Live Review : Parkway Drive + Killswitch Engage + Thy Art Is Murder @ O2 Apollo, Manchester on January 29th 2019
They breed their rock bands hard Down Under, I cannot name a single Aussie metal act who don't look like they could go six rounds with Antony Joshua and achieve the feat without spilling their pint. Thy Art is Murder mean business, they have under thirty minutes to make their mark but over six brutal heavy tracks, they chuck the gauntlet well and truly to the ground. Whilst Killswitch Engage and Parkway Drive have embraced the melody, this is pure unadulterated raw primal Death Metal and whilst it may be early, the pit opens accordingly. Thy Art is Murder are not alone in making music as brittly hostile as this, but what sets them apart from their peers is vocalist Chris “CJ” McMahon. They haven’t even got to the end of opener 'Dear Desolation' that he is goading the crowd, mocking our Manc accents and organising chants. By the second track ‘The Purest Strain Of Hate' he has exited the stage altogether and is in the middle of the pit with a sea of flying arms swirling around him, sat on the shoulders of a man mountain of a guy adorned in a pit troll t-shirt. As they tear into 'Holy War', it seems that he has decided to stay out there but returns in time to (incorrectly) predict victories for City and United that evening and insight a stunning wall of death for 'Reign of Darkness’. But he isn’t done yet. There may only be two tracks to go but CJ is adamant in being memorable to the end. Introducing 'The Son of Misery‘ he manages to deride Parkway Drive for living in the nice bits of Australia and proclaims Thy Art is Murder to be a band that comes from the shitty bits and cares about shit, meow! And then before he can do any more damage they’re gone. All of this in half an hour!
For Killswitch Engage this tour is very much a case of ‘look what you could have won’. There was a point late in the last decade where it seemed inevitable that they would be the Metalcore band that broke out of that musical ghetto and went massive, sadly issues with then vocalist Howard Jones and a lukewarm reception to their 2009 self-titled record put paid to all of that. Firmly now embeded in the category of much loved cult concern, they surely can only watch Parkway Drive’s dramatic ascent with envy. Having said that if there is a whiff of the green eyed monster, it is used primarily to stoke the flames as Killswitch Engage tonight are simply awesome. They start at 100mph and just accelerate, giving a masterclass in high octane accessible Metal with the added bonus of choruses you can land a plane on. As they seem to have become the support act of choice I have seen them countless times over the last few years, tonight is by far the best of the bunch. They are incendiary and it really feels that they have got a point to prove. As it seems to be becoming standard with this gig, Jesse is also taken aloof into the crowd on the shoulders of our friendly neighbourhood Pit Troll. Watching hundred of rapid fans attempt to connect with their idol is quite the visual spectacle and illustrates well the fact that they are a band that very much feeds of their crowd. They are stunning tonight because everyone knows every word and is not afraid to scream them back at Jesse. Killswitch Engage may well have blinked when the big time blew them kisses, but none of that matters as tonight they prove just how good they can be.
With supports this good Parkway Drive need to bring their A game but from their dramatic entrance of walking through the actual crowd accompanied by flaming torches you know they have this sorted. Parkway Drive tonight are phenomenal, they put on one of the most impressive shows I have seen since probably last time I saw Rammstein (fire, hydraulics, string sections; it really has the lot) and musically the they are tight as a knats bottom. What they manage to achieve is the perfect balance between slick, highly rehearsed and supremely professional rock show and the warmth and spontaneity of when a band and their audience truly connect. Parkway Drive maybe bringing the massive arena production but this is not a passive experience as the hyped up crowd are a cauldron of swirling bodies and raised voices. Central to this is the foreboding and dynamic presence of vocalist Winston McCall, from the very moment he fluffs the final lines of opener 'Wishing Wells' he has bonded with the audience and spends the rest of the show prowling up and down the front stage riser and stoking the heaving mass of bodies. What is so impressive about tonight is how well it is paced as the show flows magnificently well. The show may slow down with the claustrophobic atmospheric intensity of 'Writings on the Wall’ from “Ire” and 'Shadow Boxing' from “Reverence” (exquisitely accompanied by a string quartet) but they know how to pull it back with the absolute banger of “Atlas” ’s 'Wild Eyes’. It is one of those shows that we are at closer 'The colour of Leaving' before we know it and accompanied just by a mournful cello Winston screams at the whole banality and futility of it all and they’re gone.
Not for long and their encore is probably one of the finest ends of show I have ever seen. Winston returns to the stage bare-chested and then the mayhem begins as 'Crushed' is accompanied by shed loads of fire, in fact there is fire everywhere and it is quite amusing watching roadies run around behind the band trying to control the bits of flames that have got out of hand! Crushed is heavy as fuck and puts pay to any complainants that Parkway Drive are not a Metal band. But we aren’t done yet, preceded by a quick pep talk on the ultimate moshing position we are into final track 'Bottom Feeder’ and everything is now on fire with huge bolts of flames shooting up the entire height of the stage. And then that’s it. Tonight Parkway Drive have looked their critics and detractors in the eye and shown that they are the real deal, ready to take their place at the top table. Just utterly magnificent.
Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki