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Live Review + Photos: Parkway Drive, Sydney 2015

Parkway Drive / Thy Art Is Murder / Memphis May Fire / The Word Alive
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 09/10/2015
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Billy Zammit

Standing in line for the Sydney stop of Parkway Drive’s Ire tour brought with it a warm sense of retrospection. It was just a slither under three years ago that we stood in this exact spot for their Atlas tour, and although the metalcore mainstays are hardly who they were in 2012, we couldn’t help but feel the déjà vu. Among us stood an acreage of enthusiastic faces young and old alike; for some of us, this was our first ever Parkway show. For others, the twentieth. But regardless of the tally count, one thing was certain for everyone as we walked into the Hordern Pavilion: this was going to be unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

Arizona shredders The Word Alive kicked things into gear with an iron boot, their electronically charged outbreak of face-melting metalcore a suitcase bomb for the circle pits. While guitarists Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti inflicted chaos with their instruments, Tyler Smith whipped around the stage like a fighter dodging hits, his ultimate KO an annihilating wallop of virulent screams and splintering wails. Wasting not a second of their 30-minute set, the five-piece shuttered through a setlist of their liveliest and most aggressive bangers; “The Hounds Of Anubis” christened the night’s first wall of death, before “Entirety” had the crowd in an unrelenting flurry for its djent-tinted breakdown.

Despite starting off to a peculiarly nonchalant audience, Memphis May Fire put their all into a set packed from start to finish with momentous energy. Matty Mullins has an undeniable stage presence that was in full effect here, the vocalist effortlessly garnering attention as he melded glossy cleans with a toxic roar. There was a salty-sweet type of contrast between the band’s pop-driven hooks and deathly breakdowns, showcased perfectly by Unconventional standouts “No Ordinary Love” and “Need To Be”, which incited an equal thrust of pumping fists and thrashing limbs.

The 20 minutes that followed was rife with good vibes, as punters prepared themselves for the impending frenzy of homegrown chaos to begin. One group in particular found entertainment by hosting the chicken fight to end all chicken fights, before Thy Art Is Murder cut the lights and made their haunting entrance to a sepulchral hum. Any semblance of heaviness that The Word Alive and Memphis May Fire brought was immediately incinerated by Blacktown’s finest, the distorted growls of Sean Delander’s bass and wall-shaking crunches of Lee Stanton’s drums making the US imports sound no angrier than the average boy band. Pitch black with flashes of blinding white light, their mosh was nothing short of terrifying. Bodies swung and collided in glory as the deathcore killers smashed out a 30-minute set of pure, unrelenting insanity.

Performing for his fiancé and father-in-law for the first time, CJ McMahon was at the top of his game, spitting low-range death growls with burning animosity and stopping only to rant about his hatred for Sydney. Their setlist consisted mostly of tracks from their breakthrough opus Hate, notched with cuts from the recently released Holy War. Fan-favourites “The Purest Strain Of Hate” and “Reign Of Darkness” were played to uproarious fanfare, and latest hit “Coffin Dragger” – which, of course, saw Parkway’s own Winston McCall storm the stage for some guest yells – opened circle pits wider than any this scribe has ever seen.

Parkway Drive’s grand entrance to the stage immediately reminded us why the Byron Bay quintet are Australia’s most revered metalcore act. Opening track “Destroyer” had the ball rolling before their banner even dropped, a snowfall of confetti re-introducing us to our old mates as if we’d spent a lifetime apart. Their latest album Ire is characterised by its stadium-flooring explosivity and louder-than-loud enormousness, all of which was present in their hour-long headlining set.

Half a decade of relentless international touring has left Parkway pretty damn good at this whole ‘arena’ thing. Spanning five albums worth of bangers across a measly 15 tracks, the band’s setlist was reserved exclusively for their biggest tunes. Iconic number “Carrion” was the third in their set, the opening notes played to a hurricane of cheers and McCall’s vocals almost entirely washed out by the chants of his 5,500-strong army. Atlas standout “Dark Days” had the stage drooped in a deep orange as rhythm guitarist Luke Kilpatrick shredded away without a care in the world before that electrifying final breakdown flung the crowd into a whirlwind of circle pits and two-step mayhem. Ire’s lead single “Vice Grip” followed, and judging from the pounding fists and venue-wide wall of death, it looks like the track won’t be leaving their permanent setlist any time soon.

The band themselves were impossible to fault throughout the night. McCall’s screams were as strong and impassioned as they’ve ever been; in-between songs, he expressed his gratitude towards being able to play in arenas around the world, apologised for the delay between now and their last tour, and gave speeches about what the new songs meant to him. He was genuine, and added a powerful level of intimacy to what was far from an intimate show. Unfortunately, lead guitarist Jeff Ling wasn’t a part of the performance, having injured himself earlier in the week. Instead, his shoes were filled by Andy Marsh, who, alongside playing in Thy Art Is Murder, was tasked with learning the entire setlist in just two days. Not a single note off beat, it’s safe to say that he absolutely killed it in the role.

It’s not often that an encore will override the entirety of a band’s main set, but Parkway pulled it off. After faux-wrapping up with “Swing”, the band had their pyro on a slow burn to give the effect that the stage had been set on fire. After a minute or two of the inevitable “PARK-WAY-DRIVE! PARK-WAY-DRIVE!”, they raced back out and smashed straight into “Crushed”, once more ending with the crowd left standing hopeful in the dark. Illuminating the stage with a bright purple flare and giving his final speech, McCall tore into “Home Is For The Heartless”, brewing not just the last, but also the biggest pits of the night.

This has been Parkway Drive’s life for the past 12 years straight, but in no way does it feel like things have gotten stale. The five-piece are the most energetic they’ve ever been, and if the Ire tour was any indication, they’re still years away from hitting their peak. We’re placing our bets that the next headline run will be even bigger – hell, it’s only a matter of time before they’re selling out footy fields.


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