So let’s face it: heavy music is one of the most stigmatised genres in existence. Think of the general stereotype – a VB-swilling bogan who likes Cannibal Corpse and Cradle of Filth, whose band plays 70-minute sets at The Valve in Wellington; singing about drinking the blood of Christians and burning churches. Or worse yet: one of the almost Neolithic 90s grunge/nu-metal kids still stuck in an extended acid trip of baggy jeans and Fred Durst’s red hat.
Hardcore punk doesn’t have it much better either: it seems like some sort of pseudo-moralistic Dad-hating spinkicker is who the genre appeals to, and notions of creativity or originality always seem foregone in favor of the latest trend (derived almost solely from the US); and any idea of artistic merit is quickly dismissed as the domain of indie or experimental music, in favor of stagnant concepts about keeping the genre ‘pure’ or at least free of outside influence.
OK, a picture is starting to form: thinking solely in genres is going to be a headache. But let’s accept the fact that heavy music as a broad category isn’t one known for its innovation or its attempts to further goals of creative exertion.
I’m not going to suggest that the bands discussed below are completely antithetical to all of this. All music has its influences and it’s rare to see a completely amazing and original performance. The point is that these bands may represent a small cross-section of heavy music that seeks to push boundaries in its own way – whether lyrically, conceptually, or musically. Because, ultimately; this is what’s important. Any New Zealand band making heavy music has always got to face the fact that making music for release and playing live is a constant battle for numbers, and most bands will probably not exceed the confines of this music scene.
And here it is: an upward battle, and we realise it.
Action Man Records
THE WRONGMEN’s 2006 debut full-length, 'Den of Vipers' was certainly an anomaly amongst New Zealand’s punk and metal releases of the year. The Auckland group produced an EP that is almost peerless in the country – combining elements of both modern and mature influences to produce a furiously original record that is partnered only by the equally intense live show. The record showcased an almost vintage layering of dense coatings of distorted guitar and guttural bass over the frantic beating of drums, with vocals mixed instrumentally into the frenzied beat. The lyrical content took a snide and spiteful stance on modern society and the ills of corrupt politics, with even the artwork an attack on the current American regime. 'Brainchaos' professed perfectly the frustration and stagnancy of the Sisyphean trek through a narrow-minded musical industry, and 'No Heroes' was a bold statement about the nature of those in power and those that follow them. The record also showed the band’s musical ability, with 12-minute closer 'Bacteria Disguised as Men' displaying Western-influenced slide guitar homage, bringing comparisons to NEIL YOUNG’s 'Dead Man' soundtrack to mind.
2007 has and will be another big year for THE WRONGMEN. Currently in the middle of a comprehensive New Zealand tour, the band will release a new 7” in May before launching into another tour and visiting overseas. The nightmarishly hallucinogenic artwork hides a depth of maturity that sees the band moving effortlessly from fury to sedation, topped by a hugely darkened version of THE STOOGES’ 1970 on the b-side. Stay tuned for a band that is sure to create controversy and continue to progress.
THE WRONGMEN features current and ex-members of: EVIL PRIEST, DSM, THE WARPATH, THE REDSHIFT and The DDTs.
2006 really was a year of chrysalis for STRANGERS. Beginning the year under previous title GSH; the band entered an intense period of reevaluation and redefinition of their sound and conceptual basis following a change in line-up early in the year. What emerged after this period of hibernation of sorts was a far cry from beautiful; rather a vindictive and passionate band intent on making a manifestation of all of the ugliness and desperation within. With a set of new songs, STRANGERS began a consistent trek around the country, playing various shows from Hardcore 06 (alongside the legendary RINGWORM) to Punkfest, ending with a full New Zealand tour accompanied by new Wellington act DIAL.
2007’s 'Holding' demo was released in January and has already sold out completely. It exhibits four new songs that truly capture the intensity and angst present in their live show, with a view to ensuring that they won't rest as a band in the shallow grave of the New Zealand heavy music scene. The explosive opener 'Meursault Blues' propels itself from looping feedback, echoing of the rawness of HIS HERO IS GONE. The equally assaulting 'Holding' pauses only for moments to reveal powerful dynamic changes, and 'Howl' serves as a testament both to the band's technical ability and their lyrical capacity to produce varied and original narratives that characterize a bleak ideology with an underlying hope for change. To close, the melancholic 'Teenagers' reaches a climactic tumult that falls to nothing.
STRANGERS are currently in the pre-production stage of an as-yet-untitled 10-track album, to be recorded at STL Audio in Wellington, aiming for a June release. This album will certainly aim for nothing less than reintroducing creativity to heavy music and simply aiming to make an impact.
STRANGERS features current and ex-members of: DAMAGED, SCAB, THE DEADLINE and THE BATSTORM.
2006 was certainly a varied year for DAMAGED. Their self-titled CD, released in January, proved to be an excellent documentation and tribute to their energetic live show, receiving great reviews from within and outside the punk community. After adding second guitarist Mike Schibli (STRANGERS), DAMAGED played and toured relentlessly throughout the country; billed alongside everyone from DEATH BY STEREO and BOUNCING SOULS to hardcore veterans RINGWORM; topping it off by touring the North Island in September with the legendary MADBALL.
DAMAGED will undoubtedly continue to ruffle feathers with a vicious lyrical approach targeting the various corruptions that exist in society as a whole, and indeed also within the hardcore community itself. With a whole batch of new songs that are currently being recorded for a full-length in 2007, you can be certain that religious fundamentalists and their ilk should be ducking for cover. And of course, the intensity of the DAMAGED live show will surely maintain its position at the top of their agenda, proving that real punk hardcore doesn't just come from pushing buttons in a studio.
The new album (titled 'The Burial') will feature 8 new tracks of brisk punk hardcore that are representative of influences like RINGWORM, BURIED ALIVE, HAYMAKER and NEGATIVE APPROACH.
DAMAGED features current and ex-members of: STRANGERS, EVIL PRIEST, PROMISE OF BLOODSHED and THE DEADLINE.
This March and April, Auckland's The Wrongmen will be setting off on tour both in support of last years debut EP 'Den of Vipers' and in preparations for a forthcoming 7" record (which features two new tracks and a cover).
With an unparalleled live show based on true intensity and a confrontational performer-audience relationship, The Wrongmen provide an engaging presence on stage. The nature of the performance then becomes participatory and seems to break the barrier between traditionally simple "consumer"-performer relations and to instigate a new level of passion and cartharsis for all invovled.
The Wrongmen's sound is constantly evolving, and the upcoming 7" showcases a new maturity that combines the fury of 'Den of Vipers' with a new utilisation of rounded dynamics and repetition; something that is sure to be heard on this tour as well.
All in all, The Wrongmen's New Zealand tour is a celebratino of independent thought and action, and a chance to experience one of New Zealand's most exciting and hard-working bands who are creating their own path through a music scene of stereotypes.
The Wrongmen have supported Some Girls (US), Schifosi (AUS), Scumsystemkill (AUS), and played festivals ranging from Hamtown Smackdown (2006, and again this year) to Sharkfest (2006).