Album Review: Wake The Giants - 'Hill Rd'

16 December 2011 | 7:48 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Raw, honest pop punk that will grab listeners by the balls.

Wake The Giants are a band ready to step forward and claim a seat within the upper echelons of the Australian pop punk scene, alongside genre heavyweights like Skyway and Heroes For Hire. Their self-titled EP release established a transition towards a more mature and self-defined sound for the band, overcoming past trepidations and personal tragedy brought about by the loss of original frontman Josh Morris to cancer in mid-2010. ‘Hill Rd’ cements the band’s triumphant re-emergence, moving away from the breakdown-laden easycore trend in favour of a sound that borrows heavily from the sensibilities of modern pop punk veterans like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte. Anchored by infectiously catchy hooks and driving musicianship laced with pop sensibilities, the single is by far the most accomplished track the band has ever made.

Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, the band has carved their own niche within the formulas pioneered by their predecessors in the early 2000s. Frontman Colby McQueen helps to inject the well-worn, verse-chorus pop punk template with his own unmistakable personality, peppering his lyrics with references to his home town of Western Sydney. Free from unnecessary, laborious metaphors, McQueen’s words pay homage to his closest friends and the experiences they’ve shared, resonating in the powerful, repeated hook, “It’s times like these when I’m with my best friends.” The track’s vocal melodies exceed anything the band has done before in terms of catchiness and memorability, quickly nailing the lyrics into the consciousness of listeners with an upbeat, smile-inducing pre-chorus that segues into the dynamic, soaring notes of the song’s main hook.

Much of the accessibility of ‘Hill Rd’ can be indebted to the prowess of studio extraordinaire Ryan Smith, whose production credits include albums by Balance And Composure, Darkest Hour and Polar Bear Club. Smith lends the single a glossy, commercial sheen that accentuates its pop-enthused focus, bringing McQueen’s hook-heavy vocal punchlines to the forefront of the mix and never allowing them to be overshadowed. This is achieved without compromising the driving intensity of the underlying instrumentation, with crunching, overdriven riffs and the occasional snippets of guttural, half-time breakdowns that serve as respectful nods to the band’s earlier material. Reinforcing the track is a fast-paced, double-time drumbeat dripping with energy that slows itself down to an explosive bridge that never allows itself to descend into a generic, easycore beatdown section. The entire song screams of a band anxious to outdo themselves, and on 'Hill Rd', Wake The Giants have set an astounding new benchmark for the standard of their music.

Western Sydney pop punk mainstays Wake The Giants have proven their readiness to emerge from the cocoon of their local scene with ‘Hill Rd’, a new single which marks the highest point in the band’s career to date. Moving beyond the easycore formula that characterised their earlier work, the track is washed over with lashings of pop sensibilities and punctuating, memorable hooks set against driving powerchords and catchy lead guitar phrases. ‘Hill Rd’ shows a band at the top of their game, paving the way towards a bright, prosperous future at the forefront of the genre.

1. Hill Rd