A band can make a lot of changing style for a new record. It seems to be the hallmark of modern metal bands, to move in a different direction, and gamble on breaking into wider consciousness and pushing themselves to the next level.
Some of the 21st century's biggest heavy names - Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold, even Bring Me The Horizon, have all compromised their sound somewhat in a bid to reach the top tier, with mixed results.
With 'Ire', Parkway Drive have made a similar gamble, rewriting the blueprints of modern metalcore, lacing it with traditional metal influences and taking a step into the unknown. It takes maybe 90 seconds of album opener 'Destroyer' to realise that this is a very different antipodean beast to the one we've become accustomed to on Parkway Drive's ascent to the top, and 90 seconds more for the penny to drop. This is as good as anything they've ever released.
'Vice Grip' and 'Crushed', released as singles ahead of the album raised a few eyebrows, and skeptical ones at that. The former owes much to Los Angeles circa 1986, while the latter is laced with Rage Against The Machine-esque riffery. In isolation, they don't feature on the same plane as 'Carrion' or 'Wild Eyes' but, in the context of 'Ire', it all makes sense and it's just another statement of the band's confidence in their material and decision-making.
In the press rounds for September's 'The Book of Souls', Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris made the point that they don't know how to write short songs any more. Have a listen to 'Fractures' on 'Ire', Steve, it's quite possibly the best Iron Maiden track of the 21st century. With twin guitar lines, galloping rhythm and hook-filled chorus, 'Fractures' is a track geared for big stages and Parkway are comfortable with moving in that direction without compromising the core of their sound. It's still heavy as balls.
Then there's chiefly spoken-word 'Writings On The Wall', which screams King 810 and again brings the best out of Winston McCall, whose approach to 'Ire' is evident not only in his range and desire to experiment, but the barely cloaked anger that forms the spine of his lyrics.
This is a man with something to say - be it a bellowed 'we're the blind leading the damned, a wrecking ball in the hands of a madman' in 'Destroyer', or 'Crushed''s 'Do we kneel before the crooked few or do we bite the f**king hand that feeds?' - and McCall has every inch of conviction needed to deliver it.
As you'd expect with any Parkway Drive record, when 'Ire' hits, it hits hard. The freedom which envelopes the release doesn't just pay dividends in the band pushing themselves further, but it accentuates the moments that showcase the best of their journey to 2015.
McCall heralding an unholy beatdown in 'Dying To Believe' with a guttural low end growl of 'Tell me how the hell do you sleep at night' hits as hard as anything from their back catalogue, while 'Bottom Feeder''s mosh call of 'now snap your neck to this' incites a maniacal, ferocious final 30 seconds to the track.
They're classic Parkway Drive moments both, but those moments stand out so much more on 'Ire'.
There's even a touch of flamenco to album closer 'A Deathless Song', before breaking into a five minute monster boasting some of the band's finest moments and McCall's best vocal line by a country mile. It's another tick in the 'Iron Maiden influence' box, but with Parkway's power, pace and sheer heaviness underpinning it, the experiment just works. Which sums up the album nicely.
Where 2012's 'Atlas' re-tyred Parkway's wheel rather than inventing, 'Ire' smashes it to pieces. It's a complete reinvention for the band. The stylistic shifts from 'Atlas' nodded toward an evolution but we're in the Jurassic now, Parkway Drive are top of the food chain and 'Ire' has set the standard for mainstream metal in 2015.
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