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Australian Guitar's Fresh Frets: Vol. 8

Acolyte
(Image credit: Andrew Basso)

ACOLYTE

THEY ARE an equally operatic and eruptive five-piece from Melbourne, whose monolithic records make even the most destructive riffs feel elegant. To put it succinctly, they’re the future of Australian prog-metal.

THEY SOUND LIKE a blindfolded ride on the world’s most unpredictable rollercoaster. We have a theory that when people with synaesthesia listen to Acolyte, they’re able to see colours that don’t actually exist – the quintet will them into existence with the sheer might of their sonic volatility.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Karnivool, Porcupine Tree, Devin Townsend, and hiking your way to the top of a mountain to stare in awe over the horizon, astonished by the widescreen beauty of the natural world... Then racing back down to thrash away in the mosh at a sweaty, rampageous metal gig.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the band’s powerful and polychromatic second album, Entropy, which landed back in May to a stream of hard-earned acclaim. Five years in the making, it’s a fearless and futuristic journey through the ups and downs of prog metal in all its splashy, mottled beauty. The guitars on this thing are truly mind-bending, stacked start to finish with prickly noodling, riotous solos and catastrophic breakdowns – but it’s these glassy, wailing synth pedal solos that steal the show, sounding like something out of Doctor Who if Steve Vai was a Dalek.

BUGS

Bugs

(Image credit: Casey Garnsey)

THEY ARE not actually all that fresh – the Brisbane pop-rockers have been jamming up a storm since 2014, and even have three full-length albums of brash and bouncy gems. But in the past couple years, they’ve hit the national stage with more fortitude than the Valley where they cut their teeth. If you’re not already on the Bugs bandwagon, hop on before their tours start selling out in seconds.

THEY SOUND LIKE a whole damn lot of fun. Even on their most strait‑laced tracks, the trio shine with a luminescent larrikin spirit – chalk it up to their massive, jammy hooks and the catchiest choruses this side of the Brisbane River.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Dear Seattle, Dune Rats, West Thebarton, and feeling the wind ripple through your hair as you jump off a cliff’s edge towards a glimmering bed of salt water. The average Bugs cut straddles that magical line between chill and exhilarating, making them an absolute must for the playlist to soundtrack your next big summer adventure.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the crash-hot new single “Diamond”, the chorus of which hits harder and faster than a dog does his dinner. 2019’s Self‑Help album is a veritable goldmine of hits, too, from the crunchy and kinetic “Seriously” (just try not to clap along to that effortlessly earwormish chorus) to the equally gruff and groovy “Shitty Weather”. And if there’s ever been a cover worthy of usurping the original, it’s their searing spin on Mallrat’s “Charlie”.

CLOSURE

Closure

(Image credit: Sian Sandilands)

THEY ARE an emo-punk powerhouse from Sydney blasting out short ‘n’ sweet slices of dance-worthy disarray so hot they could set a glass of water on fire. Since they started tearing shit up in 2019, the trio have conjured a wickedly ardent following in their local scene – and rightfully so – selling out shows and nabbing choice festival spots with only a few songs in the bank. 

THEY SOUND LIKE that rush of frantic, convulsive energy that surges through your body when you finally beat the last boss in a video game you’ve spent months of your life grinding away at. It’s like digital cocaine – a very apt description for Closure.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE The Beautiful Monument, Yours Truly, The Wonder Years, and sharing cheesy Twitter memes with your ex because you still want them in your life, but never actually talking because you don’t want them in your life that much.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the doughy and dynamic new single “With You”, on which the band embrace their shinier side with a bright and bold melody, mightily emotive vocals and a bassline that totally steals the show. Or if you’re keen to dive right into the spicy stuff, go for their 2020 double A-side of “Sink” and “Roadside Flowers”, the former standing out with an explosive, heart‑on‑sleeve chorus, and the latter with a bridge of tastefully turbulent screamy‑roars.

GRINDING EYES

Grinding Eyes

(Image credit: Somerset McGourty)

THEY ARE a mystifying crew of psych-rock shredders from Sydney wielding huge, hypnotic guitar runs slathered in reverb and overdrive, crumbly basslines and sharp, soulful singing. Between their gauzy, punk-infused hits and the searing twists of instrumental eccentricity that fill in the gaps, the trio excel at setting a mood and exploring every choppy, unpredictable peak and valley it offers.

THEY SOUND LIKE the score to a clandestine speakeasy well past midnight, where illuminati secrets flow as freely as the absinthe. You’re pretty sure that’s a Hollywood fat cat standing in the corner, fidgeting with a switchblade. What the f*** is going on here? Wait, where did the door go? Is this a dream? Hell? Did it just start raining? But we’re indoors! Oh man, am I losing my mind!?!?

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE King Gizzard, The Black Angels, Sleep (the band, not the activity), and cruising down winding roads in foreign lands as street lights flicker past in your periphery, chasing not adventure nor scenery, but a backdrop to match the opacity of your wandering mind.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT their equally slick and seedy new album Taste The Monochrome, fresh on shelves via Poison City. On it you’ll find a surplus of punchy jammage and jagged, roaring solos – this is one to crank loud with the lights off, truly allowing yourself to sink into the sprawling, sinuous soundscapes of fuzzy incandescence and animated grunginess.

