Latest release: Ire (Resist)

“We took a bit of a risk taking a departure from the sound of the last four albums,” admits Parkway Drive drummer Ben Gordon during a break on their current national tour. “This one is definitely a bit of a departure. We put a lot of time and effort into it and we’re pretty stoked about the way it came out.”

Ire, the band’s first ARIA #1 album – it was certified only days after this interview – marks a definiable shift in Parkway Drive’s musical attitude. Mostly gone are the solidly breakdown-centred tracks that have been the foundation of their sound, giving way to a more expansive sound. It was a revelation that came as a considerable shock with the release of the album’s first single ‘Vice Grip’, a huge-sounding arena rock outing.

“The first two songs we released were ‘Vice Grip’ and ‘Crushed'”, the drummer says, “and they’re totally different-sounding songs and some people were a bit worried, maybe not knowing what was going on and there was a fair bit of criticism, but when they heard them in the context of the album it made a lot more sense to people.”

With four albums already under their belts, Gordon concedes that it was difficult to find some of the old spark they needed when it came time to start work on Ire. It was time to shift gears. There was no question they were going to stay a heavy band, they just need to start “doing it in a different way from the way we used to do”.

“Basically after Atlas, me and Jeff (Ling), the main song writers, tried to write and we just had no inspiration for the kind of stuff we were doing. Nothing was happening and we just weren’t feeling it,” he says. “There just comes a time where you just don’t feel the same way about the same stuff and we just wanted to explore. Once we’d opened that door and stepped outside the boundaries we used to have, we found a lot more inspiration and a lot more options and opportunities to dive in and explore other avenues that we hadn’t done before.”

Parkway Drive also had to face a reality that they are now no longer just a bunch of dudes playing for their friends at local halls, or even to big crowds nationally. They are now appearing at some of the biggest rock and metal festivals in the world. The way their former live dynamic captures a room back home doesn’t work the same on a vast stadium on tens of thousands.

“When we started, we were playing to our friends in youth centres, but now a lot of time we’re playing to thousands and thousands of people at festivals. We just noticed that sometimes some of our songs weren’t going down that well so we just wanted to write some songs that worked really well live. The headlining bands at those festivals… we’ve played with every heavy band you could think of – Metallica, Rammstein, Iron Maiden. Seeing what works for them live and seeing how crowds react, that aspect was really a big part of this album.”

For an album called Ire, another really big part seems to be anger. Rather than the simple soulless rage or confused angst that many other bands spout in the name of heaviness and brutality, Winston McCall’s lyrics direct their anger at the failings of society, inequalities and environmental destruction that the band has seen as they travel the globe.

“We like to be thought-provoking to get people interested and active in things that are going on,”  Ben Gordon says. “We’ve played in, and I think we counted recently, 57 countries around the world and that’s definitely had a huge effect on us as people and as song writers. It’s opened our eyes and opened our minds a lot and we’ve seen a lot of different things, particularly in poor countries like in South America, or Asia, or India. There’s a lot of inequality and there’s a lot to be unhappy and angry about in the world.”

Parkway Drive’s new direction appears to have even won over some of those who have long been dismissive of them while simultaneously keeping their old fans loyal. That’s not an easy stunt to pull off. Many before them have crashed and burned in the attempt. For this Byron quintet, however, they’ve managed a tap yet another vein of success.

“We’ve never made music to be popular or to get a different fanbase but that’s just part of the way it works,” Ben Gordon says, “songs we wanted to write and other people happen to like them.”