19 May 2022

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Alien Weaponry - Album Review: Tangaroa

16 Sep 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

There is no doubt whatsoever that Alien Weaponry have captured the imagination not only of the New Zealand public, but metalheads worldwide, with their combination of groove and thrash metal mixing with their Maori heritage to create something very special indeed. There really is no other band quite like them, although I do sometimes find myself thinking of the impact of Sepultura and their Roots album, but one does need to remember that was Sepultura’s sixth album, some 12 years after their first release. Contrast that to Alien Weaponry, who released their debut EP in 2014, with the album Tu following in 2018, which in its first week was the top New Zealand release on the local charts. Since then, they have toured the world, played with the NZSO, hit the major festivals such as Wacken, and are soon to be found touring North America and Europe with Gojira. Now signed with a major American management company, the world is their oyster, so what is the new album like?

The album was actually recorded a while ago, so for the most part it features the trio who recorded the debut and have been making such a name for themselves, Henry Te Reiwhati de Jong (drums, backing vocals), Lewis Raharuhi de Jong (guitars, lead vocals), and Ethan Trembath (bass guitars, backing vocals and lead vocals on Dad). Ethan left the band on very good terms last year, and he has been replaced by Turanga Porowini Morgan-Edmonds who on this album only provides backing vocals plus some guitar on Unforgiving. Anyone who saw them on their last tour will know just how much Turanga adds to the band, but in some ways, it is useful to have exactly the same line-up, as we can see how the band have changed and developed.

The album shows the band both becoming simpler in some respects, while also becoming more complex. They have gone even further into their Maori heritage (Henry and Lewis are of Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Raukawa descent, while Turanga’s bloodline is traced to the Ngati Rarua, Ngati Wai, and Ngati Hine iwi). The album starts with Titokowaru, dedicated to the famous war chief, where we hear the paddling of war canoes as the iwi are off to battle the Colonial Europeans, chanting as they go.  Titokowaru famously declaring that trespassers on the land would be eaten, with bones strewn on the sides of the roads they were building, and there is no doubt that this is one of the highlights of the album. The drama builds, we hear the speech being given, and even those who do not understand Te Reo can feel the passion in everything they are doing.  For me this is the logical follow-up to the mighty Kai Tangata from the debut, which is probably my favourite song of theirs.

The title cut was the lead single from the album, and here we find Lewis being passionate about climate change and pollution and the effect it has on Tangaroa, (God of the sea). While the verse is in English, the chorus and bridge are in Te Reo, and features some nice cymbal touches from Henry which is a nice contrast to the bass and guitar driven attack. Some delicate birdsong leads us into Hatupatu, before the heavy percussive attack drives along, telling the legend of Hatupatu (one of the de Jong’s ancestors) and the Bird-Woman. This is one of the songs where the music seems fairly simplistic on the outside, but as it progresses one realizes there is a great deal going on inside the arrangement which is incredibly complex. Buried Underground is just plain fun, and anyone who was at their Powerstation show can probably find themselves on the accompanying video being a zombie, while Ahi Ka has one of the most dramatic introductions with part of a recording of a whaikorero originally given by Ngati Whatua chief Te Kawau, accompanied by Lewis playing the koauau. This song also later includes part of a speech from Queen Elizabeth II given from Auckland, and the contrast is palpable. One more number really worth mentioning must be Unforgiving, where the sound of a storm accompanies Lewis picking notes on his guitar and then he cries out in pain, The world keeps crashing down around me time and time again. One can imagine Kurt Cobain performing the first few minutes of this, but here is another one which really builds, turning into something epic and magnificent, and is the longest number on the album at more than 7 minutes.

It is only when talking with Henry and Lewis that one remembers just how young these guys are, at just 21 and 19 (Turanga is the same age as Henry), yet they have managed to deliver an album which builds on the debut, pressing certain elements even harder, and the result is something which contains more contrast yet never fails to hit hard, and often. The boys from Waipu have done good, and if they can tour this internationally for the next few years without COVID getting in the way then there really is no limit to what they may achieve.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Alien Weaponry

Alien Weaponry is a three-piece metal band whose style has been influenced by old school thrash and hardcore

AW was formed in 2010 by brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong, who have been listening to bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Pantera since birth; and started jamming and writing songs before they learnt the alphabet. Current influences include Lamb Of God, Tryvium, Subtract and System of a Down, but the band has developed its own distinctive thrash metal sound, destined to endure into future centuries.

Not content to rely on the shock value of their extreme youth, the group understands the value of professionalism, and works crowds to a frenzy with their tight, thrashy energy and wild stage performances. Their plans for world domination include playing at Wacken in Germany and touring the big international metal festivals. They refuse to play covers, and have enough material to begin recording their first album later this year.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Alien Weaponry


Year: 2021
Type: Album

Year: 2018
Type: Album

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