Review: Alien Weaponry – Tū
By Todd Naevestad
The thing I love about metal is that it is always surprising me. Something can come up in the genre that I never even thought about from a place I never expected. That’s how it was when I stumbled on Alien Weaponry, a thrash-metal band from New Zealand. Their blend of metal and traditional Māori instruments was something out of left field for me. With their first album release of Tū, I was excited to see just what this band could offer.
From the start, I love how they embrace their heritage. The de Jong brothers, Lewis and Henry, are descendants from the Māori tribes, Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa, and they incorporate both the music and language of the Māori people into their music. While there are some songs that I can’t understand, since I don’t speak the language, it still feels special, like I’m seeing part of that culture. And some of the songs are inspired by historical events, lending even more of an insight into a world not many of us are familiar with. And hey, if you do speak the language, all the better. Thrash has a thematic bond with Punk, and that comes through in the lyrics the average English speaker can understand. They are unafraid to call out the hypocrisies and failures so prevalent in society. There is a grit-teeth kind of angst; not the teen angst of “no one understands me” but the kind that sees injustice in the world and wants to scream. Leader singer Lewis de Jong has a Rage Against the Machine vibe to his vocal style that works great. Many of the songs have this pulsing, pounding feel to the lyrics, like it’s part of a war chant. It gets your blood pumping. That vocal direction pairs so well with their instrumentation. Alien Weaponry really capture that harsh, almost dirty, sound that makes thrash so addictive. And they perform it well; while on the surface it might seem rabid, there is a clear direction and set up in each song. Added to that are quieter instruments that you might not expect, like a light piano melody just behind the heavy guitars and slamming drums. Those little touches really show that the band takes care in their compositions.
I did find that while listening through the album parts began to run together. Alien Weaponry is in a good spot at the moment; they know where they are comfortable and use that space well. However, they don’t reach beyond that safe space. Some songs have similar musical phrases and themes so that they lack a distinct identity. And a few songs end so abruptly that it feels like it misses a satisfying conclusion. There also no real solo sections. While that’s not a necessity, I think they miss out on the chance to show their artistic talents. I think that may be part of the reason that noteworthy identities are missing. The scope on the whole feels narrow, and I really wanted to see how they could branch out.
The thing about Alien Weaponry is that they are a young band. The guys still have a life ahead of them and room to grow, experiment, and experience new things. While I enjoyed Tū, I think it does show their inexperience. It’s a good album that feels incredibly unique. I never thought Māori metal would be a thing, but here we are. This album is definitely worth a listen and is something impressive for their first release. I am looking forward to seeing how Alien Weaponry continues to grow as musicians and what they can come up with next.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommendations: Sepultura, Höwler, ElectroqutE