After leaving European audiences hooked on their te reo Māori lyrics, Northland thrash metal rockers Alien Weaponry capped a huge year by winning the Best Independent Debut Award at the Taite Music awards last Tuesday.
The teenage trio from Waipū are riding a wave of success following the release last year of their first album Tū, while a new RNZ-produced 10-part online series, Rū Ana Te Whenua: Alien Weaponry Shake Europe, documents their adventures on their first overseas tour throughout June and July last year.
The band – brothers Henry (18) and Lewis de Jong (16) and friend Ethan Trembath (16) – were joined by ever-supportive parents Niel and Jette de Jong, who doubled respectively as front-of-house sound engineer and tour manager, while they played small gigs and giant festivals across Europe to thousands of fans.
Click here to watch the full series
Along the way they ticked off their lifelong goal and became the first New Zealand band to play the world's biggest metal music festival, Wacken Open Air in Germany, which draws about 80,000 metal fans from around the globe.
Despite their newcomer status, the band attracted a legion of new supporters and were left stunned when pockets among the huge crowd joined together to shout their te reo lyrics back to them.
"I saw like 20 Germans all singing the words to our Māori songs and it feels good," said guitarist and lead singer Lewis.
"It's an amazing feeling to have people enjoy what you did up there so much that they'll scream and make a huge ruckus like for a good five minutes after you've even walked off stage because they just wanted more," drummer Henry added.
"It's been our dream to play at Wacken and we're finally here," he said at the time. "I just don't know how to describe how stoked I am."
Their blistering performance earned Alien Weaponry a string of rave reviews and left the audience chanting for more, impressing Wacken organisers and veteran festival fans.
"It was amazing. The greatest show ever," gushed their Wacken stage manager. "[That was the] Most people I've ever had at the front of the stage. Amazing show, great band. Perfect."
Another fan could hardly believe the crowd reaction the young Kiwis were able to inspire, saying: "I've never seen something like this after a show. This is special. Fans just going crazy."
Produced by The Down Low Concept with funding from NZ On Air, Rū Ana Te Whenua: Alien Weaponry Shake Europe was shot by cameraman and director Kent Belcher over six weeks.
The documentary captures the atmosphere of excitement for the boys as they experience life on the road for the first time, along with the usual difficulties and tensions that arise with any band touring and living together in close quarters.
Arguments are inevitable but quickly resolved and the bands easy-going nature and Kiwi roots are reinforced with plenty of self-deprecating humour and regular group renditions of Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi.
The series culminates with the band's triumphant return home and their performance of Kai Tangata to open last year's New Zealand Music Awards, before they headed off to support industrial metal pioneers Ministry on a US tour.
Life is only set to get busier after they signed a three-year deal with Berlin-based music agency Das Machine, and the band are now preparing to return to the US, Europe and the UK for a long string of dates between May and August.
Having just completed an Australia and New Zealand tour last month, it's understood the band recently returned to Auckland's Roundhead Studios with a follow-up album believed to be in the works.
Tuesday's success at the Taite awards continued their upward trajectory and the band are excited about what the future holds.
"It feels like our lives are just starting," says Henry. "I'm excited to go over [to Europe] again. Playing festivals, mate - how can you not be amped about that."