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)
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.