WORDS: Perran Helyes
This tour feels like a real moment for PARKWAY DRIVE and for an entire generation of young metal bands who dared to dream big. If there’s somewhere to point any of the ageing, jaded detractors who claim that today’s climate is not producing any big metal bands with the creative strength and undeniable power to back it up without needing to water down their sound likesome others, it’s here. The response to Ire in the months since its release has been well deserved universal jubilation and now here in the UK PARKWAY DRIVE are finally coming to taste their reward with a string of shows in the largest venues they’ve ever headlined here from London’s famous Brixton Academy the night before to here at the Manchester Apollo tonight.
This sense of years of dedication paying off at last isn’t just limited to the headliners. PARKWAY top a bill that reads like any metalcore kid’s wet dream, with them, BURY TOMORROW and THY ART IS MURDER all coming off of the back of incredibly strong records. THY ART IS MURDER though have a very recent challenge to overcome in the shape of powerhouse frontman CJ McMahon’s departure, whose arrival gave them the shot in the arm that helped propel them further. It’s heartening then what they manage to achieve here. For a start as they rattle through Absolute Genocide and Coffin Dragger, the sound is absolutely gargantuan. They ooze menace, their discordant aura and lumbering hulk of a sound feeling legitimately scary which on a stage of this size is not just impressive but breath-taking. Nick Arthur of MOLOTOV SOLUTION stepping into CJ’s shoes for this touring run really would not be a bad shout for a permanent replacement, replicating his guttural force with ease and even adding in some more brutal touches like the odd pig squeal. He doesn’t quite have the monumental stage presence which is perhaps the one criticism you could throw at THY ART IS MURDER as a whole tonight but they still bring the room to its knees, and the input from the crowd during Reign of Darkness and The Purest Strain of Hate isn’t likely to be matched by many opening bands.
BURY TOMORROW seem to just teleport onto the stage, making a rapid start to their set that’s kicking you square in the chest before you’d even noticed an intro tape. They aren’t so much overcoming adversity as they are staking their claim as one of the best bands in the UK. They themselves make the point about being the only UK band on this bill sandwiched between two lots of Australians, and though it’s not their show it feels like it as they revel in playing in front of a home audience who know what they’re about. They do seem almost built for these bigger stages, every member throwing themselves around and making the most of the room. Coming after THY ART IS MURDER they feel a little lightweight in comparison but they make up for it in blistering energy and enormous singalongs. Dani Winter-Bates at one point launches himself onto the barrier, making a point to decimate any preconceived notions that the band are somehow above those privileged enough to watch them. Jason Cameron seems to have a bit more force in his breathy cleans than perhaps he did before which makes the pay-offs of the choruses all the more satisfying, older songs like the ever brilliant Lionheart re-energised. Their new record Earthbound has been out a mere two weeks, but the people here still know all the words and the likes of the searing title track and a stadium-ready Last Light suggest that support slots just aren’t going to cut it for much longer.
With supports like that it perhaps wouldn’t be odd to fear for the headliner having to follow them, if that headliner was not PARKWAY DRIVE. Their reputation as one of the great live bands of the last ten years only continues to grow, and tonight they blow everyone else out of the water. The anticipation is palpable as the opening strains of Destroyer begin to build, and then as the curtain drops and the audience is showered with confetti the roar temporarily drowns out the music it’s so ear-splitting and euphoric. PARKWAY prove that they deserve to be at this level every second that they’re on stage, the passion injected into every word and every note a real tangible force that feeds into the crowd.
Vice Grip might have been a tad divisive when first released, a total shock to the system with its positive vibes and cheesy 80’s chorus, but now it’s greeted like a classic with one of the most uplifting and joyous singalongs of the night. Indeed, across the board the Ire material proves its worth in dramatic style, the more melodic approach to these songs fleshing out an area of PARKWAY’s sound they had room to improve on while still maintaining every bit of their crunch (the adrenaline rush of the mosh call closing Bottom Feeder is evidence of that). It’s not a jarring switch either into the older material, constantly a cohesive machine. Winston McCall dances between blasts of pyro providing the perfect focal point and the band behind him is incredibly tight, commanding the slick grooves and pummelling and memorable breakdowns with ease.
The most impressive thing about PARKWAY here is that the barbarity of their music and their show isn’t lost in a venue of this size at all; in fact, it’s almost amplified, 3000 people or so all moving in unison whether it’s the bounce of Deliver Me or the enormous consuming circle pits that signify Swing and Karma. A particular peak of violence comes in the form of Romance is Dead, the band dipping back into their early days inciting pandemonium. The increased production value seems to suit PARKWAY, feeling like kings of places like this despite only just graduating into them. McCall emerges before a closing Home is for the Heartless holding a flare high above his head in a spine-tingling moment before the inevitable brings it home in a magnificent style. It’s cliché but not many bands can bring a feeling of togetherness and unity within a room like PARKWAY DRIVE can, and moments like these are it. It’s incredible to think that this band have reached venues like this with barely any clean vocals in a way similarly to how LAMB OF GOD have, and while it might be a bit too much of an ask to get them to festival headlining status, it’s a nice thought all the same. Today’s landscape needs bands like this to lead the vanguard, and they’d do a hell of a job.