Friday, October 19, 2007

Horizons - Parkway Drive .... An album review

I just finished writing this review for Parkway Drive's new album. It's going to be published on The Dwarf. I'll probably be doing another rewrite of this review for publication in Focalpoint. Either way, I'm pretty happy with it. Only three more album reviews, one more live review, and an interview transcript to write up tonight! Ha!

Let the reviewing begin now ...

If you are a fan of heavy music, you have probably encountered Parkway Drive. Their debut album, Killing With A Smile, rewrote the sound of Australian metalcore, prompted a bunch of kids to form copy-cat bands, helped put idyllic Byron Bay on the hardcore map, and arguably started a whole new music scene. For any band, let alone five guys from Byron, this is a huge feat to have to follow up, so the release of Parkway's second album, Horizons, has been one of the most anticipated new releases of 2007.

In its own right, Horizons, is a better than average album. It is technically adept metalcore and an excellent demonstration of formulaic songwriting at its best. The guitar riffs chug along nicely, the breakdowns are punishing, and the lyrics are screamed and spoken with all the intensity and anger that would be expected from vocalist Winston McCall. This, however, is the crux of my problem with this album. It is good, but there is something terribly contrived about it. It is precisely what we expect from Parkway Drive.

There are moments where you have flashes of deja vu back to Killing With A Smile. The lead single, “Boneyards” has moments where it throws back to “Guns for Show, Knives for a Pro”,except that it is slightly heavier and the breakdowns are a bit more brutal. The same could be said for the entire album. At points, during songs like “Boneyards” and “The Siren's Song”, the songs sound more like the band have written them with the intention of making them sounds like heavier and more brutal versions of songs on Killing With A Smile.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that I dislike this album completely. In a genre that is fast becoming over-saturated with cookie cutter bands trying to sound like their heroes, Parkway Drive still do metalcore better than anyone else in the Australian scene, and are easily as good as the best of their American and European counterparts. Their music and live reputation all testify to this. As do the moments on Horizons that are the most memorable and most impressive.

The best moments on Horizons are when Parkway Drive are not trying to be heavier and harder, but instead are at their most melodic and most interesting. “Idols and Anchors” was the first song on the album that grabbed my attention and held it, long after I had turned the CD off. Soon this was replaced with “Carrion”. Both these songs are heavy and do have brutal breakdowns aplenty, but they also feature interesting vocal lines, and melodic guitars that add a real atmosphere to the song, making the vocals seem more earnest.

To me, Horizons is an album that represents a band still finding their sound and their comfort zone. It is a technically adept album and is a perfect representation of good metalcore. It is the work of an Australian band that has, rightfully so, made an impact on the international music scene. But it is still lacking in originality, cohesiveness and strength. Perhaps album number three will finally be the culmination of everything that Parkway Drive can be?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Imposing My Views ...

I'm more than a little bit excited at the moment.

I get the opportunity to impose my music-related views on yet more unsuspecting victims as of Issue XII of FocalpointBMX Zine.

2000 copies will be distributed of this issue in BMX stores all over Australia and New Zealand.

That is 2000 people that I get to tell what is awesome in Australian music.

The editor asked me if I was interested in contributing tonight and I said yes immediately. We're starting off on a half page or so - that is a handful of reviews - for this issue, just because of time constraints, but I'm really keen to see this grow.

And with my graduation pending and the need for me to go out and get a real job getting closer and closer any experience I can get is going to be beneficial.

I'm just really excited right now! It will be the fourth publication that I've contributed to in some way, shape or form since starting to seriously prepare myself for a career in music journalism in about July this year. Things are progressing nicely here. Preparations for our own zine are starting to come together.

I just want uni to hurry up and be over so I can focus on what is really important!

Music and writing ....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Flavour of the Week

I kind of imagine that this is the closest to what an identity crisis looks like.

For the past few weeks I've found it increasingly difficult to get excited, or interested in anything remotely resembling music. If I find something that piques my interest, it doesn't stay that way. Within a day or two I've moved onto the next big thing, or the same three or four albums that have managed to keep my interest over the past couple of months.

Is the well of good music drying up?

I certainly hope not.

This year has been a good year for me as far as music is concerned. The highlight has certainly been discovering Darkest Hour and Anime Fire, and of course the release of Radiohead's *brilliant* new album! But very little else has been able to sustain my interest.

There was a period where old-school style hardcore was interesting to me, and another where metalcore was awesome. I keep coming back to brief flirtations with hip hop, where I go through stages of about a week where a particular hip hop artist or album will get me excited. It's always either Dizzee Rascal or Lupe Fiasco. Last week it was Nas' new album. In a month or so's time it will be something else. Metal is something I find myself getting into more and more.

But no one genre or no one album really maintains my interest for an extended period of time and, again, I find myself coming back to that same three or four albums that have dominated my stereos and iTunes for the bulk of the year.

This week's flavours of the week appears to be trip hop and acid house. I bought Faithless' "Reverence" last week and that is an awesome, awesome album. Right now I'm listening to "Maxinquaye" by Tricky which I borrowed of a friend a while ago but had not really gotten around to listening to it. These are certainly new styles of music to me ... well, kind of. I had a brief flirtation with The Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx and Massive Attack in like 2003/2004, but that's about it. And I often play Unkle's new album at work because it's so freaking cool! (I think I previously posted about it, actually).

I don't know what my issue is ... I love music. I love punk and metal and hardcore and all their derivatives more than any other genre. But nothing maintains my interest. Very little gets me excited anymore. There are a few Australian bands doing the rounds (The Amity Affliction, Anime Fire, Closure in Moscow and sleepsmakeswaves) that totally blow me away, and I will rave about them as much as I can.

I just need something new and something to get me excited and interested and absorbed and involved again. I keep thinking I've found it, but a week later something else takes over. For example, for the past couple of days I've been talking about how excellent Breach are. And they are FANTASTIC ...Swedish hardcore: catchy melodies and awesome rhythms. But by tomorrow I'll probably be playing Faithless or Massive Attack or something along those lines. I had mostly metal or metalcore CDs in my car today, and I flicked through the eight or so CDs for about ten minutes in the carpark after I left work before I finally settled on playing the ONE non-metal CD in the pile (The Presets, if you were wondering ...).

I'm just sick of this "Flavour of the Week" crap ... Someone give me something, anything, to obsess over!

I haven't had a good obsession in a while ....

Friday, October 12, 2007

The time to hesitate is through ...

A blog ...

Soon there will be more to this blog. For now it is just a starting point, and not one I'm completely happy with. I will be though ... Very soon.

I soon won't be the only one on this blog.

There will be a crew of us and we will take over the scene (read world).

We're coming ... be prepared ...

Listen to Anime Fire, As Venice Sinks, Closure in Moscow

Watch Focalpoint BMX "Clocked In"

Read me ...