LOITER

Loiter

(Image credit: Samantha Kiley)

THEY ARE a six-piece feed from Brisbane serving up a spine-tingling slate of cool and kaleidoscopic alt-rock. Their tri-guitar attack is something to marvel, with Amber Hudson, Mitch Chen and Brandon Day all injecting into the mix their own idiosyncratic spark. The trio gel with a riveting chemistry – especially onstage where, rounded out with the tantalising talents of cellist Evie Cowen, their sound is enormous, yet surprisingly reined-in.

THEY SOUND LIKE a fat slice of watermelon on a hot summer’s afternoon.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE WAAX, Faker, The Wombats, and heading straight from your 9-to-5 office job to the local pub, ‘cause there’s a new band cutting sick and you’ve spent all week fanging for a mosh. You don’t even bother changing out of your suit – you’re sophisticated, but you’ve got a soft spot for the joyful disarray of the underground punk scene. You’re Loiter’s new #1 fan.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT the fiery and frenetic new single “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, which sees Hudson take over from Daryn Yeats on lead vocals (and do a smashing job of it). Hudson previously shone on the cut “Underwater Blues” from the band’s 2019 EP Alternative Sidekick, which you should also take for a spin – partly because all three tracks on it are big, bold and beautifully groovy, but also for how they manage to cram in everything from ska to math‑rock, pop‑punk and grunge, all without even teetering on messy.

PINKISH BLU

Pinkish Blu

(Image credit: Noah Sutherland)

THEY ARE seconds away from kicking off the next big Australian pop revolution. They’re a four-piece from Adelaide dealing in glittery, iridescent indie bops with honeyed guitars twining around crisp electro beats and charismatic vocal runs. The blokes have already made theatres swoon in support of acts like Odette, Trophy Eyes and The Rubens, and it’s without a doubt that before too long, they’ll be selling out the biggest rooms on their own accord.

THEY SOUND LIKE the end result of an experiment where scientists built an AI engine out of neon lights and asked it to write pop bangers. The tracks are acute and emotively charged, but there’s an atmospheric and esoteric edge that makes them wickedly easy to get lost in.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE The 1975, Owl City, M83, and holding hands with your high-school crush as you watch the sun rise together after a long night of partying. Oh shit, that’s right, you’ve got an exam in three hours!!!

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT their first two singles for 2021, “Backward” and “Start A Band”, the former a summery, scatter-beat head-banger with a tinge of Tiny Little Houses-esque emo grit, and the latter a festival-ready ‘f*** you’ to fake friends via bold, thumping synthpop beats and a cruisy rhythm guitar line. Then get around their 2020 EP, There’s No Such Thing As Good People, where you’ll sink deep into a sea of pure, unadulterated good vibes.

PLOVERS

Plovers

(Image credit: Plovers)

THEY ARE loud, angry, and downright merciless when given a chance to wreak havoc on their instruments. Based in Melbourne, the trio specialise in prickly post-hardcore and psychotropic new-wave punk, with a distinctly hi-fi sound augmenting their gloriously gory temperament. They’re a force to be reckoned with onstage, too, routinely doling out a thunderous onslaught of walloping riffs and ravenous roars. They’ve made fans in global icons like Gang Of Four, Shihad and the Screaming Females, and it’s undoubtable that they’ll one day rep Australia in that hierarchy.

THEY SOUND LIKE a jalapeño martini this writer tried in an uncomfortably boujee cocktail bar in Brisbane: complex, flavoursome, intoxicating... But mostly just really goddamn spicy. 

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Idles, The Jesus Lizard, Screaming Females, and feeling the leather on a punching bag crease with every unrepenting blow, heavy metal wailing in the background as you unload all your pent-up stresses in a lucid eruption of pure catharsis.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT last year’s vicious and visceral five-tracker, You Can Do Better, which blended generous widescreen soundscapes of ripping lead guitars and grimy bass with dual-tone vocals swerving between dense, swaggering cleans and noxiously venomous yells. 

SUBCULT

Subcult

(Image credit: X Promotions)

THEY ARE an enigmatic three-piece from Melbourne straddling a fine line between scuzzy DIY garage-rock and crystalline power-pop. Their tunes are the kind you can pop on and zen out to on a bad day, equally so because they’re ultra melodic and effortlessly buoyant, and the lyrics hit that sweet spot where they’re honest and raw, but not uncomfortably hard-hitting. We’re excited to see where the band head on a longform release.

THEY SOUND LIKE a first-generation Tamagotchi came to life and set out to make Simple Plan songs sound smart.

YOU'LL DIG THEM IF YOU LIKE Jeff Rosenstock, Press Club, Wolf Alice, and impulsively dying your hair blue at 4AM on a Wednesday, messaging an old friend from primary school, “Dude, we should totally start a riot grrrl band!”, then doing one shot of gin and passing out before the cold open ends on an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT both of the only two songs the band have under their belt right now, “Suffocating” and “Medicated”. The former is a groovy and gauzy indie-rocker with a heartrending chorus and eruptive pseudo‑pop-punk bridge, highlighting the deep, distorted lead guitar lines and angelesque vocals upfront. The latter is a shimmery skate-pop jam that simply breezes by with its inhumanly catchy, energising hooks.