Manchester Apollo
Pouring their pain into pulverising metalcore, the Australian group earn chanting adoration from their audience

Three years ago, everything was going swimmingly for Australian rockers Parkway Drive. Their fifth album, Ire, had taken them from their Byron Bay metalcore beginnings to a global breakthrough, including a No 1 in their own country. Then tragedy unfolded around them.

Friends in the band the Ghost Inside were involved in a bus crash that killed two drivers and left band members with life-changing injuries. A band member’s partner and fellow musician – Architects’ guitarist Tom Searle – died of cancer, as did Parkway frontman Winston McCall’s beloved dog, Monty, who died in the singer’s arms. Such events have given Parkway’s music a powerful emotional edge. McCall channelled his grief into 2018’s Reverence, which has taken his band to arena status. At the first of two nights in the cavernous Apollo, his cries of “welcome to a world of pain” and “we’re still here, unbreakable” sound like he is raging defiantly at the cruelty of it all, but this show is uplifting as well as compelling. It must cheer McCall greatly that the audience adore them, with chants of “Parkway Drive!” beginning after only a few numbers.

The band’s music now combines pulverising metalcore with more old-fashioned heavy rock. McCall mixes guttural growling, clean singing and epic choruses. There are Thin Lizzy-type twin-guitar melodies, a Gregorian chant and solos delivered on one leg. An eye-popping visual spectacle includes strobes, hydraulic platforms, fireworks and real fire. Meanwhile, the black-clad frontman cuts a cheery but imposing figure. His yell of “give it all you’ve got!” produces mass air-punching and an audience chorus of “yeah yeah yeah”.

Things take another twist when the band are joined by four classical musicians. Writing’s on the Wall combines walloping drums and cello textures. The Colour of Leaving – Reverence’s emotional response to the tragedies – is delivered as a heartfelt, Doors-y monologue for voice and cello. McCall’s voice cracks as he reaches the final line about “the frailty of it all”. There is a momentary silence, and then the “Parkway Drive!” chants start once again.

  • At Manchester Apollo until 30 January. Then touring.

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