Parkway Drive have accomplished the very thing they set out to do with Horizons. As vocalist Winston McCall incinerates the words “there’s blood in the water,” the song comes crashing down with a breakdown so heavy, buildings will crumble. It is clear from this point that not only have they pushed the bar for Australian metalcore, but perhaps, set the standard throughout the genre. Wanting to step up the heavy from their 2005 full length Killing With a Smile, the boys from Byron Bay have more than just surpassed their album goals, Horizons’ energized brutality is the signal bell alerting the masses to their presence.
Produced once again by Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, Horizons is infused with the same kind of metal urgency as KSE albums- but unlike the overtly melodic nature of Killswitch’s music, Parkway Drive forgo the harmonies and instead stick to up-tempo guitar shredding, heavy percussion work, and vocals that avoid “singing” altogether. Songs like the opening “The Sirens’ Song,” and “Idols And Anchors” demonstrate the band’s technical skills, able to experiment a little more with their craft than your average chug-chug-chug routine; guitar solos even becoming the focal point in the more traditionally metal sounding “Frostbite.” Similar in resonance to the previously mentioned “Boneyards,” the album’s apex is the band’s most melodically charged song; “Carrion.” Owing perhaps, a little to Dutkiewicz’s musical output, the song comes across as the closest Parkway have come to sounding like KSE- and it’s a rather succinct melding of both acts’ strongest qualities.
Lyrically, the band stays within their comfort zone; broken hearts ripped from chests, burning in hell, and of course, pirates! Familiar lyrical territory aside, the combination of their words and music comes across as rather fitting- angry, brutal, and deceptively in tone with introspection and loneliness.
Some say it is hard to differentiate Parkway Drive from many of their kind- true, there are definite connections to bands like Killswitch Engage, Unearth, and As I Lay Dying- bands melded from a close knit community of friends and musicians. Yet PWD boast a quality unlike no other- the ideal amalgamation of their respective musical ingredients forged together with razor sharp precision and perfection. To borrow the moniker of an appropriately Australian breakfast energizer, Parkway Drive (and Horizons), is just right, and a candidate for metal album of the year.
(Resist Records / Epitaph Records)
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.