REVIEW: ALIEN WEAPONRY – “Tangaroa”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
What’s the HOTTEST thing happening right now in the metal industry? It’s what I like to call “ETHNIC METAL” defined by artists that bring their cultural heritage to the forefront of their music. Ethnic Metal bands are popping up on the scene regularly and one of the hottest is Alien Weaponry. If you’re not familiar with these guys already, Alien Weaponry is a power trio hailing from New Zealand. They’ve been honing their craft since they were basically toddlers when brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong were just 8 and 10 years old respectively. Now with 10 years of practice under their belts, and their father, Niel’s, guidance and the addition of bassist Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds, Alien Weaponry have really come into their own and are taking the world by storm.
Alien Weaponry’s new offering, ‘Tangaroa’, will be only their second full-length album in their catalog dropping on September 17, 2021. For a somewhat fledgling band, they’ve enjoyed much success and a huge following and not just in New Zealand. Their sound and lyrics are heavily derived from their Māori ancestry and they utilize the traditional Māori language which gives their music an overwhelming power and a bit of mystery. All three members are master musicians which can easily explain their love of extended instrumentals throughout their repertoire. Many of their songs also contain tribal chants and other aspects of their lineage with which they intertwine with searing riffs and soaring vocals.
Regardless of the aspects that draw you into Alien Weaponry, once you’re in, there you’ll stay. The opening track, “Titokowaru”, starts with nature sounds, birds, running water, very soothing. That is until the riffs and chants start. “Hatupatu” follows with an equally powerful song showcasing Henry’s amazing drumming and Tūranga’s intricate bass lines. Both of these songs clock in at over 5 minutes and are absolutely worth every second of run time. AW as a band also likes writing long songs as evidenced by the song, “Unforgiving” which clocks in at over 7 minutes. As with others, it opens with nature sounds. A thunderstorm, to be specific. Accompanied by an echoing guitar sequence, it’s fairly low-key until you hear the stark difference of Lewis’s singular clear vocals. At the 4-minute mark, the instrumentals start which showcases Lewis’s stellar guitar work.
Speaking of instrumentals, “Crooked Monsters” is a little over 4 minutes total but the first three minutes of the song is completely instrumental. “Blinded” is another longer song that is sung mostly in English. AW just released a video for this song and must be viewed at least once. The lyrics are relatable and timely. Although the song almost seems to stop at some point at the 4:30 mark, give or take, which is slightly confusing. But then it picks back up with the repeating chorus and the confusion is gone.
As far as notable tracks, I could absolutely list every song. However, “Ahi Kā” rates up there with the Māori tribal chants and top-notch drums and bass. It has an unusual spoken-word bridge that might make you tilt your head a little. The title track, “Tangaroa”, is another notable track that opens right away with yet another heavy riff paired with Lewis’s vocals which are both in English and traditional Māori.
The bottom line here is Alien Weaponry is made up of phenomenal musicians who are making phenomenal music. This is absolutely their best to date, hands down. Their cultural influences are saturated throughout their music and enhance the heavy sound perfectly. Their lyrics are poignant and deep and reflect heavily on Māori history and their overall production is sublime. I can’t say that this is the perfect album because I don’t know that that does or ever will exist. However, ‘Tangaroa’ comes really close and I highly recommend it for EVERYONE.