From intricate, high-octane puzzles to unrelenting thrash barrages: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

(from left) Steve Marker, drummer Butch Vig and singer Shirley Manson of Garbage perform live in 2019
(Image credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

After weeks of quiet contemplation, reflection and internal deliberation, it is with a heavy heart that we, as a team, are stepping away from Guitar World, to pursue our true passion: mushroom foraging. 

With that in mind, this will sadly be our final collection of essential guitar tracks for the week.

April Fools! Our sharing of the weekly evidence of the guitar’s continued vitality, growth and importance ain’t going anywhere, and this week’s selections – with their many exciting approaches to the instrument – demonstrate just why we love putting this playlist together every Thursday.

So plug those ol' headphones in and see what's moving the guitar world forward these days.

Garbage – The Men Who Rule The World 

It’s been five long years without any new Garbage material, though if there was ever any concern that the prolonged absence would affect the band’s ability to offer up stomping songs and earth-shattering guitar hooks, new single The Men Who Rule The World quickly, and effortlessly, lays those fears to rest.

Labelled a “critique of the rise of capitalist short-sightedness, racism, sexism and misogyny across the world”, the track is jam-packed with disjointed drums, erratic guitars, and bit-crush-tinged keys that fit together like pieces of an intricate puzzle, before fierce guitar strums and cymbal stabs assemble in the chorus to form an impenetrable wall of driving, high-octane of sound.

The first offering from an upcoming album that promises to see Garbage at the peak of their grunge playing powers, The Men Who Rule The World has most definitely been worth the wait. (MO)

Courtney Barnett & Vagabon – Don’t Do It

Taken from the second disc of the 10th anniversary edition of Sharon Van Etten’s brilliant sophomore album, Epic – which features the likes of Lucinda Williams, Fiona Apple, IDLES, Shamir and more covering the album in its entirety – Courtney Barnett & Vagabon’s take on the brutal Don’t Do It is tougher, more stoic, but ultimately just as unforgettable as the original.

Framing a deeply toxic relationship in stark terms, the song’s lyrical picture is a discomfiting one, and Barnett and Vagabon give the story the space it needs with their plaintive, but beautiful vocals. 

It’s Barnett’s guitar work though, that sets this interpretation apart from Van Etten’s original. Sinewy, anguished, right on the edge of feedback, but unshakably melodic and her own, it tells the story as well as Van Etten’s haunting lyrics. (JM)

Bodom After Midnight – Paint the Sky with Blood

One of the last tracks the late, great Alexi Laiho ever recorded, Paint the Sky with Blood showcases the Children of Bodom frontman’s legendary guitar chops in abundance. 

The title track of a new three-song EP by Bodom After Midnight – the band with which Laiho remained a member until his tragic death late last year – it features an unrelenting barrage of monster thrash riffs and searing leads over a tapestry of blast beats and thundering rhythms. A fitting tribute to such a monumental figure in the metal world.

“Needless to say, we are honored and proud to be a part of his very last creative work and to unleash it the way he wanted it,” Bodom After Midnight say. “It’s time to let the beast out of the cage one more time as a celebration of Alexi’s music, legacy and the man himself.” (SR)

The Armed - An Iteration

Hardcore experimentalists The Armed signed up David Hayter – voice of Solid Snake himself – for An Iteration's bold, cinematic video.

But forget the Metal Gear Solid connections for a moment and listen to the riotous, exuberant guitar playing on display here. A colossal ensemble, The Armed currently features no fewer than four guitar players – and that’s not counting special guest star Troy Van Leeuwen.

The result is a euphoric mash-up of indie, post-hardcore and a boatload of pedals, which yields something new with every listen. (MAB)

파란노을 (Parannoul) – 아름다운 세상 (Beautiful World)

Okay, we’re admittedly bending the rules a little bit with this one. 아름다운 세상 (Beautiful World, in English), technically came out – along with the rest of 파란노을 (Parannoul)’s debut album, To See the Next Part of the Dream – over a month ago.

Dropped with next to no fanfare on Bandcamp, the album came to our attention after picking up steam in recent days, which it did with good reason.  

