ParkwayDrive-AtlasThere’s a reason why this featured in exactly zero album-of-the-year lists. In the near-decade since Parkway Drive exploded into the metal scene with ‘Killing with a Smile’, the Australian outfit have consistently struggled to replicate the sizzling intensity of that superb debut. Sure, they’ve played better and better live shows at bigger and way bigger venues but on disc, they’ve simply sounded less and less exciting. And ‘Atlas’ doesn’t change anything.

They’re not all of a sudden a bad band, and really this isn’t a terrible record. In fact, when they get their shtick going these guys slay (‘Old Ghost / New Regrets’ is a ripper and ‘Wild Eyes’, with its woah-oh-ohs and big breakdowns, is now classic Parkway), but it is a shtick, no doubt. ‘Sparks’ introduces the album (and the odd, muddy production in spots) aiming for moody but means nothing, the whipcrack beginning of ‘Snake Oil…’ will turn heads but has been heard before, and while the simple fury of ‘Swing’ might work live, its vanilla riffs make it utterly forgettable, with a hundred other bands playing a thousand other similar songs, clamouring for your attention.

Parkway Drive have been accused of a lack of variety before- hell, even ‘Killing with a Smile’ was a heads-down, simple but satisfying beast- but new elements added to combat that don’t help. Clean, female vocals do soothe Winston McCall’s monstrous roar on ‘The River’ but the acoustic parts jar, the spaghetti western edges to ‘Blue And The Grey’ feel tacked-on rather than truly heartfelt, and the less said about the DJ scratch effects here the better.

For die-hard Parkway Drive fans, complaints about ‘Atlas’ will count for nothing. This is everything they need, nothing more, nothing less. Most other folk will feel bored by midway through. And there isn’t even some grand decline to write about, just a gentle, undeniable drip-drip away of the bold, bolshy, brilliant qualities that made this lot stand out in the first place.

Just not top-ten material.

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