It may be a Monday night, but there’s a real buzz of anticipation in the Welsh capital as the final night of this highly anticipated tour with Parkway Drive, While She Sleeps and Lorna Shore, rolls in. It’s yet another rescheduled show, slotted in amongst the now almost daily round that are flooding the UK.
Parkway Drive, While She Sleeps, Lorna Shore
Cardiff International Arena, 3 October 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Photography: Georgia Brittain
The venue may not be packed, but there are plenty who have either saved their tickets or purchased them, and the arena has a healthy number gathered on the already sticky floor for the opening band.
It’s early doors and an early start for rising deathcore monsters Lorna Shore. “This is the last night of the tour,” snarls frontman Will Ramos. “Have we saved the best til last?” The New Jersey outfit kicks into To The Hellfire, one of two from 2021’s And I Return To Nothingness.
Their lighting is dark, atmospheric, and a tog’s nightmare. Strobe lights puncture the darkness, and smoke engulfs most of the band.
It works brilliantly with the happenings on stage. The sound isn’t brilliant, the guitars melding with the symphonic backing tracks and bruising blast beats, Ramos’s bizarrely captivating vocals, all guttural roars and high screams are often muffled. When he does break through, it’s clear to see why he’s one of the most impressive singers in Metal today. His range is wide, and his interplay with the audience impressive. And he’s only been with the band a year!
Unsurprisingly, with only 30 minutes and a largely partisan crowd to impressive, Lorna Shore chooses three from the forthcoming album Pain Remains. The huge Sun Eater elicits wild pit action in front of the walkway, Ramos urging the crowd to feed off the energy they are generating. A wall of death is enthusiastically delivered, crowd surfers fly over the barriers and by the time the band launch into the final song, Into The Earth, they’ve won the day. Their blistering death core divides opinion, but there’s a deserved buzz about this band.
While She Sleeps
Sheffield has produced some great bands over the years. You can add While She Sleeps to the list for the quintet now have the gravitas that earns them slots on this kind of tour and, as advertised at the end of their set, a headline show at Alexandra Palace in a year’s time.
Bathed in reds and greens, WSS erupt out of the darkness to the title track from 2021’s Sleeps Society. Frontman Lawrence Taylor is a shadow that flits along the runway for much of the set, but his darkened figure still has presence. He demands, cajoles, and encourages, always on the move as the band race through a powerful ten-song set. The band are energised, bassist Aaran Mackenzie spins, thrusts, and races back and fore whilst guitarists Mat Welsh and Sean Long make the occasional foray forward.
Halfway through and Taylor is off the walkway and surfing the crowd. He returns to the stage to furiously chide, “whoever tried to put their middle finger up my arse.”
“I hope you have a dogshit Christmas” he curses. Not the harshest repost. I think I would have been a bit more annoyed. It doesn’t stop him from leaving the stage and diving into another section of the audience again later on.
The band power through five from Sleeps Society, drawing in three from 2019’s So What? which includes a raging Antisocial. By the time they drive home Systematic, the crowd are in raptures. It’s been a fiery gig so far. But the biggest sparks are yet to come.
Unlike some other so-called big bands, Parkway Drive are regular visitors to South Wales, this being their tenth time here since their first show at Clwb Ifor Bach way back in 2006. They also played the much missed and legendary TJs in Newport in consecutive years between 2006-08.
My first encounter with them was in the Student’s Union in April 2011, followed by their festival appearance at Sonisphere later that year, when guitarist Luke Kilpatrick played in a wheelchair. Their show at Bloodstock in 2019 was my last viewing, so it was with some interest that I waited to see what the Aussies would bring.
The strains of Hurt by Johnny Cash faded, and the lights dropped dramatically, one by one, eliciting a few girlie screams. Enter eight hooded figures, all carrying lighted torches, the signal for 90 minutes of mayhem and pyro to unfold in front of our eyes.
The set is impressive, the drum kit high above the stage, surrounded by huge spikes that look like the front line of a battle. There are walkways, risers and, of course, the runway out into the heaving mass in the pit.
It’s a brutal opening. Glitch leads into the anthem that is Prey, before Carrion and a punishing Vice Grip establish the band’s heaviness credentials. Winston McCall is clad in white, a strange bulletproof vest style top enhancing the man’s physique. He’s an imposing figure and carries it with ease. His vocals soar. He growls, sings, and conducts the crowd like it’s the last night at the Proms.
It’s a fit made in Metal heaven, and those around me are losing it big time. With the new album Darker Still only just released and the 2018 album Reverence still fresh in the mind, it’s no surprise the set is drawn heavily from those albums. There are four from Ire as well, and a blast from the old school as Karma from Deep Blue illustrates the difference between 2010 and 2022 – the band’s sound is substantially more polished these days, but they still capture the raw grit from their third album.
As we head towards the final part of the main set, the band are joined by three violinists and a cellist for stylish versions of Shadow Boxing and Darker Still. It’s a bold move, but one that works superbly, providing brief respite for the audience and band.
A brief speech from Winston about unity within the Metal community falls on deaf ears in front of me as two knuckleheads square up to each other, but all is smoothed out before a storming Bottom Feeder sends the audience into absolute ecstasy.
Pyro has erupted throughout the show, and the heat, even from the back of the arena, is intense. With the venue still recovering from the recent scorching brought by Amon Amarth, it’s likely the local fire safety office is currently in therapy after this show.
The encore provides a couple of final opportunities for the pits to fit in a final workout. It’s not hard for them as Parkway Drive bludgeon their way through Crushed. The final song sees the band arm in arm at the end of the runway; Jeff Ling rips out the riff to Wild Eyes, and the crowd join in before the final few minutes of joy are squeezed out.
It’s time for a few to be hoisted onto shoulders, arms aloft in expansive emotion. Few bands entice their fan base into such passion. It’s a fitting finale to a gig that worked on every level.
Intensity, passion, power, and emotion. The future of Metal may not be safe, but these are three bands who would very much lead the defence.