Release date: May 4, 2018
Rating: perfect (5)
Winston McCall – vocals
Luke Kilpatrick – guitar
Jeff Ling – guitar
Ben Gordon – drums
Jia O’Connor – bass
I truly cherish the memory of Parkway Drive’s headline gig at Summer Breeze Festival 2016, which took place on the day Architects guitarist Tom Searle died of cancer. This was the reason why Parkway Drive cancelled their afternoon signing session. Around midnight, they delivered one of the most energetic shows I have ever witnessed. It rained heavily when they started their gig, but the rain eventually stopped halfway through, as if their music had scared the clouds away. The entire field was extremely muddy, which didn’t keep the audience from jumping, headbanging, moshing and crowdsurfing – I definitely got my share of hair and boots in the face! I also ended up crying three times, which wasn’t caused by any injuries (thankfully), but rather by the overall exceptionally emotional experience that Parkway Drive offered their fans.
At that time, Parkway Drive had released “IRE” almost one year ago, and I didn’t believe that they could ever top themselves after that release. So what’s the deal with “Reverence”? Is it in the same street as predecessor “IRE”? There is so much to say about this record, so let’s get started.
In comparison with “IRE”, the band went into an entirely different direction. While of course maintaining their signature sound, Parkway Drive started embracing more intricate songwriting as well as breaking the boundaries of hardcore and metalcore. As a result of being confronted with the loss of loved ones and of going through critical times in their lives, Parkway Drive created an album that is very somber, deeply soulful and absolutely mind-blowing.
It’s hard to pin down what’s really the most impressive aspect of an album if the respective album is brilliant overall. I tried to distill two essential points.
First of all, it’s without say that great bands only work because of each and every member. When it comes to Parkway Drive, though, I have to sing frontman Winston McCall’s praises: Winston McCall’s style fluctuates between death metal growls with certain variations (for example slightly nasal sounds on “The Void”, “Chronos”), low and/or raspy parlando (“Cemetery Bloom”) and even rapping (“Shadow Boxing”) and singing (“Prey”) . He is a stickler for details and there is practically no difference between his recorded and his live vocals. Winston McCall is far and away superior to most metalcore vocalists and he even puts any mainstream rapper to shame. Additionally, his lyrics are poetic and very intelligently written. On “Reverence” in particular, he isn’t afraid to show vulnerability (“Who on Earth deserves this and what the hell do we do now? / So we live like we have lost / And we love like we are broken / And as the colour leaves the sky, we’re left in reverence of the frailty of it all” – “The Colour Of Leaving”) and himself in grief and on the verge of insanity (“I spoke a vow today and asked if God would come and play / I’ve dug a shallow hole for him to sleep / But I swear he just won’t answer me / I call on out is he afraid, I’ll bury him down with the ones he keeps / And if the devil is listening, I’ll come for him as well / If I suspect he had a hand to play / And if I see his face in town, there’s room for two down underground“ – “Wishing Wells”) – Winston McCall is an exceptional vocalist, a vigorous entertainer, a passionate storyteller.
Secondly, it is so remarkable how Parkway Drive crafted a sound that is true to themselves as a band and growing in terms of influences and styles alike. On one side, you have your mandatory Parkway Drive-singalong hymns “Prey” or “The Void”, then again very alternative tracks like “Shadow Boxing” and “Cemetery Bloom”. “Chronos” even sounds like something Arch Enemy could have released. I particularly enjoy the addition of classical instruments and choirs here and there. It gives Parkway Drive’s sound a dramatic edge that they have already been experimenting with on “IRE” (“Crushed”).
So to answer the question from the beginning: Yes, Parkway Drive did not only manage to create an album that is in the same street as “IRE”, but an album that exceeds all expectations.
What amazes, or rather scares me the most about “Reverence” is the fact that it doesn’t contain one single mediocre track. This album proves once again that grief and dark times are the most productive for artists: The outcome, “Reverence”, is a modern masterpiece.
01. Wishing Wells
03. Absolute Power
04. Cemetery Bloom
05. The Void
06. I Hope You Rot
07. Shadow Boxing
08. In Blood
10. The Colour Of Leaving