Parkway Drive Take Us Deep Inside Reverence

Shadow Boxing, Prey and more – Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall breaks down every song on Reverence.

Parkway Drive Take Us Deep Inside Reverence
Lead Photo:
Andy Ford

Australia's premier exponents of crushing metalcore, Parkway Drive, released the brilliant Reverence last summer. As they return to these shores to blast away anyway remaining new year cobwebs next week, we figured it was high-time we reflected back on those songs.

Ask Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall what his memories of making their sixth album are and he’ll say “the channeling of pain”. But eight months on he can finally look back on the experience somewhat more fondly.

“I loved writing the music for that album,” he remembers. “The experimentation and musical palette we chose to work with was much more vast than anything we’d done before and so much more adventurous.”

The Byron Bay metallers’ latest record deals with some heavy themes, including the passing of Architects guitarist Tom Searle and Winston’s first true friend (his dog Monty), plus child abuse in the Catholic Church, and it’s had a profound effect on many of its listeners.

“I’ve been so humbled by the response,” he adds. “It’s nice when people go, ‘I like ya music!’ But the amount of people I’ve had come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for putting into words what I haven’t been able to do in my process of grieving.’ I didn’t expect it, just because it was so personal to me. You don’t think, ‘Maybe someone else is going through this’, you’re so consumed by yourself that that’s all there is. So it’s strange to have helped people, because the only thing I was trying to do was help myself, as selfish as that sounds.”

Now, let’s take a closer look at each track…

Wishing Wells

“That was one of the first songs that had fury to it when we started writing. I’d already written a bunch of slow depressing-sounding songs, because that’s where I was, but when Wishing Wells came along, I was like, ‘This is where I channel the anger of grief. This is the song where I put that feeling of fucking screaming at the sky, not just for the loss of someone, but the loss of the sense of understanding.’ I told the guys in the band that’s what it was about, then we put that chaos and that intensity into the music, and made sure it hits [the listener]. Doing that, we realised, ‘This is how the album starts and there’s no other way we can start it.’ It was just white hot fury towards fate.”


“Prey was the first anthem we wrote for the album. The whole song was written about the idea of worshiping unhealthiness. Everything about celebrity is so fucking toxic these days. We’re attracted to toxicity. But it’s also seen as the thing to strive for, because apparently if you reach that status, that’s success, and it’s crazy. And to get there you’re being told that you’re not enough. That simply being a human is not enough. And it’s fucking savage! But that’s what advertising is. Make someone feel like they’re missing a part of themselves and then sell them that part of themselves.”

Absolute Power

“We were seeing people realise that those they trust with decision making and guarding them, weren’t actually doing that. There was police brutality in America, police brutality in Australia, and fucking riots and inequality protests going on all through Europe. All of a sudden there was this upheaval and people basically realised they’d had enough. Absolute Power is a depiction of the truth dropping. The fucking truth dropped for everyone and it clicked en masse. It’s also about realising what your worth is in the eyes of these people, the fact that you are a means to an end of getting them somewhere else. It’s not about them representing you, it’s about you working for someone else, and you not even realising it. The song comes with the very smooth verse of me telling you how it is, and then the truth fucking hitting you with the chorus. It's like us kicking you in the head!”

Cemetery Bloom

“These are my favourite set of lyrics I’ve ever written. It’s a song for my wife [Jess] who is an amazing person and the entire song is about the way people are perceived when they’re strong. A strong female is something people fear, or would wanna tear down, so it’s about someone being able to stand up for themselves, and be who they need to be.

“I showed her the words first and I think she cried. I do write a fair few songs for her, there’s generally a Parkway song for her on every record and I’ve always made a point of that because she does inspire me. It’s also very tailored to her sonically (laughs). This is the first time I’ve bought such a vastly different sound, and been like, ‘Yo, guys I got a song, it starts with synth (laughs).’ I’ve made a lot of songs where I’m screaming about her – she’s got [Horizons track] Carrion. Carrion was literally the second song I wrote for her, but being able to have my vocal delivery something where it isn’t me screaming meant something to me and it meant something to her, too.”

The Void

“The reason this song comes straight after Cemetery Bloom is because it was part of that one to begin with. The main riff and drop that you hear directly after Cemetery Bloom hits was originally in the song. As soon as Jeff played that, I was like, ‘Fuck I love that riff!’ It reminded me of some fucking Mastodon meets Metallica kinda thing. We both went away from writing that part of Cemetery Bloom and came back three days later. I was like, ‘That riff’s too good, we’ve gotta use it by itself’ and I walked in to try to explain it to them, and literally, Ben [Gordon, drums] and Jeff turned around like, ‘You know that riff at the end of that song you gave us? We decided to make a whole new song.’ I was like, ‘Fuck yeah! Were on the same page.’”

