New Zealand based outfit Alien weaponry has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years with their thrash, groove metal sound continuing to develop. The trio is all of Maori descent and the songs are influenced a lot by Maori culture. The band has just released their second album Tangaroa which delves into Maori history and Mythology to inspire many of the songs on the album. Is it any good? Well, that’s what I’m going to try to answer in the next 800 words or so.
In short yes, it’s very good but If you want some more elaboration then let’s start with the band’s instrumentals and songwriting. Roots era Sepultura has been most compared to the sound of Alien Weaponry and it is an apt comparison as this album, in particular, makes use of the Maori Language, chanting, instruments to make craft a unique sound still rooted in that thrash and groove framework.
The first song set’s this mood early. Titokowaru is a song named after a Maori leader that opposed colonization, the song takes place from his perspective as he sings at the colonizers. The song is also sung in Maori accompanied by chanting in the background. The guitars have good grit and groove as they go through the song with the vocals accompanying them with a nice amount of attitude and anger.
This continues throughout the album as the riffs are constantly heavy, thick, and punchy. Constantly backed up the chanting, and occasionally by Taonga Puoro (traditional musical instruments of Maori people). All this combines to make songs that will make you bang your head, tap your foot but also get invested in the songwriting.
The guitar playing from Lewis De Jong is solid throughout the album with some sick riffs throughout on songs like Ahi Ka and Tangaroa you get a classic thick and slow guitar before getting a quick break down that picks up the tempo. None of the songs relent from this sound but the band makes it work really well for their sound because of how they build around it. Henry De Jong keeps it solid on drums as well, setting the tempo nicely, providing some heavy and full sound to the songs, and making them more bombastic. The bass played by Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds adds a good amount of fullness to the sound, giving the songs the depth that makes them hit so hard.
Perhaps the best part of the album is the lyricism and themes on display. The song Ahi Ka is about a visit the queen took there in 1953 and the city of Auckland decided to evict the Ngāti Whātua people from their homes and burn them down because they were deemed unsightly to look at for the queen. The title track Tangaroa is named after the Maori god of the ocean and speaks on climate danger and illegal fishing practices contributing to the extinction of flora and fauna.
For people that don’t care, you can simply enjoy the music but I appreciate the band using their platform to educate about the history and mythology of their culture. The effects of colonialism are still felt by many cultures around the world and educating people on the history and harmful effects it’s had grows a discourse around the subject. They also have plenty of songs on Maori Mythology, sharing interesting stories from their culture and I hope to get people interested in learning more.
Not all songs follow these themes however, Blinded is about inner demons, seemingly on anxiety and the effects it has. Unforgiving is a pessimistic ballad that focuses on themes of depression and nihilism. These songs along with Dad, Down the rabbit hole, Buried Underground and Crooked Monsters are sung all in English instead of Maori and are focused on personal issues.
They’re a bit hit and miss. Blinded is possible my favorite song on the album with an amazing chorus. Unforgiving while being too long and slow at times is a nice change of pace and sound, that lets Lewis show off his emotional range. Crooked monsters have a nice slow and thick sound to it and really nice faded vocals that create that tormented feel. The other songs however don’t do much for me, not terrible songs but the edgy lyrics do nothing for me and the instrumentals don’t do anything to help them stand out from the other songs.
Overall though this is a great album, written by three extremely young musicians. Their use of Maori Culture and language helps it to have a unique sound and themes that make it interesting to explore or just headband too. Whether you’re looking for some kick-ass beats or want music with lyrics to explore this album definitely gets a recommendation from me.
Alien Weaponry: Facebook
Release Year: 2021
Label: Napalm Records
Country: New Zealand
Reviewed by Billy Poulopoulos