It feels like tonight has been a long time in the making for Parkway Drive, and the more modern strand of heavy music in general.
The sign outside Brixton Academy proudly beams that it is ‘Sold Out’, and this isn’t some kind of media spun-version of a sold-out gig. This is front-to-back, crushed-together, sweaty-walls, fervour-and-tangible-anticipation sold out. Hammer have been here on other occasions where bands have created history and passed into folklore, and the whiff of that atmosphere is filling our nostrils even as THY ART IS MURDER  take the stage and do their level best to harness the excitement for their own gain. Unfortunately, although the band sound as monstrous as any opening act you can name, this is TAIM as a work in progress. With the departure of frontman CJ McMahon just before the tour the band lost a potent weapon in their arsenal, and current fill-in Nick Arthur possess neither the vocal range nor the unique charisma of his predecessor. Still, tonight is not the night to judge or write the band off. Closer Holy War gives you hope that they can regroup and return with the brutal potency we are used to.
The reaction to BURY TOMORROW  would satisfy a band headlining this venue and, with new album Earthbound being comfortably the best thing they’ve ever recorded, they deserve it. The likes of opener Earthbound and 301 up the heaviness in all the right places, but unfortunately BT are hampered by sound gremlins throughout their set. Guitarist and clean vocalist Jason Cameron’s hooks are a huge part of the Bury Tomorrow sound, and unfortunately he’s hit the hardest. It’s only when we get to the halfway point of the set that any of them are actually audible. Not that most people in attendance care, and it’s a sea of banging heads and circle pits throughout. If BT can inspire this whilst handicapped then imagine what will happen when they’re firing on all cylinders.
PARKWAY DRIVE  have been firing on all cylinders for well over a decade now, so they’ve made some more cylinders and have started firing from them as well! Because, as good as they have always been, this evening Parkway are special. Really fucking special. From the venue-wide singalong to Bohemian Rhapsody engulfing everyone before the band have even set foot onstage, to the closing Home Is For The Heartless making the crowd lose all semblance of thought for their own wellbeing for the umpteenth time, not a second is wasted tonight. The production is as big as this band have ever attempted, with a classy all-white background, one of the most oppressive strobe lighting attacks you’ll ever witness and firebombs so endless that the smell of petrol and burning overpowers the usual stench of stale sweat around the 10-minute mark. Opener Destroyer comes complete with a glitter cannon whose reach is such that, were it not for the ceiling, would surely cover the Nando’s on the other side of the road, and it all ends with fireworks raining from the stage and oddly turning frontman Winston McCall into some kind of metalcore Whitney Houston in the process. It even features a celebrity cameo in the middle when Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo joins the band onstage to bark out the end of Deliver Me. As gruff, tough and real a band as Parkway Drive are, this is a proper show.
That it never overwhelms or detracts from the music, or the five men onstage who make it, is testament to just what a bulletproof set of anthems the band now have in their back catalogue. And it has to be said that, even though the omnipresent circle pits reach behind the mixing desk during classics like Carrion, the new material from the risky step that the band took on last year’s Ire wins the day when it comes to set highlights. And how many bands could claim that to be true of their live show after five albums and over a decade in the game? But the undeniable groove of Bottom Feeder, the slow-building menace of encore opener Crushed and the super-positive, joyous uplift of Vice Grip could lay claim to now being the cream of Parkway Drive’s crop. And, with a song as visceral as Karma for competition, that’s no little feat.
It’s around the time that Winston addresses the crowd before the aforementioned Vice Grip and tells them to “Smile and leave here having had a good time” that you realise that you’re witnessing a band doing to Brixton Academy something similar to what Machine Head did on The Blackening, or the reaction Slipknot received whilst touring their debut album for the first time in the UK – shows that went on to cement those bands as unshakable totems for modern heavy music. If that sounds like a big claim then so be it. We’ve waited long enough for a band to take that step and, with this as evidence, Parkway Drive have shoulders broad enough to carry metal into its next era all on their own.