Summer appears to have come early in the UK, which probably explains why Download Festival ends up being a complete washout as the country uses up its sun quota for the year before Easter. In any event, it’s a glorious day in the capital, one perfect for finding a beer garden with copious amounts of Pimm’s or soaking up the rays in a quiet corner of the nearest park. Head south on the Victoria line, however, and you’ll find five thousand buoyant punters in a variety of t-shirts from Venom Prison to All Pigs Must Die and Lamb of God to Slayer heading for a sold out Brixton Academy, arguably the finest venue in the UK with a plethora of iconic shows in its arsenal over the years.
It’s the second visit here for Californian outfit Stick To Your Guns (8) in six months, having opened for Architects last autumn and they look right at home already. Full of energy and poise, they come armed with an agenda to get everyone moving as much as possible and achieve it without making it look like hard work at all. Coming out to a bizarre combination of Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ and Cheap Trick before launching into opener Against Us All, they’ve got circle pits going by second song Nobody and even have the audacity to call for crowd-surfers following this during What Choice Did You Give Us? for the sole reason that the security are bored and need some work to do. Without a doubt, this is a band who could easily fill out somewhere like the Koko or the Forum and they’ve shown they have the chops and the crowd investment to be welcomed on these shores for years to come. Asking Alexandria (6) are stuck between a rock and a hard place tonight as a result; even with Danny Worsnop back fronting them it’s a bit of a slog to get going, although not for want of trying. There are no songs present from most recent album ‘The Black’ which featured Denis Stoff as singer and despite the want of some fans to hear Danny bring his own spin on the songs to the table, it’s understandable given the acrimonious circumstances around the switch in vocalists. That said, it’s the four song run from 2013’s ‘From Death to Destiny’ (Run Free, The Death of Me, Moving On and The Road) that garner the biggest cheers tonight and whilst the set as a whole is solid, recent comments from guitarist Ben Bruce that they’ve had to suck up their pride in opening at a venue they’ve headlined under their own steam linger in the mind, bringing to the fore questions about whether they’re just going through the motions or not. However, it certainly appears that all animosity between Worsnop and Bruce has dissipated, with the pair getting on well onstage and sharing a couple of genuine moments as the set goes on, which can only be a good thing going forward.
Talking of going forward, it’s the only direction Parkway Drive (9) are headed right now, but then it’s the only direction they’ve EVER headed in. Just when you think they’ve done everything possible, they’ll come back and prove you wrong in the most brilliant and bruising way imagineable. Most recent album ‘Ire’ might be nearly two years old now but it’s only improved in that time, with some huge responses coming from the likes of Vice Grip and Destroyer alongside the likes of fan favourites Carrion and Idols and Anchors. There’s also enough pyro on show tonight to melt the pin badges on sale at the merch stand and the heat is such that two fire engines end up outside the venue to ensure the place isn’t actually being burned to the floor. Inside the main room, however, there’s an inferno blazing in another aspect, as Parkway Drive are on the form of their lives. From the utter destruction of Sleepwalker to the bounce and pace of the classic Boneyards, there isn’t a section of the Academy that isn’t being thrown from one side of the room to the other, all orchestrated by the overwhelming charisma and influence of Winston McCall who is by now leaving the title of ‘Best Frontman on the Planet’ and moving into the ‘Individual Art Form’ category. Not a note is missed by the band and not a drum fill is out of place, the latter being even more impressive as Ben Gordon spends the last few songs in a rotating cage, playing in a complete 360 degree circle. They even find space in their set to drop a quite brilliant cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls On Parade, which has all the ferocity and venom of the original and puts anything Prophets of Rage are doing currently to absolute shame. The encore is a double salvo of Crushed and the awesome Bottom Feeder, the perfect stamp on Parkway Drive’s re-affirmation as one of the world’s best live acts around; there’s no limit to where they can go next.
Parkway Drive setlist
Writings On the Wall
Idols and Anchors
Bulls on Parade