PARKWAY DRIVE were surfers that became musicians as they recorded their albums. Pretty degrading when you put it like that, eh? Well, they also happen to be the most successful metalcore band that has ever set foot on this earth, and one of the most well know extreme-sounding groups of this decade. Nowadays, calling them metalcore might be a stretch, but the gravity of the influence they radiated until they got to where they are, will forever be written as a classic underdog story in hardcore, metal and everything in between.
That being said, let us take a deep dive and see how the Australian teenagers’ road from semi-professional surfers and playing shows in their drummer’s basement, to filling stadiums around the world began, take a small look at the milestones of their journey, where they are now, and do a little top 10 of the best, in my opinion, PARKWAY DRIVE SONGS EVER.
Originating from a small town of barely 5000 people called Byron Bay in the northeastern corner of Australia, 4 of the 5 founding members of the band already knew each other from school (well, having one school for the entire populace of the town will do that to you). That would be, Winston (Vocals), Ben (Drums), Luke (Guitar) and their original bassist, Brett. If not in school, everybody on Byron Bay would surf, that’s why band members refer to it as a “surf town”. Inevitably, almost everyone in town knew each other and that made it easy to find band members, but difficult to actually form a band given the small amount of candidates and taking into account the varying musical tastes. So having a venue to do live shows was out of the question, as every attempt made towards that direction fell flat and endured 2 shows max. The solution came from Ben. Ben owned a huge house with an equally huge basement and an even bigger courtyard that would soon serve as, not only the town’s sole gig venue, rehearsal studio, the local youth’s funhouse of Jackass-like stunts, but also the home of everyone close to the Byron Bay music and surf scene. You could literally go there at any time and you’d find friends and people to hang out with, and all this with Ben’s parent’s blessings who loved the situation. They would call this “The Parkway House” named after the street the house was located.
So at the end of 2002 Winston, who at the time was surfing at a professional level, Ben and Luke started revolving around the idea of a band. A band heavier and faster than what they’ve seen and heard in their hometown. However, given their almost non-existent technical capabilities, such feat was a no-go, so Ben mentioned a weird “metal god” name Jeff who he heard about that also surfed. They approached him only to find a guy that is a classic case of “bedroom guitarist,” who didn’t even know what a jam was when they suggested it to him, let alone having band experience. When the boys started jamming, it was very apparent that Luke wasn’t on par with Jeff’s abilities. In fact, Luke barely knew how to play, so Jeff taught a great deal about guitars, including notes, chords and helped him improve overall. Jeff also had to tone the technicality down a bit in order for Luke to catch up, resulting in “balancing each other out” in the words of Ben.
At that time the band had two songs, a full line-up but were still to have a name. They wanted to avoid something gory or gruesome as that was not who they were. They also wanted to avoid sounding too cliché (little did they know they started their own cliché after the name they picked), so one day as they passed the street sign that read “Parkway Dr” they thought, “Why not? A lot of bands have jammed here and it’s basically where we hang out all day, so…”. That is how the name PARKWAY DRIVE came to be.
After two months of jamming and now having a name, the band did their first show at the Byron Bay Youth Centre. That show was attended by Michael Crafter, the vocalist of I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN, who was actually blown away by PARKWAY DRIVE, as in them he heard what he described as “the biggest breakdowns ever”. Soon after that show, Crafter offered the band to release a split EP with them, as well as take them on tour, to what PARKWAY DRIVE of course agreed and resulted in a tour that involved bridge jumping, running around naked on streets, humping statue bulls and van pushing. As soon as they got out of that adventurous tour, the first thing they all thought and agreed on was to record again. They reached out a friend named Graham Nixon, the owner of “Resist Records” who the band trusted, and he hooked them up to record in a studio in Brisbane. The result was their first EP called “Don’t Close Your Eyes”.
