Parkway Drive continue to push towards the very top with their new album, Darker Still, released on the 9th of September via Epitaph Records.
A band I have held in reverence since, well since Reverence, their 2018 bar raising masterpiece. In truth, the once metalcore stars had started to transform their sound before Reverence though I had not really been paying attention. After I became a little obsessed with Reverence, I listened back to understand what I was missing and can clearly see that their cocoon emerging started back with 2015’s Ire. For some, a band moving away from their core sound can cause annoyance, especially if you were a big fan of that original sound. For me, genres like metalcore are great but have a ceiling.
If you have goals and ambitions, the simple fact is you are unlikely to achieve them limiting yourself to a single genre. You need cross-over appeal, you need to be memorable too and that comes through simple but effective music and a decent stage show doesn’t hurt either. That is where Parkway Drive smashed it out of the park. Adding theatrics to their stage performance, adding a fuck ton of fire and then paring all of that with a collection of simple, catchy and singable songs to mix in with some of their older classics. They figured out the formula and it works. Love them or hate them, we should never try to limit a band’s ambitions and these guys are heading at full speed to the very top, blazing a path that other bands can look at, be inspired by and try to follow.
So the 5 piece of Winston McCall on vocals, Ben Gordon on drums, Luke Kilpatrick on rhythm guitar, Jeff Ling on lead guitar and Jia O’Connor on bass return with Darker Still. A continuation of this new sound with small evolutions that amounts to a ton of quality headbanging riffs and catchy as hell metal tracks.
Racing out of the blocks, Darker Still chucks banger after banger at us, letting us know in no uncertain terms that these guys can still bring plenty of headbanging heaviness to the party. That they still have plenty left to say. Ground Zero is the opener and my current favourite on the album. It is catchy, clever with loads of “moments”. The prechorus is masterful, the lyrics, poignant. The chorus is insanely singable and the lead guitar melodies and the solo, are magical, emotional and ensure you know this is Reverence Part 2. A continuation with small tweaks, not a full on evolution, like I said before. Like Napalm and Glitch follow and keep the pace and aggression at a high level. Bang your head, feel the beat and fucking enjoy them because this is a band at the top of their game.
The Greatest Fear is the first chance you get to catch a breath and even that isn’t for long. Its a stunning song. Organs and choirs lead it in before those clean lead guitars take over. The chunky riff and drums in this one really make it and the darker feel, especially in the expert backing sections, feels really special and is really cool. Another stunner of a prechorus/chorus elevates this song to expert levels. Darker Still, the title track keeps with that darker edge. The acoustic intro with whistling feels suitably creepy before joining the guitars to make a gorgeous yet sombre melody.
Its well sung, clean throughout, almost, building in passion and power as the vocals increase, the backing increases, the choirs and strings all join in. Its a majestic, grand sounding song. Imperial Heretic brings the energy back with another catchy track. How can you not head bang along to this one? Another strong chorus of course and a wicked solo. Chuck in plenty of catchy sing along “whoah whoah” sections and you have what will surely be another big hitter for Parkway Drive here. Darker Still continues on with the quirky If a God Can Bleed. A slowed down, bassy number with almost spoken word verses and no chorus. Its not a favourite but it is still interesting enough to not be a problem.
Soul Bleach is a favourite though and that’s up next. I love the drums in the intro here, in one of the most energetic and aggressive songs on Darker Still. Guess what? Yep, its got a wicked chorus. I can already see the crowd chanting along with the band “kill, kill, kill” and losing their shit to the breakdown. We get a 40 second intermission next, called Stranger. It is just some atmospherics and spoken word that kind of leads into Land of the Lost though not seamlessly so it makes you wonder what its point was. I’m sure it makes sense to the band, so that’s good enough for me.
Anyway, Land of the Lost is a banger. Catchy melody, crushing riffs, clever verses that all build up to a simple and majorly effective chorus. Parkway Drive really have mastered song structure and choruses. So Darker Still comes to a close with From the Heart of the Darkness. What can I say? On an album chock full of bangers, this one is up there with the best of them. Crunchy riffs, powerful vocals and a heavy bassy tone lead up to a seriously dark and sinister chorus.
Being the album closer though, there is of course time for some expansion – a softer, yet still dark section drops down to leave the vocals exposed before then building back up in powerful fashion and straight into a wicked solo before heading back into the chorus to close out but with some more strings joining in to ensure we are left with the memory of epic proportions.
Darker Still can hold it’s head up high alongside the game changing Reverence. It feels a bit like a Reverence 2 but that is not a bad thing. There is a bit of additional darkness, a bit more frustration and anger, it seems, in some of the songs but not enough to say this album is especially dark or aggressive throughout. Just a bit darker, still. It also, for me, shows that Parkway Drive are extremely intelligent. You don’t fix what isn’t broke. You don’t need to massively change up a winning formula. It would be madness to do so. For me, they set the bar with Reverence. On Darker Still, they sit back nicely on top of that same bar with an album full of quality songs and loads of new bangers to fit into those festival headliner slots and arena tours.
Songs so perfect for where Parkway Drive are musically now, you can feel the heat and smell the burning while you listen to them.
Darker Still is out everywhere now. Grab a physical copy in many different formats from the bands official merch store, here.
Parkway Drive Links
Darker Still by Parkway Drive (Epitaph)
The Final Score - 9/10