I had previously dismissed Australian daredevils Parkway Drive in error when last they played Pittsburgh the same night as a decidedly more underground show was taking place on the other side of the city. Perhaps it was their name, which invoked all things “emo” and “nu” and whatnot. However, upon investigating Parkway Drive’s catalogue after their previous show months back, I heard much of what made metalcore a once exciting genre in the high 90’s and low 00’s. Having skimmed their back catalogue and Reverence, their 2018 effort, I felt compelled to catch them when they thankfully returned to Pittsburgh’s Stage AE after such a relatively short time away.
Parkway Drive, aside from a truncated set (70 minutes is unacceptable for an act with 6 full-length studio albums worth of original material in their arsenal) failed to disappoint the fans who attended in droves on a Thursday evening no less. Punchy, groovy, riffy, anthemic songs were the order of the night, from tricky Shadows Fall maneuvers, Pantera swagger, and Hatebreed positivity as well as impressive stage effects, Parkway Drive, whose maestro-like frontman Winston McCall links Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman to Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry with a low-growl-to-roar a la Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and the stage presence of Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett. Energetic and effortless, one could hear and see why Parkway Drive are becoming a surprise success story in the metal scene at large.
The undercard was a fairly rote metalcore cavalcade hampered by an overabundance of lead guitar-smothering bass, but the mostly young, wildly enthusiastic and nigh sold-out crowd didn’t appear to mind, Polaris, The Devil Wears Prada, and August Burns Red all possessing charismatic, mildly compelling, almost messianic frontmen that somehow rose about the by-the-book music they gave voice to. Parkway Drive immediately made these acts look stuck in the perennial mid-level opener and club-grade headliner status they’re never meant to graduate from. The metalcore ceiling has certainly been raised by a bunch of unassumingly clean-cut lads from Down Under.