At this point PARKWAY DRIVE grabbed any chance they could to go on tour, marching all over Australia to any venue they could get to. They bonded and learned parts of each other’s personality that they didn’t know before. So after gathering as much touring experience they could get, they felt it was time to record their first full length album. Through their record label they reached out to Adam Dutkiewicz of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE to take over production and mixing duties who accepted because as he said, “Australians talk funny and it’s always entertaining to listen to them”. The band’s goal was to finish the record in two weeks and Adam D was up to the challenge. Being a perfectionist, the phrase “do it again” was imprinted in the band’s members brains until the album was done. Adam D pushed them to get the best result possible and taught them a lot of things along the way. The American producer said, “I would wake up in the night screaming, seeing waveforms of audio in my eyeballs and hear breakdown after breakdown.” In May 2005, through fire, sweat and almost no sleep, the best metalcore debut album to this day was made , and it’s name, “Killing With A Smile”.
With “Killing With A Smile” released in September 2005 and doing exceptionally well, the band toured Australia again in even greater lengths than before, playing venues that no other metal band had played before in what they described as “The most fun tour ever”. Soon they decided to jump overseas and tour Europe and the US on their own budget as there was no interest from booking agencies. On that tour they parted ways with their bassist Shaun Cash as he became a father mid-tour and the band insisted on him to go fill that role. The replacement was Jia O’Connor, their bassist to this date. At the time had never played the bass before, but PARKWAY DRIVE wanted to get someone that was a friend and they are comfortable with rather than someone that would just be good at bass. Through touring and rehearsals, Jia eventually learned how to play the bass. On that tour the band showed incredible resilience, doing things most artists would not be willing to do in order to get to venues, or simply were not capable of, both mentally and physically. That included sleeping in a shipwreck, on random clearings, swamps and sometimes underneath their van to avoid rain.
It wouldn’t take long until someone appreciated the Australian group’s work ethic. So Epitaph Records, one of the biggest punk and hardcore labels at the time and even bigger today with PARKWAY DRIVE’S help, answered that call. They released “Killing With A Smile” on Europe and The United States in August 2006 and signed the band for their next album as well. For this album PARKWAY DRIVE decided to head back to Adam D to record it. With a lot more time and experience in their hands, the band and Adam’s goal was to make something “spot-on”, more clear, more heavy and challenge PARKWAY DRIVE’s musicianship (guess that was really the time Jia became an actual bassist). The result was the monumental album called “Horizons”.
Released in October 2007, I consider “Horizons” to be the best metalcore album to be ever released to the day I’m typing this. I have friends that are strictly into classic heavy metal, but whenever I have them listening to a “Horizons” song, they all like it. I know people that haven’t even listened to rock once in their lives, but when “Carrion” plays they will show interest in it. I know people that are strictly into hardcore and consider metalcore to be “fake hardcore” or “soft”, they’d make fun of PARKWAY DRIVE and people that listen to them, but still, when they pick up a guitar, their go-to jamming songs come from “Horizons”. “Horizons” is that good. It manages to be an aggressive record that is accessible to everybody, while solidifying PARKWAY DRIVE’s identity and character across the extreme music scene.
The huge success that was “Horizons” bought the band a ticket to tour with big acts such as KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, BURY YOUR DEAD, DARKEST HOUR, A DAY TO REMEMBER, SUICIDE SILENCE, ARCHITECTS, AUGUST BURNS RED, THE ACACIA STRAIN and the longtime friend of theirs, Michael Crafter’s band, CONFESSION.
After touring like crazy once again, it was time for them to record their third album. This time the band wanted something more raw, something that reflected the band’s flow and energy rather than being perfect technically. They travelled to California and Joe Barresi’s studio, who has worked with artists such as, BAD RELEGION (whose guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, was featured on the album), PENNYWISE, TOOL, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and KELLY CLARKSON (!?). The result is exactly what they aimed for. A raw, electrifying and from-the-heart album called “Deep Blue”, which was finished in April 2010 and released in June of the same year.
