Back in 2018, armed with debut album Tū (Napalm Records) and a reputation for blistering live performances, teenagers Alien Weaponry arrived on the scene with a bang. Fusing groove metal with influences derived from their own Māori culture, the band possess a highly individual sound, but one that in some quarters has also appeared to earn them the disappointingly reductive nickname of “The New Zealand Sepultura”.
Three years later and the Waipu trio are back with Tangaroa (Napalm), blasting more crowd-pleasing riffs and war chants, but adding darker themes and introspection to the Hakas and tales of their country’s unique history. Written about a tribal chief who led an army of rebels against the colonial government, opener ‘Titokowaru’ begins with the calm sound of waves lapping against the shoreline combined with Māori rowing chants. It doesn’t take long for the song to deliver some seriously chunky rhythms and vocals bursting with raw energy before climaxing with some cleverly disjointed angular riffing.
Another story steeped in Australasian legend, the jagged, staccato rhythms of ‘Hatupatu’ invite you to bang your head while mentally picturing the not altogether pleasant sight of the extended tongues and exaggerated facial contortions of tattooed Māori tribesmen. A song about the destruction of native land, the seismic ‘Ahi Kā’ builds and explodes like an erupting volcano while even managing to include an excerpt from Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 Christmas Address given from Auckland.
Named after the Māori god of the sea, the title track focuses on climate change and illegal fishing practices. ‘Unforgiving’ is a mournful dirge about self-loathing while the portentous grind of ‘Blinded’ boasts an aggressive, cautionary chorus. The thunderous ‘Kai Whatu’ is followed by ‘Crooked Monsters’ and the drug warning of ‘Buried Underground’, a fearsome song driven by an absolutely monstrous Gojira style riff. A similar approach is taken by ‘Dad’, easily one of the album’s darkest tracks, before ending on a high with the authoritative, strong-willed tribal assault of ‘Īhenga’ and the tumultuous but melodic closer ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’.
Incorporating traditional instruments known as Taonga pūoro, frontman Lewis de jong, his brother, drummer Henry de Jong and new bassist Tūranga Porowini Morgan-Edmonds (replacing Ethan Trembath) are already creating music more complex, mature and expressive than their debut. Immersing themselves not only in historical stories and Maori heritage but more personal subjects, Alien Weaponry are already moving out of their comfort zone, being unafraid to embrace new ideas and directions while remaining true to their original sound.
Pre-order “Tangaroa” here: https://smarturl.it/Tangaroa
8 / 10