Darker Still

Darker Still

“The album represents a journey through the darkness,” Parkway Drive lead vocalist Winston McCall tells Apple Music about the Aussie metalcore band’s seventh record. “It was never designed to be a concept album, but the way we make music is always album-based. We’re not a singles band. We write a cohesive piece of art, and this one happened to be centralized around the concept of the dark night of the soul.” Considering that the pandemic lockdown in which the album was written was essentially a global dark night of the soul, McCall’s lyrics on Darker Still will likely resonate far and wide. From Parkway Drive’s perspective, it’s also their pinnacle achievement. “This is the album where our ability and experience finally caught up to the imagination that we’ve had for 20 years of being a band,” he says. “This is the kind of music that always inspired us, but we’ve never had the ability—or the time—to actually create it until this record.” Below, he discusses each song. “Ground Zero” “We wanted to write an album opener that was anthemic and had those big riffs that you’ve come to expect from Parkway, and really captured that live energy and that bombastic feel. The choruses are lifted up in a way that we’ve probably never even hit before, in terms of it being accessible and something that will get stuck in people’s heads. The idea for this was to give people something that they would feel is a safe, expected Parkway sound—but improved. This is the safe space before the twist around the corner.” “Like Napalm” “This is where the rage begins. It’s the beginning of the spiraling process of this album. We wanted something that just smashed from start to finish. This is when the groove and the rhythms of this album really start to kick in. It just goes the entire time—bang, bang, bang—and then you get about four bars of bass reprieve before it smashes you in the outro as well. But the choruses still have that melody which really lifts it through the roof with Jeff [Ling]’s signature lead guitar accents, which are a real staple of the entire album.” “Glitch” “This was one of the first songs we started working on. For such an accessible chorus and an accessible song, the layering that we put under it is quite creepy and unnerving. When you put headphones on, you pick out different chants and whispers and strange stuff going on, because essentially the song is about dealing with sleep paralysis and nightmares and insomnia. That's a very strange, dark, creepy concept, so weaving all of that stuff into something which was so palatable—and which was going to be a single—was another step down the spiral.” “The Greatest Fear” “The song is about death, plain and simple. It’s about redefining the greatest fear that we all share. It's the element of every person's life on this planet which unites us. Every single person that you know and love will one day die. And the fear of losing someone we care about was omnipresent through all our lives during COVID. But the idea of this song, lyrically, was to frame death as not a bad or evil force in itself—it simply marks a time of transition into a point of unknowing.” “Darker Still” “This is possibly the most different song we've ever written. It took us three albums to be able to execute this song. We wanted to do a ballad for quite a long time, and we couldn't figure out how to actually do it. But Jeff came to us with an acoustic version of the main refrain, the main riff in the song, with a whistle attached to the front of it. And we knew immediately that it was too epic to just be a rock song. It had to be this massive ballad, which we've never done before. For us, this is really the marker of how far we’ve come as a band, because I think it’s one of our biggest achievements to be able to execute a large, intricate composition like this.” “Imperial Heretic” “This one is an anthem for the times we live in. It was written mid-COVID, when it became quite apparent that we were going through something that was uniting everyone worldwide in fear and desperation. We watched the wheels come off our perceptions of the world we live in, in terms of equality and democracy and civil rights and everything going up in flames. We were realizing how fragile everything is, and how powerful the people in power actually are. So, this is an anthem written for the billions of people around the world who had the blinders lifted off them for probably the first time.” “If a God Can Bleed” “You’re definitely very far down the dark rabbit hole by the time this track comes along. If ‘unnerving’ has been the word to set the tone so far, you can couple the word ‘menacing’ along with it on this song. The idea for this one is based around the concept of complacency and becoming soft. It's kind of a rallying cry to us as artists to continue pushing. At this point, you can’t look away from the dark place where the album is trying to take you, but this song has these jagged little edges that will hook in your brain, and a narrative that will set your skin crawling a little bit.” “Soul Bleach” “This one is unrelenting, unbridled rage based around the concept of trust broken and positioning of a person as the embodiment of a villain in someone else’s eyes. This is taking all of the misunderstanding and the hurt and the reality that sometimes you are the villain to someone, no matter how good you are. Sometimes you have to embody that just to be the person that you are. And this song is spat out as hard and viciously as possible. This is the point in the album where everything goes to 11. There’s nothing subtle about this one, and that’s the entire point.” “Stranger” “This is one of the most peculiar little pieces that we've ever put on a record. It's as minuscule and isolating as possible. It’s another one of those moments where we wanted to wrong-foot people, especially after something like ‘Soul Bleach.’ We wanted to give a moment to breathe and reflect. And it is a real reflection because the lyrics represent where we were at that point in time and where everyone was—which was completely isolated from every point in society and reduced to communicating on screens. All of a sudden, we all became strangers and the world became a strange place to live in.” “Land of the Lost” “The first riff we had for this has an industrial edge to it, so we chose to lean into that. The song plays off between the engine of that industrialized riff running at 100% capacity in the choruses with that chain-gang chant of ‘keep digging’ over the top of it. And the verses are played off with a triple layer of a computerized voice, which we programmed to sing the verse lines with a distorted human voice and then a real human voice. The concept is that you go from being a computer representation of a human to a real human full of emotion by the time you get to the last chorus.” “From the Heart of the Darkness” “This song represents the closest thing that there is to light at the end of the journey. It’s basically built around one powerful riff, one powerful refrain, which drives that rhythm so hard. It builds from a place of subtlety to a place of incredible complexity based around that one riff. Lyrically, it represents the acknowledgment of what the journey through the darkness provides—the reemergence of self and the repositioning of self within a world that was confused and destroyed.”

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