“Deep Blue” in regards of composition, took over where “Horizons” left off. It’s always up there in conversations in regards to best PARWKAY album and best metalcore overall. As a matter of fact, many people prefer it as it has all the ingredients it’s predecessors had. Fantastic breakdowns, amazing melodic riffs and anthem-like tunes blended in tracks that are timeless and still make for great singalongs to this day. I think the only reason that sort of gives “Deep Blue” a disadvantage is that “Horizons” came first, because in terms of musical quality is definitely on par with “Horizons” and, as I mentioned, some consider it to be even better.
In late May 2011, the day before the band embarked for an Australian tour that would expand into a world tour afterwards, Luke got himself in a surfing accident that caused him a torn ligament in his left leg. So he they had either cancel the tour or have Luke do the tour on a wheelchair. Since we’re talking about PARKWAY DRIVE, we can all guess what they chose to do.
In 2012 the band headed back to California to record their next studio release. This time working with a whole team of personnel, (including a small orchestra) headed by producer Matt Hyde, the new PARKWAY DRIVE construct was named “Atlas” and was released on 26th October 2012.
With “Atlas” PARKWAY tried to experiment for the first time and strayed out of their comfort zone, combining some of the elements of older albums while they mostly implemented new ideas and sounds. The technicality was toned down and riffs were less distinct. I think Atlas compared to their earliest works was less memorable and was the beginning of a transition era of PARKWAY. It’s still a good album song and has some pretty good tunes but unfortunately, in my opinion, the worst “Horizons” song is still better than any on “Atlas”.
In 2015 it was time for PARKWAY to move on and take huge risks in all aspects. For their next album they went on and recorded in two separate studios which the band had never done before. The drums were recorded in “Metalworks” studio in Ottawa and everything else was recorded in “All Buttons In” studio in Toronto. They also hired two completely inexperienced producers, the Hadjichristou brothers, of whom one (George) was the live sound engineer for PARKWAY DRIVE. They said the reason behind this was that, they wanted someone that would care for the band, rather than hiring a big name that would be less enthusiastic about putting the amount of effort the album required. So in 25th September 2015 the band released their Sixth studio album named “Ire”.
“Ire” alienated many of PARKWAY’s old fans in an attempt to reach new ones, which they managed to do. It was a big change of sound as they tried to mix classic heavy metal with metalcore, which is pretty apparent and I can safely say the succeeded in that, but it was the first time that PARKWAY DRIVE reminded of other bands and had you immediately comparing their style and influences with other artists. Until this album PARKWAY’s sound was one that everybody followed and influenced bands, not the other way around. This is a step back, and whether you like “Ire” or not, you have to admit it’s their weakest release so far.
These days, PARKWAY DRIVE lead the lives of rock stars. They sell out almost every venue they play at, they fill stadiums, they’ve played In countries that literally no other band has ever played before. They can do an 180 turn of sound and still get away with it, like METALLICA did in “St. Anger” or OPETH in “Watershed”. People had mixed reactions to these changes, to say the least, but the bands themselves never stopped being successful. What these groups have in common is that they established a huge fan base, one that will never let their ships sink no matter what they choose to do with their sound. So do the kids that jammed in the basement of The Parkway House and had literally no idea on how to play their instruments when they started their journey.
PARKWAY DRIVE earned every bit of success they are now enjoying due to their love at what they do, their commitment to the band and their extremely rare and admirable work ethic. They’ve been at places they knew that would actually cost them a lot of money to play there, and in the end, all of their work and enthusiasm paid off. I guess you could say, it’s karma.
As an ending bonus, here’s a top 10 of the best PARKWAY tracks in my humble opinion. My criteria for this one is both the significance of the songs and my personal taste. So before you go on and voodoo-doll torture me or give the good ol’ “KYS” on my facebook profile, know that compiling this was not easy, at all.