Parkway Drive are an Australian Metalcore band (who call themselves a Hardcore Band) from the beautiful Byron Bay area, notable for their unconventionally interesting travelogue-esque documentary releases. 2012's Atlas is their fourth full-length studio album. It was produced by Matt Hyde and released on Epitah Records.
If you aren't familiar with the band they may initially appear to lack a clear identifying hook or quirk to differentiate themselves from all the other Metalcore bands out there. If you only heard six seconds of music for example you may not be instantly able to tell that its specifically Parkway Drive and not someone else. If you hear an entire song or album however it will probably become clear that Parkway Drive's real selling point however is that they simply do it so very, very well.
Besides a signature standard of quality, the band have always had a signature sound that they largely stick within (much like AC/DC, Slayer, Hatebreed or Killswitch Engange do) and like all of their albums before, the majority of the music on Atlas is no grand departure from the type of music that you would expect the band to play.
The band evolve slowly from album to album, as opposed to suddenly being a Jazz band on one album and then playing a mixture of Country Music and Black Metal on the next. The good thing about this is that if you like what they do, you get more of it. The bad thing is that if you are sick of it, you get more of it, and it'll take a few albums until the sound has evolved enough to be considered notably different.
Whether you view it as staying true to their core ideals or a lack of variety will ultimately depend on you. Personally, I'm happy with the band's ratio of evolution and stylistic-stability. On this album, tracks like `Swing,' `Dark Days' and `Sleight Of Hand' are all examples of exactly what Parkway Drive do best and any one of them would serve as a fine introduction to the band for a newcomer or reaffirmation for an existing fan.
The same syncopated double-kicks are there, the same breaks of effects-laden clean guitar are there, the same mix of shouts and death vocals (and notable absence of commercial sounding radio-friendly clean choruses) from frontman Winston McCall are there and the same crunchy, low-pitched rhythmic breakdowns are there as always. There are also some sections of gang-chanting backing vocals here and there and intermittent touches of lead guitar and a small amount of blast beats as usual.
Within that familiar sound however; Atlas can still provide a few surprises, most notably on the Title Track which features a string section, on `The River' which has female vocals briefly and on `The Slow Surrender' which is uncharacteristically structured, comparatively slow and features turntable scratching.
Some fans may reject the additions or cry sell out, but at the end of the day as long as you are a Parkway Drive fan to begin with, all that should matter is whether or not the songs are any good, and luckily they are good. Very good indeed.
There are some seriously great riffs, memorable vocal patterns, fun tom-rolls and catchy breakdowns on this album and practically no song is devoid of something to make you grin, filled as they are with little touches like hitting the bell on the ride at a certain point or ending a riff with a vibrato. The sort of thing that you pick up on with repeat listens and grow to love.
Overall; As long as you like the band to begin with and haven't got tired their formula yet then you'll probably love Atlas. It is a well constructed, excellently produced collection of yet more Parkway Drive songs to enjoy. There may be some debate within the fanbase as to exactly where this ranks against other Parkway Drive albums but regardless of the outcome of that debate, it is still undoubtedly a very good album that you should absolutely consider adding to your collection.