Hardcore as a sub-genre of punk music has always given a voice to the voiceless. An explosion of violent noise against a line of riot shields and border walls. Now in this age of fascist resurgence, political upheaval, and social unrest we need this protest music more than ever. Luckily, Parkway Drive are here to provide. Their 2015 album Ire seems almost prophetic now with its tales of hidden masters, wild fires, and corrupt cabals. But it is cathartic as well; its radical rage providing an outlet for the many who wanted change but got a sunburnt Russian puppet or the like instead.
Parkway Drive are an Australian hardcore band that have been on the go for nearly fourteen years. They take their influences from the likes of Slayer, Black Flag, and Metallica. Their four previous albums
Parkway Drive are an Australian hardcore band that have been on the go for nearly fourteen years. They take their influences from the likes of Slayer, Black Flag, and Metallica. Their four previous albums Killing with A Smile, Horizons, Deep Blue, and Atlas verged toward more personal music and lyrics. With Ire however, the band chose to take on different but no less heavy subject matter: the state of the world at large. According to Parkway Drive it’s bad and I’m inclined to agree. The only appropriate response to this is pure, undiluted fury.
Hailing from Australia Parkway Drive clearly have a lot to say about right-wing politics, immigration, and climate change. These issues have affected their home country in a great many ways. Many forget that while Donald Trump and Nigel Farage and Marie Le Pen were only gaining traction in their home countries, Tony Abbot was going full steam ahead down under. Tony Abbot with his hard-line stances on refugees, marriage equality and Aboriginal affairs. With a Prime Minister like that, it’s hard not to empathise with Parkway Drive’s anger fuelled leftist views. Fortunately, Abbott was ousted as leader of the Australian Labour Party in 2015; the year Ire was released coincidentally. Now the world faces even greater threats and that is where Ire’s fury takes centre stage.
Winston McCall is Parkway Drive’s beating heart as well as its roaring voice. His lyrics are poetic but delivered with the force of a banshee’s shriek. His vocal range soars like a jet fighter and drops like a wounded ox. McCall, like many floor-punching hardcore frontmen, is fuelled by anger. It’s an anger designed to push for social change, however. His rage has clear direction and his voice expresses this. On Destroyer, the opening track to Ire McCall roars lines like “Still we kneel for the masters, Filthy pigs all in a row!” and “We scar the earth to spite the sky, We burn the trees to feed our fires, We are the blind leading the damned, A wrecking ball, In the hands of a mad man!” McCall never specifies who his lyrics are about but like many lyricists, leaves it up to the listener to decide.
Throughout Ire McCall and the band make their concern for the planet, their fellow man, and the state of world affairs very clear. The rapped third verse on Dying to Believe turns concern into hate as they rally against the one percent that dominate world governments and corporations. The verse ends with the line “Forked tongued motherfucker tell me how the hell do you sleep at night?!” If that’s not one of the rawest lyrics you’ve ever heard, then maybe you’re better off listening to something a little tamer. Of course, McCall’s shrieked poetry would not have the same effect without the band behind him.
Guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke ‘Pig’ Fitzpatrick, bassist Jia O’Connor and drummer Ben ‘Gaz’ Gordon put their all into making sure Ire thrums with violent energy. Guitars smash against one another like two men fighting with chainsaws. The bass supports a rigid backbone of pounding bass drums, shattering hi-hats, and furious cymbals. At their highpoint, each instrument melds into a bone-breaking, skull-splitting, teeth-grinding breakdown. The off-kilter time signatures of Dedicated sit easily beside the anthemic highs of Devil’s Calling and the crushing pits of The Sound of Violence. Palm-muted riffs chug into electrifying solos that are designed for live performances. Whether it’s fist pumping, circle pits or crowd surfing that you’re into, Parkway Drive gleefully provide.
A quick search on YouTube reveals a lot about Parkway Drive’s live shows. Headbanging metalheads stand side by side with straight edge hardcore kids who flail eagerly into screamo fans just there to blow their voices out. Pyrotechnics illuminate McCall in all his chest-thumping, growling glory. Spectacular light shows and booming fireworks turn Parkway Drive into a visual spectacle worthy of Danzig, Iron Maiden, and Slayer. Their shows, from small venues to the main stage at Download Festival, are spectacles of private protest. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of middle fingers have been raised in defiance at Parkway Drive concerts. Defying the cops, the government, and the hidden puppet masters behind it all.
Dig right to the heart of Parkway Drive’s music and you will find a heart of gold. Past the churning guitars, knee-shaking drums and minotaur bellows, is a hidden core of empathy. Parkway Drive care, that much should be clear. In the modern world, there is no room for apathy. You’re either with us or against us and God help you if you’re against us. Protest music takes many forms and includes Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, Run the Jewels’ A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters and Y. G’s modern classic Fuck Donald Trump. In their contempt for the powers that be, each of these songs show compassion for those living under the tyrants. It is empathy, not apathy that will decide our future and Parkway Drive are doing all they can because all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Andrew Carroll