ALBUM REVIEW: Parkway Drive – Viva The Underdogs

Release Date: March 27th 2020
Label: Epitaph Records
Website: www.parkwaydriverock.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/parkwaydrive
Twitter: www.twitter.com/parkwayofficial

Rating:

The journey of Parkway Drive is a commendable one. Emerging in the mid-2000s at the peak of global metalcore expansion, not only have the Australian heavyweights managed to survive the tests of time and relevancy, but have continued to amass legions of fans the world over.

However, with this mission of longevity and increase in popularity, there comes a price. The band have continued to de-fang their sound with each new release. Compare any track from their 2007 breakthrough ‘Horizons’ to their latest studio efforts, and there’s a clear absence of aggression and intensity. In its place is a newfound focus on anthemic, almost “stadium-core”, which has been popularised by a number of bands as of late.

It may not appear to be such a radical departure at first, but when these songs are put next to one another, the differences are glaring. This factors greatly into the track listing of ‘Viva The Underdogs’, which serves as the soundtrack to the band’s documentary of the same name.

Operating essentially as a live album, with eleven of the fourteen tracks being taken from their 2019 headline performance at Wacken, there are a few key takeaways upon initial listens. As previously mentioned, the juxtaposition of older cuts, such as ‘Carrion’ and ‘Idols And Anchors’, with later material (which makes up the bulk of the set), can leave a bit of a bitter taste.

It’s evident that the band have been a touring metalcore act for the better part of two decades. They’re as tight as can be, swapping rapid fire riffs and grooves for crushing breakdowns galore, but vocally is a different story. It’s a risky decision for any act to record a live album if there’s any chance of the vocalist not fully delivering. In the heat of the performance is fine for those in attendance, but once it’s committed to record, the flaws become more apparent with each subsequent listen. Sadly, Winston McCall‘s awkward breathy shouts and woeful high screams sound exhausted and lacking any real fervor.

Following the live set, the album finishes with three re-recorded German versions of cuts taken from 2018’s ‘Reverance’, as a token of appreciation to their Germanic fans. It’s a nice closing sentiment, but sadly does not make up for the lacklustre live performance that predominately fills the run-time. Here’s to hoping ‘Viva The Underdogs’ proves a better documentary than album.