ALBUM REVIEW: Parkway Drive – Darker Still

7/10

Parkway Drive

One of the key concepts behind Parkway Drive's latest offering, Darker Still, is a Tom Waits quote that emblazons frontman Winston McCall's refrigerator in his Byron Bay home; "I want beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."

The Australian metal heavyweights – comprising of vocalist McCall, guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick, bassist Jia O'Connor and drummer Ben Gordon – have sought to achieve this on their seventh full-length album. Darker Still provides a deeply personal lyrical journey, countered with confrontational vocals against a defiant yet melodic musical backdrop.

"Ground Zero" starts the album off on a gentle note with clean vocals from Winston before suddenly exploding into a heavy, driving guitar riff. The powerful chorus sees Winston telling, "The weight that holds you down, let it go". Like Napalm follows with swirling guitar effects throughout and an aggressive, confrontational vocal with McCall urging, "Burn it all away". Glitch continues with the heavy power chord-centred musical backing to more confrontational vocals, continuing the self-reflection theme. The melodic chorus pleads, "Help me take this pain away; Sleep is now my enemy".

"The Greatest Fear" offers one of the album's most noteworthy moments. An ethereal choral intro soon gives way to a heavy guitar riff intertwined with soloing through the chorus. The bridge again features more choral vocalisations, "In death we sing the hymns of nevermore", to create an ethereal heavy metal hymn.

The title track, "Darker Still", sees the album take a different turn, opening with a softly-picked acoustic guitar, accompanied by melodic whistling. The song provides the softest vocal on the record, with contemplative lyrics that stray it into ballad territory. "Imperial Heretic" continues with the heavy power-chord theme, mixed with an addictive solo riff and a more abrasive vocal, evidenced from the first line; "Watch out!"

The album takes yet another turn with "If A God Can Bleed", a whispered, spoken-word vocal backed by gentle keys and features uneasing lines such as; "Fat little piggy with his head on the block". "Soul Bleach" once again steers the album back to the more familiar heavy sound established during the record's first half; more confrontational vocals are teamed with lyrics such as; "A little trust is a dangerous thing," continuing on earlier lyrical themes of personal troubles.

"Stranger", the shortest track on the album at 51 seconds, offers a further whispered vocal, "We are all but strangers, in a stranger world", culminating in a mystical but brief offering. The penultimate track, "Land of the Lost", sees the band back on the heavy footing, notable for its guitar solo before "From the Heart of Darkness" closes the album on a dark note. Sombre lines such as; "There's a war going on inside, nobody's safe from" and "I saw myself so broken that I struggled to reconcile" are driven on by a more defiant and resilient riff to close Darker Still on a combative note. McCall stated he; "wanted the end of the record to mirror my experience to a degree of what this journey has been like for me".

Darker Still is a confrontational record that at times provides mystical moments, although, at points, it threatens to blend into a melange of power chords. However, there is enough variation to command anyone's attention. Already known for their frenetic live shows, Parkway Drive's latest offering will help them cement their status as one of metal's premier live acts.

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