It used to be that metalcore was a genre absolutely maligned by the majority of people within the heavy music community. In recent times though, it seems to have undergone a resurgence in popularity thanks to a run of standout releases from several different bands. One such act is Australia’s PARKWAY DRIVE, whose 2015 album Ire drew massive praise from the press and from listeners alike for its startlingly well-produced blend of crushing breakdowns and stadium-sized choruses that melded the band’s existing metalcore prowess to more familiar heavy metal tendencies. Now touring the UK again alongside Orange County hardcore punks Stick To Your Guns and British metalcore heavyweights Asking Alexandria, we headed up to Leeds’ O2 Academy to see how it all went down.
Unfortunately, box office issues and a several-hundred-strong queue mean STICK TO YOUR GUNS are already a few songs into their set by the time we finally make it into the venue. What that does mean however, is walking straight into a boiling hot and packed-out room that’s midway screaming its collective head off to the chorus of Nobody. Vocalist Jesse Barnett and co. instantly seem to be on top form, and the sheer delight on their faces at the warm response is evident. Although packing a seriously cut-down setlist, being the opener on a three-band bill, the Orange County natives put in a seriously impressive showing from this point onwards, dropping straight into What Choice Did You Give Us? and promptly levelling the place as crowd-surfing bodies fly all about the room. STICK TO YOUR GUNS have always been a warmly-received band within their own circles, and it’s great to see the enthusiastic response the likes of We Still Believe and newer track Universal Language receive tonight. We can only hope they’ll be back over here soon with some headline shows to further prove their power.
ASKING ALEXANDRIA are, oddly enough, perhaps the band that most people seem to have turned up to see tonight if the sea of AA shirts in the audience is anything to go by. The announcement in October that vocalist Danny Worsnop would be returning to the band, following on from his departure the previous year and subsequent temporary replacement by Denis Stoff for 2016 album The Black, seems to have reignited a genuine interest in the band, and indeed the excitement is palpable. Sadly, it all goes slightly to pot from the moment the band take to the stage.
Coming out to deafening screams that threaten to drown out intro track Welcome, they launch into Dear Insanity, and it quickly becomes apparent that something is slightly off. Naturally, the sea of AA-shirt-clad people on the floor don’t seem to notice, but it’s near-impossible to not pick up on just how disinterested Worsnop seems on this occasion. For whatever reason, his vocals just seem to lack the power and ferocity they’ve always seemed to have in prior years on-record, and the resulting attempt tonight comes across as rather tragic. Continuing on, the band plough through a further two cuts from Reckless and Relentless, before things improve a touch once they break into Run Free and start pulling tracks from 2013’s standout, From Death To Destiny. It’s this portion of the show where Danny really manages to redeem things slightly, putting in a strong performance with ballad Moving On, but there’s no denying that his harsher vocals really aren’t up to scratch tonight. Perhaps the strongest moment of their set though comes with ASKING ALEXANDRIA’s final track, fan-favourite The Final Episode (Let’s Change The Channel) as what seems like the whole building yells in unison to the infamous “Oh my god” opening line, but really it’s too little too late. Whatever comes next for ASKING ALEXANDRIA, we can only hope it’s a massive improvement on what has been witnessed tonight.
PARKWAY DRIVE, on the other hand, are on nothing short of world-beating form tonight. From the very second Winston McCall bounds onto the Academy stage, it’s clear that the man has the entire crowd in the palm of his hand and knows it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their setlist tonight might as well be the musical equivalent of a nailbomb to the face. Opening with the crushing Wild Eyes is a clear statement of intent for the Aussie five-piece, and things only escalate from that point on. Over the course of their set tonight PARKWAY DRIVE essentially put on a masterclass in how they’ve come to ascend to the forefront of modern metalcore, from the pit-inducing ferocity of Carrion, to the more hook-laden, but no less punishing bounce of Dedicated. There’s also the small fact that the band appear to have brought enough pyro tonight to make RAMMSTEIN blush, as towering pillars of flame erupt sporadically from the front of the stage at perfectly-judged intervals. This, coupled with the band’s audacity to have a pair of confetti cannons fire off within minutes of their set opening are clear markers that this is a band with arenas on their mind, and based on tonight, they should be able to get there with ease. The sheer fact that a bona-fide modern metal anthem like Vice Grip makes an appearance just four tracks into the set tonight should speak volumes about the level that PARKWAY DRIVE have now reached, and it’s a sheer delight to witness the resulting chaos with which the people of Leeds react.
Drawing into the earlier depths of their back catalogue as the set goes on yields the likes of Boneyards and Idols And Anchors, but there’s no doubt that the Ire songs are the real winners tonight. As things begin to draw to a close however, there’s time for one total curveball, as the band launch into a frankly mental cover of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’s rap-metal anthem Bulls On Parade. It’s one of those things that, on paper, really sounds like it shouldn’t work at all, but those in attendance tonight lap it up with rapturous approval. Closing off the main set with fan-favourite Swing only keeps said energy at a peak too, and manages to do so throughout the band’s obligatory temporary retreat before returning for a deafening encore of Crushed and Bottom Feeder – both of which sound capable of levelling several cities tonight thanks to the riffing of Jeffrey Ling and Luke “Pig” Kilpatrick. And no, whilst tonight’s show may not have featured an appearance from drummer Benjamin Gordon’s revolving drum-kit, it still definitely marks PARKWAY DRIVE as the newest contender for “band most likely to make the jump to stadiums next.” And what a sight that should be.
Check out our photo gallery of the night’s action in Leeds from Em Coulter Photography: