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!
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.