In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.
In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.
50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #32: Parkway Drive (by Emmy Mack of Redhook)
From tearing up the Byron Bay Youth Centre to headlining some of the biggest metal festivals on the planet earth, Parkway Drive are a homegrown heavy metal Cinderella story. That is, if Cinderella was five sweaty, inked-up surfer dudes from the NSW North Coast playing blastbeats and neck-snapping guitar riffs in drop B tuning.
For the scores of aspiring musos who make up Australia’s heavy community, witnessing their ascension over the past 15 years has been fucking inspirational. This was a band who weren’t from a big city; who were self-managed; who weren’t afraid to sleep underneath vans or on tarps in freezing temps for the love of being on tour; and who delivered each and every show with the same gut-busting intensity, regardless of whether they were performing in front of ten people (yep, even Parkway had those gigs) or ten thousand.
Nowadays, that number soars as high as 75,000 – that’s how many fans witnessed the Aussie metalcore lords headline Germany’s Wacken Festival in 2019. And though the girth of their stages, the audacity of their production and the heat of their pyrotechnics may have increased exponentially with every album they’ve dropped since 2005’s skull crushing masterwork Killing With a Smile, the Parkway dudes’ DIY ethos, ride-or-die attitude and bulletproof mateship – which extends beyond merely the band members to include their whole team and crew as well – has remained more steadfast than Nimbin’s population of stoner hippies.
“They’ve consistently defied expectations, taken risks and fearlessly pissed people off with their music.”
Parkway Drive may have become rock stars, but they haven’t become assholes; the band’s enduring down-to-earth personas and larrikin charm only galvanise their status as scene heroes. People worth looking up to, for both their musical achievements and moral fibre. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting frontman Winston McCall a few times now, and while he’s a truly magnetic and borderline-terrifying force of nature to behold onstage, off it he’s such a champ you’d have zero qualms introducing him to your nan (sorry if I’ve put your metal cred in jeopardy there, bud).
Another thing you have to salute Parkway for is the way they’ve consistently defied expectations, taken risks and fearlessly pissed people off with their music. Take their 2015 album Ire, which copped the wrath of handfuls of “core snobs” for its more “mainstream” metal sound, while simultaneously sparking a 3,600 signature-strong petition to make lead single “Vice Grip” Australia’s new national anthem.
Flash-forward five years, the band are now headlining arenas, and on track to be one of Australia’s biggest rock exports since AC/DC. And if you dare doubt Parkway Drive’s iconic status, just ask Byron Shire Council, who were forced to spray-paint the name of the road the band named themselves after on the goddam bitumen after losing an epic 12-year battle with fans who refused to stop stealing the street sign every time the local government replaced it (which, we’re told, happened on average about six times a year).
Parkway Drive are the ragtag home team that went on to win the world championship on their own terms, with their loyal fans cheering them on each step of the way. Viva The Underdogs.