It’s not cool to like Parkway Drive anymore. There is a clear shift in the direction of the band, and the days of blast beats and ferocious licks are all but forgotten. Luckily I’ve never been cool, so I’m going to rank all of the Parkway Drive albums. Since Darker Still will be out in two weeks, I figured it’s a perfect time.
The criteria for the rankings, unsurprisingly, will be personal preference. But I will make an attempt at objectivity when breaking down the music. Last note: I’m not considering the Don’t Close Your Eyes EP.
(Editor’s note: This article has now been updated with the release of “Darker Still”)
Parkway Drive Albums: The Bottom Feeders
Killing with a Smile
Yes, it’s ranked “last” in our list of Parkway Drive albums, but it is by no means a bad album. If I was just discovering this band, and “Killing with a Smile” came out on KMaN’s Friday release chart, I’d lose my mind. It would be an AOTY contender and I’d be hyping Parkway Drive as the next metal juggernaut.
The reason why it finds itself in this position is I feel the vocals don’t match with the riffs. The riffs, mind you, are simply fantastic. It’s as if they were tailor-made for me. But Winston’s voice on this album is young and not as polished as it will soon become. His cadence doesn’t complement the rest of the song, something I value.
For this reason, if you bump a lot of tech death, I highly recommend it.
Standouts: Gimme Ad, Romance Is Dead
Yes, like most of the metal community, I’m placing this album in the bottom half of the band’s discography. It’s too top-heavy, and when it misses, it makes Adam Dunn look like Tony Gwynn.
Despite these harsh criticisms, there are two reasons I’m placing it ahead of KWAS: Like Napalm and Darker Still, the title track.
I find these songs OUTSTANDING. Winston’s delivery of the verses for Like Napalm is the gold standard for balancing catchy with substance, and Jeff Ling’s contributions on guitar for Darker Still were the strongest aspects of the entire album.
In a recent interview, the band stated the title track Darker Still would be their version of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, in their minds the ultimate metal ballad. Upon hearing this information, Lars Ulrich is currently filing a motion to receive royalties. /S
My impression of the album is that it’s a collection of songs written for the live setting. Big choruses, easy-to-shout tag lines, catchy riffs, you get the idea. It’s not an album that I’ll go back and listen to from start to finish, but there is definite replayability.
However, I’m going to pretend that If a God Can Bleed doesn’t exist.
Standouts: Like Napalm, Darker Still
Parkway Drive put a foot up our ass on album three. My only criticisms from their debut have been completely eradicated. Winston’s voice developed into a powerful war machine. The vocals, drums, and riffs worked together like a well-tuned engine to beat your ass. Best ass beating you’ve ever received.
“Deep Blue” CHUGGED. Steady headbanging. 0-0-0-1 0-0-0-1. Meat and potatoes. But it did not come at the sacrifice of Jeff Ling’s classic melodic riffs throughout the song. It was a perfect blend. The entire album gives you stank face with a slow, but deep headbang. Jesus Christ, I’m listening to it as I write this and it’s just absurd how well they blended beefy chugs with fast licks.
Recommend this to some hardo on metal twitter and let them know 200 Stab Wounds could never.
Standouts: Deliver Me, Home Is for the Heartless, Sleepwalker
Parkway Drive Albums of Some Reverence
Many fans will state this is the start of their “decline”. Many fans also still have active Facebook accounts and have arguments in comment sections.
“Ire” is the clear beginning of the band becoming more accessible to a wider audience. While some see that as harsh criticism, I look at it this way: a good song is a good song. That’s (almost) all that matters. I would like to note that at this point, Winston McCall has taken the throne (in my completely biased opinion) of having the best range of harsh vocals. Highs, mids, lows, king.
Top to bottom, it probably doesn’t have the depth that their earlier discography had, but they did something very significant, and that has to matter.
“Bottom Feeder” is arguably the greatest song they’ve ever written, with one of the best hooks ever to grace your eustachian tube. It’s a Mount Rushmore song, and it’s a masterclass in efficiency. It was made for spilling beers, jumping around, and giving free high fives to strangers.
“Ire” was an album written for arenas. “Crushed”, “Bottom Feeder”, and “Vice Grip”. All staples in their live show, all songs made to share with thousands. We love going to shows, and they wrote music specifically for the shows we go to. Good band, yep.
