So it’s Saturday night at the Lansdowne. You’ve paid $16 for a jug of beer, there’s some punk rock band on the stage, the place is packed and the sound guy confuses quality with volume. Hey, that’s cool, you know what you’re getting, and to the bar’s credit, it never fails to deliver on that. We’ve written about this before; while sometimes it involves being engulfed in a sea of mediocrity, there is the persistent hope that something will eventually challenge the stereotype.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when instead of the angry, noisy sludge that is delivered in spades, the band that next took to the stage, Adelaide-based quartet Quiet Child, was surprisingly mature. The singer and lead guitarist was decidedly un-metal: glasses, beard, a black t-shirt that seemed more tech than metal. And among his band-mates, the drummer, bassist and rhythm guitarist all had a sense of quiet determination; posture, not posing. Also, the drummer’s shirt stayed on, which is more than I could say for the previous group.

My suspicion that this was a band beyond normal expectations were confirmed when the frontman began to sing. His voice, clean, clear and powerful, turned heads as it pervaded throughout the room, with a slight hint of echo. Using the kind of common sense lacking in most bar scenes, the vocals were not drowned out by the drums, as the band’s volume itself had been turned down considerably. It was still the kind of loud that damages your ears over a few hours, just not the kind that prevents you from understanding someone even when yelling in your ear. I digress; the singer was excellent. While he barely moved as he sung (and frankly most of the lyrics weren’t particularly intelligible), the emotional intensity was far above the normal “grab microphone and strut” punk style that’s so common in bar bands.

Which matched the material (the singer confirmed that he wrote all the material when I asked him after the show). A quick search informed me that Triple-J Unearthed classifies Quiet Child as “rock, indie” and “alternative rock”, but such classifications don’t begin to describe the variety of sounds and moods evoked throughout the evening. The music was careful and considered, subtle but not weak. The drumming was thoughtful, the bass fluid (albeit not particularly  significant) and the guitars both crunched and wailed.

Most importantly of all, the music didn’t follow any pre-set formulas: much like in a progressive-metal or post-metal vein; yes it was heavy at times, but it was never overbearing nor was it repetitive. The ten-minute multi-part epic was followed by a two-minute introspective; neither of which you’d ever normally see in an environment where exploration is largely discouraged. Sure it wasn’t the greatest two minutes of my life, but the audacity to perform such a piece is credit enough alone to their willingness to take a risk. And when the band rocked it truly rocked. The build-ups weren’t unexpected but they weren’t cliched. The guitar solos weren’t quite Jimmy Page, but they weren’t incomparable to Johnny Greenwood. When they got it right, it felt truly mind-melting, the kind where it didn’t matter that the solo repeated the same note over and over again. The lows were low, and the highs were exceptionally high.

I could offer comparisons to a whole host of bands; Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Radiohead, Tool; but none would really capture the essence of what I’m trying to describe, and would only serve to demean a band that clearly has no issues with creativity. The only way I can describe their sound is to tell you to listen to it for yourself. That said, I hope you won’t have to. I hope I’ve finally discovered a band that I can say with confidence will go far.

[I ended up buying their second release on the night, I’ll put a review up of it soon]

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