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!