LIVE: Parkway Drive / While She Sleeps / Lorna Shore @ Alexandra Palace, London

By Ellie Odurny

Backed by the quintessential sprawling font of many a death metal band logo, deathcore pioneers Lorna Shore kick off proceedings in north London’s Alexandra Palace in ferocious style. With an ominous red mist and frantically flashing lights, the New Jersey outfit bring out some of the heaviest noise ever to fill this iconic venue. Opening with ‘To The Hellfire’, the track which brought viral success to the band, the already enthusiastic crowd are pelted with relentless drums, soaring guitars and a screeching growl like no other from charismatic vocalist Will Ramos.

This level of savage energy remains, with more and more bodies filing into the hall to witness a well-balanced and brutal display of the more extreme end of the metal spectrum. An enormous wall of death mid-set stretches from the stage all the way back to the sound desk, with non-stop pits from start to finish. Lorna Shore proved tonight that they deserve every bit of attention they’ve been getting, delivering a tight, slick powerhouse of a set.

An array of neon lights frame the While She Sleeps logo emblazoned on speaker stacks, the pulsing beams flashing in time as the crushing beats of ‘Sleeps Society’ open the set. Or should that be ‘SLEEPS SOCIETY’? The track listing for While She Sleeps’ previous two albums is printed in capital letters, and when you see these tracks played live, it all makes sense. The Sheffield five-piece have a lot to shout about, and they do it through their lyrics, fierce musicality and passionate performance.

While She Sleeps are band that love to headbang, and they do this in perfect unison at many points during the evening, with frontman Laurence “Loz” Taylor encouraging the crowd to jump along in time. There’s some bouncing in parts, and a few bodies over the barriers throughout, but on the whole, the general feeling is a lot more subdued compared to the fury of the pits for Lorna Shore When he says “I wanna see the biggest fucking circle pit of the evening”, there’s a sense that perhaps it’s not going to go that way this time.

That being said, all three acts this on tonight’s bill showcase formidable vocalists, with crowd interaction and charisma aplenty. Taylor’s colourful language is steeped with impassioned emotion, riling the fans up to match the energy that the band exude. While She Sleeps deliver an effective contrast between heavy beats and quieter moments, with plentiful breakdowns sounding tight and powerful. The clean vocals don’t always pack as much punch as the metalcore screams, but this doesn’t detract from the impact of the performance.

The mix for While She Sleeps is a touch guitar heavy, but this serves to highlight the skill of Sean Long’s deft fingers on lead and Mat Welsh’s chunky rhythmic riffs. The drums on ‘You are We’ are a highlight too, with those who began the track on their friends’ shoulders safely lowered back into the pit to pick up the energy levels once again. A wild-eyed and sweat-soaked Taylor gazes out over the crowd, seemingly managing to focus in on the keenest of fans gazing back in awe.

With a last cheer for Lorna Shore and Parkway Drive, rousing closer ‘Systematic’ sees most of the band venture onto the walkway to witness the majority of the crowd join in with the classic “get down jump up” final mosh. This is a band who can deliver an arena show, entirely in their own way, and boy do they look like they have fun doing it. Fitting then, that they close with a banner announcing that they will be headlining this very venue in a year’s time.

It’s not surprising that Parkway Drive have brought a spectacular stage show for their long-awaited return to the UK, but the opening spectacle of chasmic rear projection, hooded figures carrying torches and jets of flame shooting towards the roof is impressive nonetheless. The tiered stage raises drummer Ben “Gaz” Gordon high above the front of the stage, with dramatic spikes protruding at all angles between the stage risers.

With the rest of the band clad in black, vocalist Winston McCall is a vision in white, at points stomping around the stage and punching his fists in the air in a moment of primal frenzy. Opener ‘Glitch’ from latest release ‘Darker Still’ is received with a flurry of energetic joy, the level of which only seems to be surpassed with each following track. There are cheers and screams of approval for ‘Carrion’, prompting McCall to comment “this looks like chaos, look after each other” after the pit has died down.

Crowd favourite ‘Vice Grip’ shows the band at their peak, with each aggressive beat sounding precise and deliberate. If there was a slight lack of togetherness in the audience for While She Sleeps, the crowd are united as one for Parkway Drive. This feeling is echoed by McCall, speaking before the carnage of of ‘Dedicated’ about the band’s development over the past few years: “If there’s something we’ve learnt, it’s that we’re stronger together”.

The newer tracks from the most recent album take a little longer that others to land, but given the intensity of the set, the crowd may just be taking a moment to catch their collective breath. Fireworks erupt at the onset of ‘The Void’, and when everybody jumps, well, everybody jumps. Parkway Drive fill the space with dramatic blows and precision licks, proving with every hammering beat that they know how to command a headline slot.

A costume change and string quartet appear for ‘Shadow Boxing’, the classical element adding another layer to the rich tapestry of sonic delights that Parkway Drive bring to the show, with frequent guitar solos scattered throughout the set from Jeff Ling nodding to the more classic metal elements of Parkway Drive’s sound. The theatrics are saved from entering the realm of ridiculous by McCall’s light-hearted quips peppered throughout the night. Introducing the blisteringly heavy ‘Karma’, he tells the crowd “If the cardio walking up the hill wasn’t enough – this is where you get your steps in for the day”. The main set closes on ‘Bottom Feeder’ with bouncing pits and thousands of voices singing along with glee. These fans have been waiting three years to see their heroes return to UK soil, and Parkway Drive have brought a show worth waiting for.

After a few moments of expectant anticipation, the stage is literally on fire for the devastating two-track encore of ‘Crushed’ and ‘Wild Eyes’, in a display of pyro that could give Watain a run for their money. The flames are not a gimmick to distract from any lack of a scorching performance, however. Quite the contrary, they offer just the right level of spectacle to cement Parkway Drive as polished headline frontrunners for arenas across the globe.