Parkway Drive have become something of a real global phenomenon. The release of 2010's Deep Blue saw the Australian metallers reach new bounds in terms of creativity while setting the bar for anything considered metalcore in the process. But as Atlas so clearly shows, Parkway Drive are very much above and beyond this idea of genre and are enhancing what you can do with heavy music.
Crucially Atlas still feels like a Parkway Drive album, the crushing monstrous beatdowns are in there all over the place and all hit with the force of a thousand hammers, see Swing's mighty "Swing MOTH-ER-FUCKERS!" climax, 'nuff said. But it also feels like the band have taken their sound and played around with it leading the way into new and breath-taking territories, the title-track using a full string-orchestra to a flooring degree while earlier on in the album The River includes bluesy slow-burning passages and female vocals to dazzling and haunting effects. The band have looked at the successes of stepping out of the box on Deep Blue such as its stellar Home Is For The Heartless centre-point and have gone even further.
The fact that the musicianship is flawless is of no detriment to this decision then. In their recent documentary, guitarist Jeff Ling talks about how blown-away he is that fans now hum the riffs he wrote in the bedroom of his parents' house at every gig they play and this album is going to be adding a whole new arsenal to that list. The towering and unforgiving riff that accompanies Sleight Of Hand will surely be up there with favourite Carrion to end live sets the world over and the raging Wild Eyes actually incorporates both guitar-lead and chanting voice in unison to spine-chilling effect. On the flipside when the album crushes, it really fucking crushes. Opener proper Old Ghosts/New Regrets is so head-cavingly heavy that its blastbeats and enveloping riffs could cause several shades of destruction all on their own.
To compliment this, frontman Winston McCall truly shines all over this album and not only proves himself as a phenomenally creative vocalist but also steps up as one of the finest poets around. Take intro track Sparks, a starting rallying call, where McCall explains that he's "the same bad news as you" and "you're the same kind of fucked" as him yet we, as a whole, are "sparks in a darkened world", Atlas is an album of true light and shade within a meditation on humanity and the world and McCall hits the nail on the head over the course of its twelve tracks and oh boy he doesn't hold back. In Old Ghosts/New Regrets we are "born with nothing" and "die alone" yet in the following Dream Run McCall sheds a light of hope in asking "do you remember all those nights where we stood side by side?" and that "we still have time" even if, as he screams in Dark Days, we must begin to accept that we'll soon have to "behold the pale horse" and "it's the funeral of the Earth". Though the frontman's lyrics are always completely honest and poignant, a real life-affirmation runs through the album being one of its strongest qualities. Even though we're all too late, he begs us to consider that (in what is possibly the album's best lyric) "it's not the years in your life, it's the life in your years" and to repair "every second" that we "waste" while the "sky" could "be the hope" we "could never reach", they're lyrics that go way beyond convention and elevate the record to whole new heights, as Winston says "Carpe Diem, I have to go straight for the throat".
Atlas is both a devastating, pumping modern metal album and a piece of artwork that has something very important to say and discuss. The world needs something like this right now. Rage, jump around and listen to what it says.