Wow where did Parkway Drive come from? I mean I know where they came from, but it amazes my mind how these guys got so good in only being together for a short time. To my knowledge they only have one previous ep (which is hard to get a hold of to begin with) and “Killing With A Smile”, which in it’s own respect is a superiorly technical slab of metallic hardcore that will put eyeliner-fashioncore-scenesters to shame. Everything Parkway Drive presents on “Killing With A Smile” is jaw-dropping, and easily ranks up at the top of the ladder with metalcore heavyweights such as Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying. However where KSE of AILD lighten up to become more accessible to the mass public, Parkway Drive keeps their foot on the gas pedal and hammers your ears to the floor. Swedish death metal fans (At The Gates, In Flames) are going to eat this up, but so will the hardcore kids which is a nice touch for the band as it shows they can appeal to a broad audience. Simply “Killing With A Smile” is probably one of the most overlooked (and difficult to find) metalcore records I’ve listened to this year, and I’d recommend you track down a copy, especially if you’re into metal or hardcore.
After being battered by the blistering opener “Gimme A D”, you’d think you were listening to something like At The Gates “Slaughter Of The Soul”, because the musicians in this band are extremely, extremely talented. There’s definitely a melodic death nature about the music, especially in the guitar style which has obvious hints of At The Gates and In Flames. While they aren’t necessarily breaking any new ground with this Swedish influenced guitar structure (there’s a never ending black hole of those bands out there today) they definitely prove they’ve listened to their share of great guitarists, and know what the do when it comes to shredding the fret board. There’s also plenty of blazing leads mixed throughout to show the guitarists technical ability, on top of their great interplay with one another. The only thing that really makes the band get the attached tag of “core” is the breakdowns present throughout the album, which as cliche as it may sound, really give the record the added punch. Listening to pummeling chug of “Picture, Perfect, Pathetic” and “Guns For Show, Knives For A Pro” is always fun.
The vocals are top notch as far as metalcore is concerned, while they aren’t anything spectacular or different. They stay in the shriek/growl vocal range which is nice. God I’m thankful to finally listen to a record that doesn’t have to throw in any whiny emo vocals to be catchy. Parkway Drive doesn’t need any of that, because their songs have so much power individually. Tracks like “Anasasis (Xenophontis)” and “Pandora” demonstrate the excellent vocal presence this band gives off. There’s occasional semi-spoken word (if that makes sense) vocals here and there, but that’s about as close to accessible as the music gets, except for the melodic nature of the guitars.
A lot of rhythm sections in metalcore bands seem to be incredibly talented (AILD), and Parkway Drive can proudly add themselves to that list, as their’s is no different. The drums know when to add the punch and when to accentuate the music, as does the bass. “Blackout” and “Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘em” show frantic drum patterns and blast beats, while the bass hums in the background to perfection, and then devastates during the breakdowns. The production really makes the instruments shine in the music though, where as on some records they get buried under the guitars and vocals. No problems here. There’s enough double bass to hit as heavy as any metal record, and the start stop dynamics get fully embraced by the two.
The album only has slight detractions, which would prevent me from giving it the full five stars. However it’s so much closer to five then four, that I would almost feel guilty giving it a lower score. First, as good as Parkway Drive is, they’re basically just another variation of the metalcore standard, which to be quite honest is becoming pretty boring now. Don’t get me wrong, “Killing With A Smile” is a fantastic record, but it takes little chances and doesn’t at all step outside the metalcore formula. Sometimes you feel like you’ve heard riffs, breakdowns or other parts of songs on other records before, and unfortunately most likely you have. The lyrics are also somewhat cliche, mostly centering around love and heartbreak, which is also something that has been slowly run into the ground. On the whole though “Killing With A Smile” is just so good and so fun to listen to, that even these problems can’t make me love the cd any less.
Overall “Killing With A Smile” isn’t the most original record in the hardcore world right now, but it’s definitely one of the most satisfying. There’s bands who know how to do metalcore right, and Parkway Drive is one of them. Oh and did I mention these guys were from Australia? Seems to be like a hot breeding ground for aggressive metalcore acts as of late. Anyway, if you like you’re metalcore with tons of insane riffs, powerful screaming and plenty of breakdowns, then Parkway Drive fits the bill perfectly. It won’t blow you away, but it’s far from being a throwaway release. If you can manage to get a copy of it, then I’d say go for it, especially if you dig bands like KSE and AILD. Go ahead and mosh your brains out.