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Live Review + Gallery: Parkway Drive, Sutherland 2016

Parkway Drive / Make Them Suffer / Polaris
Sutherland Entertainment Centre, Sutherland 26/06/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Gallery: Peter Zaluzny

Australia loves Parkway Drive. They’re our band – the blokes that kept our Saturdays occupied with slick riffs brewing sick pits; the reason a handful of us found heavy music in the first place, and with their cover issues absolutely flying off shelves and their dedicated fanbase always avid, probably the reason we at BLUNT HQ still have our jobs.

There’s a designated vibe that comes with seeing a Parkway show in 2016: it’s a butterfly-in-stomach type of excitement – that convulsive thrill letting you know that you’re about to see something larger than life. But that wasn’t present tonight. Tonight felt like one of the good ol’ days – tonight, Parkway Drive weren’t a chart-topping force to be reckoned with; they weren’t this massive arena band with a grandiose stage production. We shuffled into a 1,500-cap hall, grabbed a marsy from the lolly bar (yes, there was a fucking lolly bar), and set up to watch a couple of mates smash out a couple of bangers. Good times.

Local crew Polaris were first up to the plate, shattering it immediately with a sonic malignity only ever seen in headliner veterans. Jamie Hails traced the stage as the quintet bathed in a churlish orange, the vocalist outright demanding chaos with every barbed wail that seeped from the speakers. The band showcased cuts from January’s expectation-crushing The Guilt And The Grief EP, but judging from the size of the moshes they stewed, it’s safe to say they no longer need introduction. “Regress” stood out with a cathartic onslaught of djent-driven beatdown fury, while “Hold You Under” paved way for Daniel Furnari to wreak absolute havoc behind the drums, and bassist Jake Steinhauser to steal the show with his buttery-smooth cleans filling in for Marcus Bridge.

Electronicore is a dangerous game, but Perth’s Make Them Suffer aren’t the type for safety. Unfortunately, where their studio output is no less than staggering, their opening set could not have been more of a trainwreck. Sean Harmanis was a poignant ball of rage behind the mic, but howling over a heedless avalanche of turbulent guitars and bass, the frontman never found a solid angle from which to attack. Synths felt entirely out of place in the mix, fighting with melodies that felt more in line with death metal than the gothic repose they were shooting for. But as for the setlist itself, there was little room for complaint – especially when it came to a nine-minute mashup of “Maelstrom” and the title track to Neverbloom.

Despite a lacking set from Make Them Suffer, hype for Parkway boomed as if the stage before us was set for Metallica. Parents fought to subdue frenzied kids about to witness the Byron boys in person for the first time; a line for the merch desk spun well into the dancefloor with most others proudly clad in classic designs from eras passed. Pre-set energy was shot aside in a riotous mosh (seriously) to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, before the lights were cut and a harrowing buzz crept over us. Cue: Parkway Drive.

From the get-go, Parkway’s usual crush of extraordinary massiveness was constricted: there was no fustian banner to drop at the flick of a breakdown, no grand eruption of streamers and confetti, and we’re pretty sure that pyro in a venue like this would end in catastrophe worthy of primetime news. And yet, Ire opener “Destroyer” still swept through the room like the common cold on a Sydney train. It was a short and sweet set – 13 tunes spanning a full discography, bar Killing With A Smile. A year of settling has led “Vice Grip” to shine as an instant mosh-stirring classic, while early cut “Carrion” came with it a venue-wide scream-along only a tune that timeless can. Ditto for Atlas standout “Dark Days”, which sat homely with some of Parkway’s most savage new jams.

Minimised setting be damned, the quintet brought every inch of their A-game. Winston McCall is the frontman every frontman should aspire to be, tearing through caustic verses with barbarous wrath and thunderous choruses with operatic might. He was left out of breath for much of the hour, but that appeared more a sign of the intensity poured into each banger than it did a withering vocalist. Luke Kilpatrick and Ben Gordan held the rhythm section down with merciless passion, Kilpatrick shredding to his heart’s desire while Gordan unleashed hell upon his hapless drum kit. It goes without saying that axe-lord Jeff Ling was a fucking anomaly – he took to the stage with 1,000 riffs, and by the time the house lights flicked back on, had scraped the barrel dry. Add to it all a backdrop of rotating strobes and CO2 cannons, and Parkway basically brought a stadium show to a choir hall.

So, sure: the setlist played out like an Ire Tour 2.0 with less extravagancy. But with the semi-intimate atmosphere and a honed-in focus on the band’s OG ethos, we’d argue it was just as raging as it was last November – if not even moreso. McCall made clear that tonight was one of Parkway’s last Australian shows for a long while, which, honestly, we’re totally cool with. It’s only a matter of time before the surfcore sultans are literally ruling the world, and when their empirical annihilation reaches home soil once again, it’ll be with a new record in tow. Bring it the fuck on.

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