Sound — 10
For those who don't already know, Parkway Drive are the metalcore kings of Australia. They formed in 2002 and "Atlas" is their fourth full-length release. This band is very highly regarded within the genre for their innovation and unrelenting sound. When given the term "metalcore", many people often associate it with monotonous breakdowns and poppy choruses. Parkway Drive does not fall into that category at all. Parkway Drive isn't your cookie cutter kind of band and they are a true mix of metal and hardcore. Metal in the sense of fast paced, thrashy riffs and hardcore with big, epic, unpredictable breakdowns and song structure. They have great technical craft, powerful vocals and lyrics, and most importantly, they are true to themselves and the music. Their sound is truly one of a kind. Everything they go for is of epic proportion. This can be seen in their growing names of their album titles. "Horizons", "Deep Blue", and now "Atlas". To keep on pace of epicness, they will need to name their next album something like "Solar" or "Universe". "Atlas", is no different than how I previously described the band. Heavy, relentless, melodic, powerful, technical, and brilliant. Well, sort of... as I explain later on in the review. I see "Atlas" very much an extension of "Deep Blue" as far as the sound goes. There has been some criticism about "Deep Blue". I felt that "Deep Blue" was a very good release from the band, the only issue was the production. Guitars were tracked too low and it was super bassy. In a way, it was kind of cool because it gave it a really raw hardcore feel to it. "Atlas" has a cleaner production. Every piece used sounds so crisp. Vocals, guitar tones and drums are mixed to near perfection. Bass is where it should be to let the guitars shine. The band also introduces some new elements that blend in pretty well. The intro track "Sparks" comes out with a kind of classical style acoustic guitar with a sort of orchestral march playing in the background. Again, on the self-titled track "Atlas" there are those orchestral moments with acoustic classical guitar. It's actually kind of a progressive track. On "The River" there are some clean female vocals in the background. The bridge in "The Slow Surrender" has Winston's vocals scratched up via DJ-style record scratching. I can't remember PWD ever adding anything to their music that couldn't be played on stage as a five-piece band.
Lyrics — 9
Vocalist, Winston McCall, is as sharp as ever on "Atlas". Vocals are definitely a strong point on the album. Comparing his vocals to their previous works, something sounds better. McCall is a full range screamer and has always been, but he has never sounded better than on "Atlas". Maybe it is the production of the album but his vocals seem to be more intense and full of emotion. Lyrically, McCall is always great and he shows it again on "Atlas". There are no generic lyrics about unrequited love or partying. That's not his style. Parkway Drive strives to be themselves and sort of anti-mainstream. He has got powerful lyrics, a lot of rage, and a pessimistically optimistic approach on life. His lyrics are relatable and believable. Dark, yet full of hope. A great example of the lyrics are in "Dark Days". It is all about sustainability on earth. It sounds cheesy and I'm no treehugger, but when McCall is screaming "I can't watch it burn!" or "How will you justify watching the world die" he is pretty convincing. Same thing on "Old Ghost/New Regrets" about past and present war and atrocities on earth he says "Bleed the earth, bleed her 'til her heart no longer beats". A similar theme also in "Wild Eyes" and "Sleight Of Hand". Some more worldly issues are seen in "Swing" where it is about corrupt politicians making the world turn. Most of the other tracks are about personal issues but McCall does a good job of writing them to make sure they are not in the vein of generic pop lyrics. The closing track "Blue And The Grey" is a sort of combination of both themes present on the album and lyrically my favorite track because it seems very poetic.
Overall Impression — 4
I've been a fan since the "Killing With A Smile" days and they've always held strong as one of my favorite bands for all of these years. Up until "Atlas" these guys had done no wrong in my book. Being a long time fan of Parkway Drive, "Atlas" is their worst album to date. If "Deep Blue" was never released, then "Atlas" would be innovative, new, and a good progression for the band. "Atlas" just kind of sounds the same as "Deep Blue". They also hint back at some of their earlier releases, but I really expected them to reinvent the wheel while still keeping their signature sound. They always have in the past, but not on "Atlas". I've listened to all of Parkway Drive's songs many, many times so I know them all pretty well. The amount of recycled riffs, basslines, chord progressions, and other elements reused are atrocious. I went through every song on the album and all but "Dark Days" and "Atlas" had things I felt I had heard before. I could understand if it was one or two riffs, but recycling is present in nearly every song. Here is what I found; 01. "Old Ghost/New Regrets" - The opening to this song sounds like the riff about 30 seconds into "Karma" off of "Deep Blue". 02. "Dream Run" - Opens up just like "Sleepwalker" from "Deep Blue" with the low-fi sound, but is pretty original after that. 03. "Wild Eyes" - Has background chants sort of like "Home Is For The Heartless". The bridge in this song and "Sleepwalker" also seem very similar. Both songs were off of "Deep Blue". 04. "The River" - The intro reminds me of "Alone" off of "Deep Blue". The first riff after the intro sounds like the riff at about 2:10 on "Horizons" from the album "Horizons" 05. "Swing" - Sounds like a combination of "Unrest Off Of Deep Blue" and "Breaking Point" from "Horizons". 06. "The Slow Surrender" - Opens up like "Hollow" from their EP as well as "Deep Blue". 07. "Sleight Of Hand" - Has a slow intro that reminds me of "Samsara" and "Home Is For The Heartless" from "Deep Blue". The verse riff after the intro is also similar to the first verse riff on "Home Is For The Heartless". 08. "Snake Oil And Holy Water" - The opening to this song sounds similar to the first verse riff in "The Sirens' Song" from "Horizons". The second half of the first verse in this song sounds like a fast version of the verse on "Romance Is Dead" from "Killing With a Smile". 09. "Blue And The Grey" - The first verse where the vocals kick in sound like the chorus in "Alone" from "Deep Blue". The whole beginning song structure is just like "Horizons". The riff in the verse is very similar as well. Both also happen to be the last songs on their respective albums. The part in "Blue And The Grey" around 2:10 sounds like "Deliver Me" with the triplets of notes. Chord progression is even similar. My only other gripe is that I find some of the transitions within the songs a little bit forced. They have always been masters at different song structures and time signatures, but they fail to fully execute on "Atlas". The good news is that the original riffs are actually pretty good. If this album was a standalone it would be nearly perfect. Unfortunately, as a long time fan, I know what they've done and what they are capable of and "Atlas" is not a good representation of their talent.