Stand Outs: Bottom Feeder, Destroyer, Vice Grip
This album holds a very special place in my heart. It came right at the perfect time and was just what the doctor ordered. I saw them tour this album in 2019, and that night left a lasting impact on me, shaping my taste in music going forward. I was on the front lines for the wall of death setting up the breakdown of “Bottom Feeder”, so clearly, life was going well for me.
To this date, it’s the most diverse album in their discography (until September 9th). It features, once again, two of their greatest musical achievements. I’m biased when it comes to “Wishing Wells”, but you’re an asshole if you can’t enjoy “Prey”. Please no mean comments, I’m living MY truth.
They also discovered they are the authority on slow, cowboy metal. As somebody obsessed with Red Dead Redemption 2, this scratched me right where I itch. Here, I completely understand all criticisms. But Arthur Morgan has me by the short and curlies.
Reverence is a great album to recommend to your friends that are starting to dip their toes into heavier sounds. What a great bonding moment that could bring. Be a good pal.
Standouts: Prey, Wishing Wells, The Colour of Leaving (For Arthur Morgan)
God-Tier Parkway Drive Albums
Recently, I was arguing with myself as I was starting to wonder if this was my number one. “Horizons” was my introduction to Parkway Drive. I will never forget the person that told me to listen to “Carrion”. If I win the lottery, they will most certainly receive a text from me when I am on Parkway Drive’s tour bus. Not money. I’m selfish.
If I may use a metaphor: “Horizons” is the Frieza Saga of Dragon Ball Z. Still early in the show, but officially established as an absolute POWERHOUSE. “Carrion” is the Super Saiyan moment of the album, and will forever remain one of their greatest achievements. A riff that was made for the perfect summer sunset. Windows down, sun in your face, hand out the window doing that roller coaster thing. Life gives us beautiful serene moments sometimes.
“In a moment I am lost. Screaming from the inside” Doom and gloom, and yet so calming. Back to the action.
The crowning jewel for this album – aside from “Carrion”– is the verse structure. I’m not one for music that is overly complex (See: Tech Death) or something that doesn’t move around melodically. A happy medium is ideal.
“Horizons” wrote the book utilizing multiple riffs in a song. It’s a full plate of delicious food. We’ve got a delicious entrée with a great selection of sides. Eat up.
Standouts: Carrion, Idols and Anchors, Boneyards
My favorite Parkway Drive album has it all, folks. Anthems, jams, vibes, and even their best album art.
It also features what the band probably considers their best song: “Wild Eyes”. It very well could be the song they wrote where the live reaction triggered the lightbulb for what occurs on the next two albums. I mean have you seen it live? I’d write as many songs as I could that would invoke that reaction from the crowd, just watch the Wacken version.
“Atlas” also marks a slight shift in the band’s sound. No longer an all gas and no breaks approach seen on KWAS and Horizons, but a diverse range in tempo. The title track is accompanied by a string section to create a smooth yet somber tone. Pair that with harsh vocals and you get a great progressive sound that any band can experiment with as far as I’m concerned.
Where I think “Atlas” thrives is in its replay quality. For me, brutality is a mood. If you redline the whole album, I’m likely only going to listen to it after the Lions lose or if work is pissing me off. This album is riddled with tracks that improve my mood, not complement it.
Standouts: Sleight of Hand, Wild Eyes, The Slow Surrender
These rankings are not set in stone, my mood will change along with what I value in good tunes. “Horizons” might be number one in a month. I might age into an emotional teddy bear and “Darker Still” will be number one. But I DO feel confident in saying “Atlas”, “Horizons”, and “Deep Blue” are objectively their greatest total pieces of work.
Why was Deep Blue so low if I feel this way? Because Cam Newton took that Auburn team to a natty. “Bottom Feeder” was Cam Newton in 2010. “Prey” and “Wishing Wells” were LeBron and Kyrie in 2016. Deep Blue was the 2015 Kansas City Royals.
Are these comparisons accurate? Does it tarnish the credibility of my rankings? No idea.
If I could ask for one thing, it’s that I hope you read this and at the very least check out an old album for the first time, or maybe revisit one, and realize that there was a reason Parkway Drive headlined Wacken.
Otherwise, Blast Beats is returning for season two next week. We are fresh and bloated with good tunes.
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