Other than offering that he’s a Seoul-based student “writing music in my bedroom,” the man behind Parannoul remains anonymous and apparently wishes to remain so for the time being. Beautiful World though, more than speaks for itself.

Supercharged with a hurricane of distorted guitars that levels everything in its path, it has the suave mysteriousness of My Bloody Valentine, the world-conquering hooks of the Smashing Pumpkins and the fearless grandiosity of emo’s finest practitioners. 

Examining the harshness of the “wide gap between ideal and reality,” To See the Next Part of the Dream is a remarkably fearless and singular document, with impossible dreams and incredible suffering set to the backdrop of way-past-the-red layers of dimed-out guitars, dreamy acoustics and thunderous drums – all broadcast with stunning clarity from the mind of a dreamer alone in his studio. (JM)

Waterparks – Numb

The third single from forthcoming album Greatest Hits, Numb sees Houston pop-rockers Waterparks crank up the hard-rock factor, all the while maintaining the infectious hooks that form the bedrock of their sound.

Matched by the kaleidoscopic color palette of the music video – and indeed frontman Awsten Knight’s hair – is an array of electronic influences and sounds, weaved tastefully throughout the track’s otherwise no-frills pop-rock arrangement. (SR)

Cassia – Gotta Get Through Til Monday 

Listen to a Cassia track, and you’ll be guaranteed three things: incredible groove, catchy hooks and some delicious guitar play. Gotta Get Through Til Monday, the latest offering the English indie rock trio, delivers an abundance of all three.

The track ticks along with a serious swagger thanks to a sauntering drum pattern and equally pumping bassline, with Rob Ellis’s exquisite-as-usual guitar work being put on display in full force. Introducing a delicate, acoustic-driven line and a bed of haunting harmonies that offer up copious amounts of intrigue, the track is fleshed out with a series of bright, treble-drenched jabs by the time the final chorus comes around. 

The stomping tune, which “hammers home the importance of self-appreciation”, will cast away your mid-week blues and will have you suitably rejuvenated by the time the new week comes around. With the band gearing up to release their new EP Magnifier in the summer, Gotta Get Through Til Monday is a timely reminder that this formidable indie-rock group is just getting started. (MO)

Dry Cleaning - Unsmart Lady

If you’ve been following UK guitar music in the slightest over the past year, you can’t fail to have noticed a new movement in post-punk, led by the likes of IDLES, Squid and Black Country, New Road – and you can add London’s Dry Cleaning to that illustrious list.

Unsmart Lady is the third single from upcoming John Parish-produced debut, New Long Leg, and full of anarchic playing, with wild delay-drenched tremolo stabs and a hypnotic main riff from guitarist Tom Dowse, which provides the perfect juxtaposition to Florence Shaw’s wry, spoken-word vocals. (MAB)


Burn is the second track on IMMERSE’s sophomore full-length offering, The Weight That Holds Me Here. Its riff alone qualifies it for a place on our coveted weekly essential guitar tracks roundup, implementing a seismic but simple melody over an off-beat rhythm to earth-shattering effect.

For the uninitiated, IMMERSE are a post-hardcore quartet based out of Bristol, UK. On the new album, vocalist Archie Hatfield explains: “We wrote and recorded these songs before the pandemic. It was a difficult point in each of our lives due to different reasons but we came together to create this piece of art. 

“We’ve never been more open and honest with our music so we have a very special connection to these songs. Making this album was our therapy.” (SR)

 Skegss – Down to Ride 

Aussie three-piece Skegss recently dropped their fourth full-length album, Rehearsal, which exploded onto the scene last week filled-to-the-brim with the band’s instantly recognizable style of high-gain garage and outback surf rock.

In an album that boasts an embarrassment of riches in the guitar department, the first track on the record, Down to Ride, is quintessential Skegss. Introducing us to their latest sonic offering with a bite-y bass line, driving kick drum and momentum-building stick roll, the stripped-back instrumentation soon gives way to a gain-infused barrage of guitar sounds that set the tone for the rest of the track, and indeed the rest of riotous record. 

Fans of thrash-y guitars, wailing lyrics and catchy hooks, this one is for you. (MO)

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.