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Killing with a Smile

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  • Australia has kangaroos and America has metalcore bands. Both are in great abundance and it seems several of them are even born with each passing day. Thus, metalcore bands from a foreign country (where the genre isn’t as popular) might be huge in their homeland, but they’ve still got to conquer the United States (where there’s plenty of competition for heavy music’s spotlight). Australia’s Parkway Drive are one example of a band that’s currently facing this challenge – they just can’t seem to garner as much respect overseas as they did down under.

    Truth be told, though, Parkway Drive actually deserve your attention. Although they’re not exactly redefining the current music scene, they’re one of only a few modern metal bands that isn’t an obvious Killswitch Engage or At The Gates rip-off. Also, despite what you may have heard, they actually do not sound very closely related to Bleeding Through and/or Unearth. Instead, the music heard on their debut album (“Killing With A Smile”) is far from textbook in this day and age, and one could even argue that, because it’s so heavy (sometimes even brutal), it doesn’t belong anywhere near the metalcore tag. If anything, this sound, which is saturated with wall-shaking riffs, busy blast beats, flattening rhythms, and bone-crunching breakdowns, surprisingly technical musicianship and bellowed vocals, leans closer to being death metal (or at least deathcore).

    Opener “Gimme AD” immediately gets the album into the thick of things. It’s a lethal and immediately memorable mix of nifty hooks, smoking, dogfight riffs, high yells, quick, skilled drum patterns (including thunderous double kicks and a persistent, thumping snare drum), bullying rhythms, and a Lamb of God-meets-Deicide vocal style. Even a little guitar solo is sneaked in at the end.

    The smoke is then allowed to clear a little for the next three tracks. “Anasis (Xenophontis),” which is probably the record’s most Killswitch Engage-reminiscent moment (frontman Winston McCall’s ultra-deep, commanding bellows are the only differentiating factor.) Following that, “Pandora” is highlighted by a hooky, staccato beat, fast double bass work, and extra crunchy riffs. Then comes “Romance Is Dead,” an obvious highpoint of the album which is fueled by awesome, rhythmic, machine gun drumming, forceful, teeth-rattling power chords, and a surprisingly soft, almost dreamy outro.

    “Guns For Show, Knives For A Pro” is highlighted by what is probably the album’s biggest surprise: it starts out with pounding, few-and-far-between riffs then works up to a scorching speed before the song suddenly stops dead in its tracks for a few seconds of shocking silence.

    Drummer Ben Gordon gets his time in the spotlight on “Blackout” and “Picture Perfect, Pathetic,” when he exploits a great give and take between his bouncy, walloping drum patterns and the hefty, cascading guitars.

    Finally, “It’s Hard To Speak Without A Tongue” is highlighted by an professional, fairly long and winding guitar solo that’s tucked away in the background; “Mutiny” is another blistering thrash-fest; and “Smoke `Em If Ya Got `Em” is another bruiser, and is fueled by a rapid, impeccable death metal blast.

    If there’s one glaring flaw that you should be warned of, it’s that McCall’s lyrics are, at best, dodgy. Take “Romance Is Dead”: the listener will be hard pressed not to crack a smile when the frontman bellows “Cry me a f – cking river, b – tch!” to an ex-girlfriend. He sometimes discusses respectable subject matter (like when he scorns heavy metal’s famous obsession with depression and suicide), but most of the time the listener is thankful that the vocals are unintelligible (so you can’t usually make out the words).

    All things considered, “Killing With A Smile” may not be a perfect album (very few releases are nowadays), but it’s doubtlessly a good, wholly solid one with no throwaway tracks. It isn’t peerless stuff, but it is definitely in the upper tear of metalcore. Thus, if you don’t have a problem with listening with a completely open mind, and if you can get it out of your head that the world probably doesn’t need another metalcore band, you will really enjoy this C.D. and should pick it up.

    Posted on February 8, 2010