Almost a year after its domestic release in Australia, Parkway Drive’s Killing With a Smile hits U.S. shores via Epitaph and stakes claim in the already congested metalcore community, taking with them their brutal dose of guttural screaming, chugga chugga riffs and a relentless energy that never lets up through the album’s entirety. Already a household name on their native shores, Parkway Drive now have the unenviable task of trying to win over jaded American metal fans- laced and ready with an acerbic tongue primed towards the more contemporary artists plying their trade in this genre. It’s no easy feat either as Killing With a Smile is more on par with Converge’s blurring wall of thrash rather than the more technical side of metal; and so listeners wanting a bit of theatre with their metal better look elsewhere.
With that said, the album’s pummeling consistency is its strongest asset. Parkway Drive knows how to tear it up and songs like “Gimme A.D.” and the monstrous “Romance Is Dead” make for some truly great moments of awesomeness. Lyrically, they wax about the pitfalls of broken hearts and the sweet aftertaste of vengeance- lines like “you wouldn’t know love if it crushed your fucking chest” and “cry me a fucking river, bitch!,” become the norm for expression. It all sounds rather “emo” but in context, coupled with the searing energy of the music, the painful and sometimes tragic words seem to hammer home the emotions they try to convey with great conviction; namely the notion that love truly fucking sucks. Vocally, they tend to stick to the screaming and do without the screaming/melodic singing of some of their peers. So if you hate it when a band screams their way through the verses and chops it up with some “singing” during the choruses, you’re in luck.
Another highlight of the record is the tune “Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em.” The lone tune that currently boasts a video (look it up on YouTube) and a fine example of the band meshing together influences old and new. It’s got the same lyrical melancholy of the rest album (replete with the obligatory “DIEEEEEEEE!!!”) but sees the band add some of the technicality not seen in other tunes (cue finger tapping solo). It’s all fleshed out with the kind of potency a listener would want in a record- the instruments blending together at levels that add to the listening experience of the album. The chaotic aura and urgency of the songs is courtesy of the solid production work of one Adam Dutkiewicz (of Killswitch Engage fame).
It is easy to find faults in artists like Parkway Drive if one compares them on a consistent basis to the more recognized faces of traditional sounding metal. One could point to their lyrics and their subject matter for being too involved with topics deemed “too emotional” for the apparent heaviness of the music. However, it would be beneficial to set aside preconceived standards and see them as one of the many contemporary artists painting a new picture for the younger generation because they’re here to stay. Their music is no less brutal than that of Slayer, and they sing something teens can relate to. So-fucking-what. This reviewer will gladly take an overdose of what Parkway Drive is offering over the sounds of 40-something year-old dudes who still wear loincloths on their album covers and prance around stage in leather pants. Get with the times!
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.