Thrash metal band Alien Weaponry “deserve to be the next big thing” according to Swedish music blogger Viktor Edstrom. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. Since they released their third single ‘Rū Ana te Whenua’ in mid 2017, fans, bloggers, the music industry and the media worldwide have raved about Alien Weaponry’s unique blend of thrash metal and their native language, Te Reo Māori.
In September 2017, they signed with German management company das Maschine, and in February this year, they announced a three-album deal with Austrian-based Napalm Records, which will see their music promoted and sold internationally.
They have featured in publications as diverse as UK based Metal Hammer and i-D magazines to National Public Radio (NPR) and The Atlantic in the USA. The video for Rū Ana Te Whenua has had a million views on Facebook and over 100,000 on YouTube; it spent 2 weeks at no. 1 on Spotify’s NZ Viral chart, and hit no. 2 on the iTunes global metal chart (just behind Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’).
In their home country, New Zealand, the three teenagers from the tiny town of Waipu in Northland recently won the prestigious APRA Maioha award for their song ‘Raupatu’ – a no punches pulled commentary on the 1863 act of parliament that allowed the colonial government to confiscate vast areas of land from the indigenous Māori people.
A couple of months later, they took their places among NZ’s musical elite as nominees at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.
They will release their debut album (which already has hundreds of pre-sales via their fully funded Indiegogo campaign) in mid 2018; and a few weeks later they will hit the stages at the world’s biggest metal festivals, including Wacken Open Air, Metaldays, Summer Breeze and Weltturbojugentag.
With their blonde flailing locks and Viking appearance, the trio laugh off confused and occasionally angry reactions to their use of New Zealand’s native language, Te Reo Māori, in about half their songs.
“People say things like, ‘They’re white, why are they singing in Māori?’” says guitarist/lead singer Lewis de Jong (15). “But Henry and I are actually of Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa descent.”
“We used to go to a kura kaupapa Māori (full immersion Māori language school) when we were younger,” adds his brother, drummer Henry (17). “And that’s where we invented the term ‘Stealth Māori’. There were a couple of other kids there like us, with blonde hair, but the colour of our hair doesn’t make us any less Māori.”
While singing waiata and performing haka were a daily routine at school, also ingrained in their early learning were stories of New Zealand history told to them by their father – giving rise to songs like ‘Raupatu’, ‘Urutaa’ (about an early Māori -European contact incident which resulted in an outbreak of sickness; and the subsequent revenge – the burning of the ship The Boyd and the massacre of its crew); and ‘Rū Ana te Whenua’ (which tells the story of the mighty battle at Pukehinahina/Gate Pa in 1864 where their ancestor, Te Ahoaho, lost his life).
The band’s English material is equally hard-hitting, with songs like ‘Rage,’ ‘Holding My Breath,’ ‘Hypocrite,’ and ‘PC Bro’ addressing everything from a schoolyard punch-up to teenage mental health issues, and the hypocrisy of teachers, the media and reality TV shows alike.
“We listened to all sorts of music when we were younger,” says Lewis, “but we were drawn to thrash metal because it’s quite complex music, and it is a great vehicle for expressing real stories and emotions.”
“It also works with Te Reo Māori,” adds Henry. “Both the musical style and the messages have a lot of similarities with haka, which is often brutal, angry and about stories of great courage or loss.”
Early musical influences included Metallica, Anthrax, Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; with current favourites including Lamb of God, System of a Down, Gojira and Trivium. The brothers wrote their first song together when they were 8 and 10 years old and the band’s name was also decided then – inspired by the movie District 9.
Bass player Ethan Trembath (15) met Lewis while they were honing their unicycling skills at the local circus school in Waipu, Northland, where the de Jong brothers moved to in 2012. He scored the job in Alien Weaponry because he could play the ukulele and (at age 10) he was the first one of their friends who could reach the end of the bass guitar. Now, he is the world’s youngest and New Zealand’s only Spector bass endorsed artist.