Parkway Drive & Polaris at Forum Theatre, Melbourne - live review

Metalcore kingpins seek horizons old and new on their 10th anniversary

Art for Parkway Drive & Polaris live at Forum Theatre, Melbourne

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It’s the height of summer in Australia right now, which means scorching, 40˚ days and muggy-as-a-rainforest nights. Before POLARIS [7] have even finished their chaotic opening set at this, the final show of Parkway Drive’s fortnight-long tour, people can be seen spilling out of the pit area Forum drenched in sweat, only to be hit by a wall of treacle-thick air. It’s undeniably stifling, but does nothing to dampen the spirits both on-and-off stage this evening.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that PARKWAY DRIVE [9] mean a lot to Australian metal fans. Almost single-handedly launching an entire scene, these five boys from Byron Bay fused their Cali-punk upbringing with a love of the flamboyance of the Big 4 on their debut album, Killing With A Smile, before touring every inch of the country in a beat-up family van. They’d pull thousands in even the most backwater, outback towns, igniting an Australia-wide love of all thing heavy in the process. By the time second album, Horizons – the focus of tonight’s anniversary show – was released in 2007, they were national heroes.

Strolling onstage to the strains of Horizons opener Begin, they waste no time in kicking off their 10th birthday party. Segueing straight into the vibrant, jagged intro to The Sirens’ Song, bedlam breaks loose on both sides of the barrier. Be it the venue-wide moshpit that sees stacked surfer dudes clatter into long-haired metalheads with reckless abandon, the frenzied pogoing of bassist Jia O’Connor or the Godzilla-like stomping of guitarists Jeff Ling and Luke Kilpatrick, the temperature is amped up even further with every riff. It’s frontman Winston McCall who oversees this mayhem; a powerhouse of note-perfect screaming and near-constant, wide-eyed calls for more from his melee, he comes off like a rabid dog and a prized matador in equal measure.

Stood in front of a backdrop that could illuminate venues 10 times this size, there’s an exciting edge to tonight’s show – one that both celebrates former glories and points to a future few could have dreamed of just a few years back. “Honestly, we never expected this band to last five years,” Winston admits early on, “Let alone be doing a 10-year tour for a whole record.” It’s a brief speech that inspires both cheers and one erstwhile crowdsurfer, before things explode for Carrion. The deafening screams that greet that titular ‘Carrion!’ hook prompt the first of a thousand model-white smiles from Winston this evening – “loudest crowd in 10 years,” he laughs afterwards, “fucking hell!”

The Horizons-fest continues with self-confessed “curveball” deep cut Five Months, its anthemic riffing inspiring a swell of crowdsurfers, before Winston addresses his throng once more. “If you’ve been around a while, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this one,” he admits, such is the lasting impact of Horizons on Parkway’s setlists over the last 10 years, before he gestures to the back reaches of the room: “If you’ve been around a long while, there’s a good chance you should be in the pit for this one.” As Boneyards then flip-flops between the frantic blastbeats of drummer Ben Gordon – these days sporting an impressive 80s hair-metal perm – and yet more colossal breakdowns, Winston’s calls are answered, the ever-larger pit now resembling a pack of wolves out for the kill.

This is not just some fan-service trip down memory lane, though. Taking a detour from the Horizons tracklist, the singalongs that greet Wild Eyes from 2012’s Atlas threaten to drown out every amp in the room, while the reaction the stadium-rock, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ chorus of Vice Grip garners is as fevered as any classic Parkway track: proof that their anthemic evolution should cement another decade at the top. “This is Jeff’s moment,” Winston then sniggers after a riotous Idols & Anchors. “When he was born, he was given the chance to grow taller, or to riff like a motherfucker. And he chose to RIFF!” As a note-perfect Breaking Point surges forward, it’s proof that what Mr Ling may lack in lankiness, he more than makes up for in sheer mind-melting musicality.

A quickfire thrash through Dead Man’s Chest, Frostbite and Horizons’ title track then closes out Parkway Drive and their second album’s tin anniversary, before they take a brief breather. Their encore is awe-inspiring. There’s a swagger to Winston McCall’s stage presence that he previously kept hidden, as he saunters about the stage, harnessing Crushed’s nu metal-esque attitude. “Whatever energy you’ve got left – the energy you were gonna use to get home, or to the bar – you use that now,” he demands, flashing his final grin of the evening: “I’m cashing it in!” Bottom Feeder is a fitting end: ‘You’ve had your time in the sun / Keep your head down kid, your 15 seconds are done,’ Winston bellows, a call-out to the chug-happy, innovation-lacking pretenders of the metalcore scene that Parkway are a welcome antidote to. As they look ahead to album six, the scene’s never been in safer hands – Parkway Drive are surely only months away from becoming much deserving arena-fillers.