After the triumph of 2022’s Reeling, The Mysterines return with Afraid of Tomorrows. This new release is layered with timeless emo/hardcore guitarwork, elevating vocals, explosive energy and grunge glory. First track ‘The Last Dance’ introduces the experimental style which dominates the album as an acoustic guitar sets the relaxed aura, which is revisited in the final moments. Just where I imagined the folksy-rock tune would end, haunting vocals – “What happens when the puppet cuts the string?” – are repeated by lead singer Lia Metcalfe and I was entranced into an eerie world of fear and unpredictability which was almost hypnotic. This opening song neatly introduces the existential narrative of the record, with many tracks exploring themes of control, love, dystopia, the fragility of existence and the fear which goes with this.

‘Sink Ya Teeth’ was released as a single earlier this year, perhaps one of my favourite songs on the album with an energy and tempo similar to ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)’ from their debut. The intensity of the guitar accompanies the drums making the track feel so finely wrought as each member’s talents unite into a beautiful exhibition of the group’s cohesion and flair.

‘Hawkmoon’ has a dystopian/apocalyptic feel to it, beginning with an acoustic melody and a sample of a space station message looking for a lost human. Metcalfe’s calming vocals stand alone with the acoustic backing as listeners are taken on the journey of Hawkmoon, an assumed space mission in the search of lost humans. The radio sample reappears throughout the track, creating an intensity which is diffused with the ‘landing’ of Hawkmoon, along with an illuminating guitar solo. This seems to be speaking to our current Digital Age and the isolation that comes with it as Metcalfe sings “Am I the only one left alive?” and “It couldn’t get much stranger”. The lyrics are so personal and unique to the age we are living in and the ‘lost humans’ narrative belies the alienation and isolation that dominates so many lives today.

Isolation is a major theme to this record and ‘Junkyard Angel’ has a similar sound of distortion to it as the arrangement appears muffled and distant. ‘Goodbye Sunshine’ and ‘So Long’ are two similarly vulnerable tracks, though they also hold a mystical and atmospheric sound of hope.

The closing title track returns to the folksy acoustics and away from the classic grunge, headbanging cuts, reminding me of Paramore’s ‘I’m Not Angry Anymore’. It acts as a closing rejoinder to the fear and isolation professed in earlier songs; it is joyous and almost whimsical in spite of the gloomy title. As Metcalfe sings “I’m so afraid of tomorrows” I can’t help but feel optimistic; the melody is upbeat and energetic although the lyrics are devastating.

This album grounds The Mysterines as the UK’s next top band at the grungier edge of the rock spectrum, another shot across the bows of the neverending “guitar music is dead” debate.