Parkway Drive – Viva The Underdogs CD Review

Viva The Underdogs is the first live album from the Australian metalcore band, Parkway Drive. It was recorded at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, 2019, while the band were supporting their superb sixth album Reverence. It is the soundtrack to their 2020 documentary film of the same name, which I haven’t seen yet so cannot comment on at this time.

I’ve seen the band live twice on this album cycle (once at a festival show like this, and once as a headliner in an arena) and utterly loved them both times, going so far as to say they were some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life. As you can imagine, when I saw this live album was coming out, I snapped it up.

This is a damn fine live album, showcasing a significant performance in the career of one of the most important bands in the subgenre, while they are riding the crest of a wave of momentum and at the point of winning over a whole new demographic of potential fans.

The performance here is beyond energetic, singer Winston McCall seems to be having a whale of a time and is absolutely laying into the crowd, demanding movement, commanding attention. At one point he comments it’s the best show he’s played in his life and it doesn’t feel like a typical Rockstar line said in every city, you can tell he means it.

The guitar, bass and drum performances are even better than the vocals, treading the perfect line between precision and energetic, not afraid to hit harder or lean into it, but never risking sloppiness for the sake of showing off. The energy coming off the crowd is joyous and when you hear them sing along to tracks like ‘Wild Eyes’ you almost feel like you are there.

The track listing features a mixture of material from most of their albums, with only the debut not represented, and focuses most heavily on their newest two albums. It also chooses tracks from the previous albums with the most festival-friendly sing along parts or traditionally metal lead guitar moments. Some metal fans can be sceptical of anything with the word ‘core’ within a mile of it, so it seems a deliberately curated set to win over more traditional metal fans.

As this is a festival slot; it is slightly shorter than most live albums (11 tracks, only three of which are longer than 5 minutes), so they add three bonus tracks to compensate, re-recordings of recent songs in German, one of which features a guest rapper, which are ultimately inessential, but appreciated nonetheless as it does add some extra value for money.

Now, I am beyond biased as this is not only some new product from a band who released my album-of-the-decade, but is also in effect a time capsule close enough to my festival memories that I can use it to sort of relive them when I listen to it. However, I think I am rational and experienced enough that I can be objective too.

If you like the band already, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy, there’s not even a chance you’ll be disappointed. If you aren’t a fan, it’s a pretty good starting point, with an easily digestible and newcomer-friendly track list that covers at least one song from most of their albums. Its well recorded, well played, and its aforementioned well balanced career retrospective setlist is friendly enough that Machine Head, Pantera & Slipknot fans can be converted easily, and Priest and Maiden fans can be converted too if they’re in the right mood.

Cog – Sharing Space Review

Cog - Sharing Space

Cog – Sharing Space

Sharing Space is the second full-length studio album (depending on how you feel about Just Visiting) by the sadly now defunct Australian Progressive Rock band Cog. This was the band’s final record before they split up and it’s a shame that they are no longer together as they feel slightly ahead of their time and as though if they came out now they’d receive a bit more success outside of their homeland (where this deservedly reached Gold Record status).

The sound found on the album is a sort of mixture between Prog and Alternative Metal, with thoughtful, considered and slowly unfolding pieces mixing it up beside more direct, biting material.

Album highlights include the lengthy album closer (with excellent drumming) “Problem, Reaction, Solution,” and opener “No Other Way,” as well as the more instant “Are You Interested?” and “Say Your Last Goodbye.”

They are definitely a grower sort of a band, and listening to this album gets better and better the more time and concentration you put into it. There’s a surprising amount of depth and nuance in what initially seems like a fairly simplistic record. The contrast of almost Nu Metal style bounce at times with dreamy, slow-paced sections and occasional bursts of synth (“Four Walls” and “Bitter Pills”) keeps things interesting and provides an enjoyable contrast.

The Gower brother’s vocals are emotive and the lyrics are thought provoking and interesting (check out “The Town Of Lincoln”). Add into that the little touches of samples or strings (such as on the excellent “How Long?”) and a solid, clear, effects-laden production job from Sylvia Massy of Tool and System Of A Down fame, and you have a really pleasant, rewarding listen.

If you are into bands like Amplifier, Anathema or Porcupine Tree, or indeed bands like Fair To Midland, Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Rishloo, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Karnivool, The Mayan Factor, Jurojin, Dead Letter Circus or Dredg, then Cog are certainly something you may want to check out, and if you like Cog then Sharing space is an utter must-have.