I Hope You Rot

“It’s blunt and it’s nasty. It’s filled with a lot of anger and a lot of spite. While this was being written, in Australia, we were having a royal commission through the government into the Catholic Church and its abuse of children. And it blew the fuck up. It was inescapable and fucking soul wrecking. We had this royal commission for x amount of months and they had to keep extending it because more people kept coming forward [with stories of abuse]. At the end of it they released statistics of how many priests within this institution had committed horrible acts, and I was listening in the car. I remember my jaw being on the floor and having to pull over. Like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ And that’s what the entire song is about. It’s literally, I hope you rot.

“The pivotal line in the entire song is before the breakdown, which is: ‘I’ll never see through the eyes of your lord, but I have seen things through the eyes of a child.’ Because everyone’s been a kid and when you’re a kid you know everything’s scary and I can only imagine… (pauses) I know people who have gone through this, and I know the impact it’s had on their life, and (gets choked up) you deserve nothing from this world. You’ve taken so much and you deserve literally nothing. It’s hard. I get choked up even talking about it.”

Shadow Boxing

“This was the first song we wrote for the album, and came straight off the back of writing Ire. It was the first song we realised we can do whatever the fuck we want (laughs). I was like, ‘I wanna write a song that’s as antagonising as possible, in the most antagonising way (laughs).’ So we write the weirdest song that’s undeniably heavy, but also has this rappy vocal delivery, then these clean parts that are so hooky that you can’t not like them. The lyrics say, 'You have no idea who I am and what I do, you listen to my music and watch me onstage, but don’t think you know me or what I wanna do with myself. You know the tip of the iceberg of this band’s struggle and what I’ve been through'… like, I’ve seen death, and I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to lose and I’ve had to bleed and I’ve had to put everything on the line for this band. So if what I’m doing means you think I’m the Devil, I’m more than happy to play along until every song I wanna make is gone.”

In Blood

“That was one of the hardest ones to write. It’s probably why I ended up writing the lyrics I did. It’s about conquering the adversity of what we’ve gone through, like, if that didn’t stop us, then what the fuck is going to? Then the final lines before the breakdown: ‘Don’t mistake composure for weakness, don’t mistake my silence for respect.’ Because that’s what the song is about, us going through the most defining period of the band’s existence. And us as people coming out the other side. There’s shit in this band’s history that’s literally written in our blood that no-one will ever know about, and no-one can ever understand other than us, and that’s what the song is there for.”


“Chronos is the Greek god of time. That one was written from the perspective of time as a character. We’re very aware of the passage of time in our career. There’s a very big realisation of, ‘We’re 15 years into doing this. We’ve reached a point where one of the members has been in this band for over half his life (laughs).’ Time is the ultimate currency, and it’s the only thing that we have in this life that you can’t buy more of. We’ve talked to friends and had family members convey to us, ‘Care about your time. I wish I had more of it, because I know when mine’s stopping.’ And when you have that laid out to you, it’s like, ‘Fuck! That’s real.’ So I wrote that song from the perspective of time – I wanted it to be the character that people can hear talking to them saying, ‘Be mindful, because you answer to me.’ At the end you answer to your time, and you can’t escape it. At the end of it, time is gonna be the only thing you look at and go, ‘Yep, that judged me.’

The Colour Of Leaving

“The lyrics were written the same day that my dog passed away – I wrote them literally before digging his grave, which was fucking horrible. Him passing away was the first friend I’d lost, and it was absolutely heartbreaking. I wrote some words because I was like, ‘That’s what I do, I write words.’ And then when Tom passed away I wrote a bunch of other words. It came before a lot of other songs, but I was like, ‘This is the way the record ends. I don’t know if this is a song, or poetry, or what it is, but this is what I want people to be left with. I want them to be left with a very stark statement that this is not Parkway’s usual thing, this is not something that’s to be taken lightly.’ When it finishes you don’t know how to feel because you haven’t been led down the path that you were expecting. Because that’s how we felt, we’ve been taken to these places which we never thought we’d have to confront, and that’s what we were left with.

“There was a huge lead up into me singing it, I was like, ‘I just want the producer in there, everyone else leave, because I don’t know how this is gonna work.’ And it was so traumatic singing that song. That was the only song we didn’t demo and when I finally tried to sing it in the studio a couple of nights before, I broke down. The amount of takes of that track were minimal, because I didn’t want the album to end with me blubbering in grief. But at the same time, the words were written to have an impact on me, and when it came to sing them I was floored.

“We bought the strings in for Shadow Boxing and Cemetery Bloom and realised the impact they have emotionally – the way that they tap into emotions is insane. So we started tracking strings for it, and I was like, ‘Fuck yeah!’ And then it ends with the same chords you hear at the start. The album literally loops around on itself. If you listen and play straight through onto Wishing Wells, they flow straight into each other, and you hear the same wind and the same crows. I expected there to be disconnect after this amount of time, but that song still wrecks me.”

Words: Jennyfer J. Walker

Parkway Drive's Reverence is available now through Epitaph. The band are on tour in the UK from next week.

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