‘Darker Still’ is the Parkway Drive the band have been striving to be for two decades

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‘Darker Still’ is the Parkway Drive the band have been striving to be for two decades

Words by Alex Callan 

The band's seventh full length album 'Darker Still' is the vision the bandmates have held in their mind's eye since a misfit group of friends first convened in their parents' basements and backyards in 2003.

Considering they have been ushering in a new sound over the past seven years, it’s amazing to think that Parkway Drive’s still copping flak for their rebranding. 

Having gone towards the arena-focused sound that European audiences adore, many Australian fans are still besotted with the group’s first four albums. But where Ire (2015) and Reverence (2018) saw the Byron Bay metal icons receive criticism for steering towards the stylings of their contemporaries like Slipknot and Ghost, Darker Still differentiates itself by drawing its influence from traditionally non-metal acts such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, ushering in a welcomed change for the metalcore pioneers. 

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When asked about the critics, the group’s revered lead vocalist Winston McCall chuckled and responded, “It’s better to piss someone off than to have them not pay attention.

“For all of the love and hate, I find it interesting that there are still people who are like, ‘I switched off after ‘Killing With A Smile’ [2005], everything else has been shit since then’.

“I’m so stoked that you love that album that much,” he smiles, “but that was 15 years ago, and you’re still commenting on it. So you’re obviously still engaged with what we do.”

With the group’s seventh LP Darker Still marking their most ambitious release to date, McCall discussed the confidence that was required to finally hone in on the difference in style. Regarding the album’s haunting title track, he humbly stated, “It’s taken us 20 years to be able to write a song like that.” 

“It’s taken that long because we didn’t have the skill to get our imagination around the process of trying to do that, or the audacity to even think that you could try it. 

“So for us, this is the most audacious thing we’ve put our minds to.”

Parkway Drive release ‘Darker Still’, the band’s defining musical statement to date

This is a statement that McCall also stands by when speaking on the ambitious album in its entirety.  

“The goal was to create the album which was unattainable when we first started the band.

“There are sounds and songs on this album which we would never have attempted up until 10 years ago because we put them in a realm which was beyond our sound.”

When touching on the new soundscapes the group attempted for this release, the conversation naturally veered towards Tom Waits, the husky American singer who became a prominent influence on McCall’s vocal delivery and songwriting style.

“I am a storyteller, a character and a writer. Every evolution I’ve had has not been to be a really good singer. My goal has never been to introduce epic singing; I don’t want this band to be Killswitch or Judas Priest. For me, whenever there’s melody, it comes from a place of capturing emotion and character rather than technically executing nice sounds,” McCall says. 

“I’m not attracted to beautiful, perfect sounds; I’m attracted to broken things where there are cracks that let you into the human side.

“Tom Waits is the walking personification of that. For me, when I first started listening to him, it was the kind of thing where I was like, this doesn’t sound far out from what I do. I could see myself creating this kind of music; it really resonated with me, but I never thought of using my imagination to create a sound palette like that.

“Especially on his live album, Glitter and Doom, his voice is insanely heavy. And I was like, ‘Fuck, this is a dude that sounds like he should be in a doom band or like a death metal’. And yet, he’s doing all of this other weird shit, but it’s heavy in a different way.

“He changed my perspective of what heaviness meant beyond adrenaline and staccato rhythms.”

With Darker Still marking the 19th year that Parkway Drive have dominated the Australian metal scene, McCall ensures that it’s still only the beginning for the group, who after headlining the esteemed Wacken Festival in Germany in 2019 are now setting their sights on even bigger goals. 

“There’s no reason that we can’t be in everyone’s ears and be fucking the biggest band on the planet,” he remarks.  

“I’m not saying we’re going to, but I’m not going to set a goal less than anything than that at this point; because every time I’ve set a goal, it’s been blown out of the water. We headlined Good Things in Australia, and headlined Wacken in Germany to 100,000 people, and that is so far beyond any goal that we ever had. And yet, it just seemed right.

“So if this album comes out and it takes us to new places, fucking great. And if it comes out and people are like, ‘this fucking sucks’, well it is what it is.”

Darker Still is out now via Parkway Records. Stream it here