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Parkway Drive: Bigger, brighter, and heavier than ever

We’ll cut right to the chase: Parkway Drive have a new album coming out.

Okay, okay, simmer down – we don’t know when it’s coming out, or what it’s called (or even sounds like) for that matter, but we do know that the mythical seventh Parkway album does in fact exist, and, if what frontman Winston McCall says of it is true, will mark a strikingly bold new era for the Byron Bay metal titans. 

McCall offered us the bombshell in a chat about Parkway’s live return at the inaugural Knight & Day festival. It’ll mark their first performance on a public stage since December of 2019, when the band headlined that year’s Good Things festival. That was never meant to be the case: after last January saw them release their theatrical documentary (and accompanying live album) Viva The Underdogs, the band were set to embark on a sprawling world tour that would’ve debuted their most ambitious stage production yet. Amidst the run, Parkway were to make their debut in local arenas – a milestone they’d been aiming to hit for almost two decades.

So with two years of planning down the drain, Parkway were – understandably – devastated. Their upset turned to rage, and that quickly into fuel for new songs. Because hell hath no fury like McCall and co. in their element, and if they couldn’t exert their catharsis on the live stage, they sure as hell weren’t going to suppress it. Thus, the follow-up to 2018’s Reverence is poised to be a distinctly heavy album, with McCall describing as not only an evolution to the sound they offered on that last record (itself building on the stylistic shift that came with 2015’s Ire), but an amplification of the brutish and barbed intensity of albums like Killing With A Smile and Horizons

As McCall tells BLUNT, Parkway’s seventh album is their most honest, heartfelt and headstrong effort yet. 

What’s the latest on album number seven?
We’re working our asses off on it – but in a really relaxed way, to be honest. This has been the most honest album that we’ve ever written, in terms of the fact that there’s been nothing to distract us, other than the ability to write music and the want to write music. It’s not as though we’re like, “Yo, we’ve got to be back on the road in three weeks, let’s do a bit of writing and jump in the studio.” We were lucky that we didn’t have an album that we had to drop, or had to sit on in this time. And we’re not going to put something out until we know that there’s a gateway out of this [pandemic], because we don’t want it to be lost. 

So we went, “Let’s just put everything we have into writing in the best possible way, and have fun while we’re doing it.” The only times we’ve rocked up to the studio have been when we’re like, “I’ve got some ideas and I’m really excited to try them out.” And then we sit down there and we jam it out, and we work on it. It’s been really fun. To actually have the confidence, the skill and the time to really best navigate our potential, and have everything we want to put into this record… Even if it’s a little idea that’s really far outside of our comfort zone, to be able to go, “Okay, that’s out of our comfort zone, but we have the time to learn what we need to learn to make this a reality…” We’ve never had that before. 

We just went all the way with it, done what we’ve done and made sure we enjoyed ourselves. We haven’t actually recorded the album yet – that’s coming up – but what we do have is the concept and the sound. What we have demoed exists, but the gap between what we’ve been imagining and what we’re going to create in the studio is far, far greater than anything we’ve done before. Because there’s plenty of stuff where we’re like, “Y’know what? We’re wasting our time if we fuck around with this now – we need to get all of our minds together in the studio to really get the full, like, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, fucking river-of-chocolate-and-candy-growing-out-of-the-ground fantasy, because right now all we have is the bar of Willy Wonka’s chocolate.

So what toppings are you going to stuff in there? The musical leap that you guys took from Atlas to Ire was obviously massive, but then the way Reverence built on the groundwork that Ire laid down was something else entirely. Where do you want to take the band from here?
We want to do more. Just more. What we enjoy is what we’ve always enjoyed doing from the start, which is guitar-based heavy music that’s intense, makes you feel something and makes you want to destroy things. Everything that surrounds that has always been interesting for us – it’s the way you play with those different shades of light and dark, and how you amplify those moments to transport someone in the way that we like to be transported when we hear music. We like to feel a connection that feels either grounding or otherworldly, or all of these things at once. 

“This is the first time where we have not only a vision and a concept for [the album], but we actually have the skills to get this shit done…”

All of those elements are things we’ve always dabbled in, but having this amount of time – and also having this amount of experience – we feel more confident than ever in the creation process. We’re sitting here going, “This is so fucking far outside of the box,” but we have the time to walk out there and hang out, and figure out how this ‘outside of the box experience’ relates to Parkway Drive. We’re able to figure out how we’re going to make it sound like Parkway Drive rather than just going a little bit over there. And we’re going to use it. It’s something that we’re comfortable in. Basically, the concept of what’s comfortable to us is just the concept of what engages us. 

There’s been plenty of times where what engages us is the kind of thing that’s going to make you want to smash your fucking face through a wall. And then there’s plenty of times where it’s going to make you just go, “What the fuck? This feels like I’m on another planet. I didn’t realise I could be here with this band.” But that’s what we’re going for. I think the trip, for me, is that you have those reference points from the last album – and I have them as well – but we have an experience of it just being a constant growth. 

When we look at the board of songs that we’ve written, and we look at the basic descriptions of those songs in relation to, like, stuff that we haven’t necessarily ventured into and elements that we haven’t had before… The way that the ratio falls, at this point in time, is more extreme than anything we’ve done before. But at the same time, the ratio of shit that I know that people who would’ve loved Parkway on day one will enjoy… It’s like, “Well, if you liked that, this is going to be like driving a bulldozer through your house.” But the way you get to that is down a path that you would never have gone down before. 

I hope it works! That’s the thing – we’ve still gotta go into the studio, but this is the first time where we have not only a vision and a concept for [the album], but we actually have the skills to get this shit done. Even with the other people that we rely on to pull off certain sounds – we know how to tell them to make this shit. We already know exactly what we want. I can’t write sheet music, so I’m going to have to get someone to write that, but I can sing them the melodies I’ve been coming up with!

So we’ve spoken about the future, but next year also marks the ten-year anniversary of Atlas. Do you guys have anything planned to celebrate the occasion?
Nah, because to be honest, next year is already too packed. We’re starting the year with a celebration of just being alive and being able to gig again, so at this point in time, the idea of dedicating anything to just an anniversary like that is… I think it’s a little bit lost, to be honest. As much as I do love that album, it just puts things in a much bigger context when you have everything taken away from you like we have. I’m just psyched to push forwards, and to keep taking those next steps – we’re very rarely looking at the footprints behind us. 

We stay connected to the things that connect us; the things that we bring forward in the band are things that have really stayed with us for certain reasons, be that songs or eras or anything like that. But we’re not so much nostalgia based. We do appreciate certain events, and that’s why we did the Horizons tour – because that was a real fucking moment, especially for a lot of people in the country – but there’s also a reason we didn’t take a worldwide. Australia, it was a moment… Worldwide, not so much.

>> KEEP READING: Parkway Drive: A royal return to the stage <<

Knight & Day 2021

Parkway Drive
Alex Lahey
Bakers Eddy
Diamond Construct
Hellions (performing Opera Oblivia in full)
Justice For The Damned
Make Them Suffer
The Beautiful Monument
The Chats
The Getaway Plan (performing Other Voices, Other Rooms in full)
The Gloom In The Corner
To The Grave
Trophy Eyes
Void Of Vision

Thursday December 30th – Friday December 31st
Kryal Castle, Ballarat VIC
Tickets: Official website